Most car crashes caused by cellular phone usage?

I saw an item on a Facebook group where the general meme was that everyone knows cellular phone usage while driving is the cause of most vehicle crashes. The data, however, paints a remarkably different picture. Cellular phone usage, per the government’s own data, is a minor causative factor in vehicle crashes.

There are many causative factors in car crashes: one category of causative factors is “distracted driving”. Cellular phone usage is a subset of “distracted driving”.

The U.S.government’s National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) published a report in 2016 on distracted driving, with data up to 2014 (the most recent data available).

Here is what they write on page 1:

“A distraction-affected crash is any crash in which a driver was identified as distracted at the time of the crash.

  • Ten percent of fatal crashes, 18 percent of injury crashes, and 16 percent of all police-reported motor vehicle traffic crashes in 2014 were reported as distraction-affected crashes…”

Let’s restate this:

  • 10% of fatal crashes involved a driver distraction
  • 18% of injury crashes involved a driver distraction
  • 16% of all reported crashes involved a driver distraction

The proportion of those distracted driving incidents where a cellular phone was a causative factor is a subset of these percentages (see tables in the report):

  • 7% of 10% of fatal crashes or less than 1% of all fatal crashes
  • 13% of 18% of injury crashes or about 2.3% of all injury crashes
  • Cellular phone usage for “all crashes” (including non fatal, non injury) is not provided in the report but is likely similar to the two other categories.

The data provided by the U.S. government does not support the widespread meme that cellular phone usage is the leading cause of vehicle crashes. Is my interpretation off in space? The report uses remarkably plain language for a government report. Am I missing something?

Why do people believe cellular phone usage is a leading cause if not pre-dominant cause of vehicle crashes?  (This was the conclusion of those in a Facebook group discussing this topic.)

There is no official answer to that question so we can only guess:

  1. Selected (cherry picked) emotional stories are given widespread media exposure
  2. Bad journalism/bad reporting (fake news from “non-fake” news sources) – often using a variety of propaganda methods to convey this. One common approach in news reports is to quote an “expert” (appeal to authority) who says “Over 30% of crashes are caused by cellular phone usage”. This is a common quote in many news reports, none of which substantiate the number except by an appeal to authority.
  3. Propaganda efforts by the insurance industry to promote a reduction in risk (and their costs)
  4. The tendency to generalize from n=small numbers (I once saw a bad driver using a cellular phone, therefore most bad driving is due to cellphone usage, and if most bad driving is due to cell phone usage then this must be the cause of most crashes). This is a”logical fallacy“.
  5. Everyone just knows that cellular phone usage by drivers causes most crashes (both the assertion and the get on the bandwagon propaganda methods).
  6. If anyone cites the data in a social media reply, this unleashes a barrage of name calling (another propaganda method) that if you disagree, you are a denier, an idiot or whatever.

Facts and logic are the enemy of propaganda. When many people believe something to be true, and that “something” is not supported by official data, it is likely that propaganda messaging has been used to persuade the public.

Are social networks fading? One early proponent says yes.

The man who set up the most popular social network in Russia [VK] axed all of his online friends in one fell swoop this week. Having them, he wrote, was so 2010.

Source: Social networks are fading as messenger apps rise up | Stuff.co.nz

Just as MySpace fell off the popular list, Facebook has lost many young people who have migrated to Instagram or SnapChat. Many people have deleted one or more of their social media accounts and this does seem to be a slowly growing trend as users gradually pull back from their social media worlds.

YouTube’s Advertising Algorithms are killing Youtube video producers

Google and Facebook are a duopoly for online digital advertising. Through their ad placement programs, they are now – basically – using heavy handed automated content filters that censor out many videos. The result:

“YouTube is on the fast track to becoming Disney vloggers: beautiful young people that wouldn’t say anything controversial and are always happy.”

Google and Facebook are indeed so powerful that they now censor ordinary speech.

 

All major media participates in fake news distribution

This is also true of CNN, News.Yahoo.com and numerous other mainstream media web sites that allow advertisers to display fake news headlines as click bait. There is no longer any difference between professional news media and fake news media.

An investigation found paid-for hoaxes about high-profile public figures next to users’ news feeds, duping them to click to alleged scam websites.

Source: Facebook promoted scam ads based on fake news headlines | News | The Times & The Sunday Times

Creating fake social media accounts leads to lucrative business opportunities

Crackdowns on fake social media accounts are unlikely to hurt the multi-million-dollar spam industry — in fact, it could make the problem far worse.

