Thursday, June 21, 2007

Crunching Dalton's Granteds

You know, Dalton McGuinty makes a really good point!

I know, I know! What?! ... But don't worry. I'm fairly certain that it's not quite the one he thinks he's making.

Check it out:

On Tuesday he said the following with regard to the increasing problem of road racing in the city of Toronto:
At the end of the day it’s one individual who sits behind the wheel of a car. It’s like a loaded gun. And we have to call upon Ontario drivers to act reasonably and responsibly and to drive safely.
Now, this "loaded gun" comparison is undoubtedly being employed here for effect. The Premier was, after all, speaking to a relatively small and quite specific epidemic of irresponsible driving. And hyperbole is always handy in such instances to drive home a point that the majority of people don't really consider their problem. (Nor, I hasten to add, should they.) But the thing is--if you check the numbers--the man's pretty much spang-on! It turns out that the risks of owning a car are only a fraction of a fraction of a percent less then the risks of owning a gun!

So, let's take a look at those numbers, shall we? (Bearing in mind that some of them are quite old (see notes). They were the best I could manage, I'm afraid, but I think it's safe to say that there probably hasn't been any significant change in them, relatively speaking. Indeed, if there has, it would likely only further even-out the risk factors at issue.)

If the total number of registered road vehicles in Canada is 20,065,171* and the total number of road fatalities per year is somewhere around 3,091**, then--broadly speaking--the odds are 1 in 6491 that a Canadian car owner will be in a fatal accident.

Likewise, if there are a total of 7,158,114 registered firearms in Canada, averaging at 1,131*** fatalities per year, then--broadly speaking again--the odds are 1 in 6329 that a Canadian gun owner will, directly or indirectly, be responsible for a fatality.

Pretty close, what? Damned close!

So we can look at these figures in one of two ways:

1) We can say that because car ownership poses an almost equal risk to citizens as does gun ownership, then it should follow that something along the lines of a car registry--accompanied by a move towards banning the riskier varieties of compact vehicle (Vespas, SmartCars, etc.)--needs to be put in place without delay.


Or, or, or ... 2) We can accept that if the risk of owning something is under, oh I don't know, say 5% (let alone .02% as it is with guns and cars) it is so negligible as to be unworthy of any more thought than what was required to make the initial, fiddling calculation.

I don't know about you, but I have complete faith in the government that it will see reason on this ... I fully expect that the new registry will take effect no later than June of 2009. And might I further suggest that parents undertake preventative measures for future generations by confiscating all their children's Hot Wheels, as one can only hope they have already done with their water pistols.


*Note that this figure, and the figure for the total number of registered firearms do not balance with the number of owners in each case. People who buy guns tend to buy a lot. Not so much with people who buy cars. Still, the numbers should yield something interesting on this front too; at least as they come to bear on Dalton's little bit of equivocation. Readers willing to undertake the number crunching are encouraged to send me their findings.

**This figure was published in 1996. (The number preceding it, in 2006).

***This figure was published in 2000. (The number preceding it, in 2007.)