The Statistics of Worry

Or, “What should we REALLY be worrying about?”

A friend of mine from MobiTV was telling me about the growing stress levels in Haifa, were his sister and several relatives were freaking out getting increasingly worried about tens of thousands of rockets that Hezbollah was starting to lob over the Lebanese border in what can best be described as a hopeful random walk.

My first thought was, “yeah…that’s a pretty good reason to freak out.”

But then I recalled my buddy’s recent description of the staggering death rates per-capita on Israeli highways due to “loose” driving statutes and limited investments in road safety. And, of course, I began to wonder what the real relative risks were, and what the people should really be worrying about.

I was able to find the war casualty statistics here, and the auto fatality statistics here. Lo and behold, all the frenzy among the populous about the war was a little misplaced. The chart below compares the death and injury rates over the first several months of 2006 for both auto incidents and terror/warfare attrition.


The bottom line is that across the Israeli population, you are over 13 times more likely to die if you get in a car to drive somewhere than you are to be killed by a rocket or bomb. And you are about 4 times more likely to be injured in a car than by a rocket.

If you look at military vs. road infrastructure spending in Israel, their $9.7B military budget is several orders of magnitude higher than their infrastructure spending.

So in the short run, they would be better off investing in road improvements, and people should just ignore the bombs and concentrate on not colliding with other cars.

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Filed under Math, Politics

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