Tag Archives: driving

Things I don’t know how to do, IV: signal apology from inside a car

The other day, in the middle of making a left turn from a four-way stop, I realized I’d jumped out ahead of the woman who had the right of way.  Aiming to signal an apology, I touched my index finger to my head (“I’m aware I did that”) and then to my heart (“and I feel bad about it.”)

Why did I do that?  Is there even the slightest chance this gesture was interpreted correctly by the other driver?  More generally, why don’t we have a consensus gestural shorthand for “I’m sorry about the improper traffic maneuver I just executed?”  Or do we have one, and I just don’t know it?

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Is the Washington Post congenitally incapable of doing math?

From today’s WaPo opinion page, Charlotte Allen tells her fellow women they stink at stuff:

Women really are worse drivers than men, for example. A study published in 1998 by the Johns Hopkins schools of medicine and public health revealed that women clocked 5.7 auto accidents per million miles driven, in contrast to men’s 5.1, even though men drive about 74 percent more miles a year than women.

Note that the figure given is accidents per miles driven. Which means that “men drive more miles a year than women” has nothing to do with the point the author is attempting to make. It would make as much sense to write “even though dark-horse Juno failed to win the Best Picture Oscar.”

But the version as published contains a percentage! A deftly inserted percentage never fails to give a soothing impression that somebody, just off-stage, is industriously doing some science.

Allen goes on to observe that

The only good news was that women tended to take fewer driving risks than men, so their crashes were only a third as likely to be fatal.

“Don’t drive with her, drive with me — I’m a much better driver, because I’m 10% less likely to get into a fender-bender, though I suppose I ought to mention that I am three times more likely to kill us both.

The article also remarks that “[n]o man contracts nebulous diseases whose existence is disputed by many if not all doctors” (Gulf War Syndrome, call your agent!) and that men don’t miss work because they’re depressed (you too, William Styron and Pete Harnisch!) Oh, and that women are congenital failures at analytic thinking in general, and math in particular. Is it possible the article is some kind of bizarre performance piece meant to illustrate this latter point?

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