Source: Crackdowns on Social Media Accounts Backfire by Driving up Demand – NBC News

Because fake accounts offer big profit opportunities, there is much money to be made as a fake account creator and broker.

More “Look at me!” propaganda memes

I am not the only one noticing this peculiar form of propaganda, now prevalent on Instagram and Youtube social media:

There is an undeniable aesthetic and demographic conformity in the vanlife world. Nearly all of the most popular accounts belong to young, attractive, white, heterosexual couples. “There’s the pretty van girl and the woodsy van guy,” Smith said. “That’s what people want to see.”

….

King clicked on the account’s most successful post, which has more than eight thousand likes. In the image, the back seat of the van is folded down into a bed; King faces away from the camera, holding a sheet to her chest, her hair cascading down her naked back. The second most popular post was of King wearing a bikini, standing on the van’s front bumper. In the next most popular, King is in a bikini, slicing lemons.

“People really want to see beautiful locations,” King said.

“They want to see Emily in a bikini, they want to see a sun flare, they want to see the van,” Smith said. “Ones of Emily in the van waking up with Penny, they crush it.”

“It’s real and it’s kind of moody—”

“It’s a naked female,” Smith said…

Source: #Vanlife, the Bohemian Social-Media Movement – The New Yorker

If you are cute enough and have enough followers, you can get paid promotional endorsements from advertisers. Which puts all this solidly in the realm of “celebrity endorsement” propaganda. Who knew?

Update: Hah! Here is how this post appears in my (the owner’s) Facebook news feed – I can even buy Likes for it!

Voila_Capture 2017-04-17_01-46-54_PM

Smart people more likely to consume fake news

“On the left if you’re consuming fake news you’re 34 times more likely than the general population to be a college graduate,” says Green.

If you’re on the right, he says, you’re 18 times more likely than the general population to to be in the top 20 percent of income earners.

And the study revealed another disturbing trend: the more you consume fake news, the more likely you are to vote. It’s “fascinating and frightening at the same time,” says Green.

Source: The rise of left-wing, anti-Trump fake news – BBC News

The BBC is a bit late to this story, having only just noticed that the largest social media-based, online, for profit fake news publisher is a Occupy Democrats that targets left wing enthusiasts with exaggerated, emotionally laden headlines and frequently false stores. Their goal is to target the emotions of liberal enthusiasts who then share the stories on social media, generating click throughs back to selling eyeballs to advertisers.

Many people think propaganda is a tool to manage “the unwashed masses”, but they are mistaken. Propaganda is effective across a broad swath of the population.

The late Professor Jacques Ellul, a French sociologist, found academics were among the most susceptible to propaganda. He suggests this is because academics are in the business of absorbing lots of information, much of which is unverifiable. They believe, he said, they should have an opinion on every subject and since their job is to instruct others, academics believe it is their duty to pass along information to others.

Ellul’s argument identifies the unexpected role that smart people often play in the consumption and distribution of propaganda.

For amusement vis a vis United Airlines, Ellul believes the purpose of “public relations” is to adapt individuals to societal norms by forcing individuals to conform. If you don’t conform, we will assault you – hah hah.

(Reference: Ellul, J. Propaganda: The formation of men’s attitudes. Translated to English from the original French text. The book assumes the reader is already well versed in the basic methods and usage of propaganda.)

If you have lots of friends, social media can make you feel better

When individuals post photos of their wonderful lives on social media, we do not typically think of this as propaganda – but literally, these are propaganda messages that say “I have a cool life” and you should follow and Like my posts.

A new paper comes up with the remarkable (not really) finding that if you have a lot of friends, social media can make you feel better about yourself.

Buried at the end: if you do not have a lot of friends, social media may cause you to be very depressed.

The data analysed revealed that using Instagram at one point was related to increased closeness to friends (perception that they are appreciated and loved by their friends) six months later, which in turn was related to lower levels of depression.

However, the researchers cautioned that if the use of the photo sharing app fails to stimulate the feeling of closeness to friends, it could be harmful in the long run.

Read more at: Instagram usage could help adolescents combat depression

I deleted my Instagram account two days ago because Instagram is a shallow propaganda platform for the purpose of self promotion.

Followers were not interested in my photography but were following others to get someone to follow them back. On Instagram, I saw crowds of narcissists, frequently attractive young women, posting endless photos of themselves, having an exciting and perfect life.

The main purpose of Instagram is not to show case one’s work or skill but to scream “Look at me!”. The primary propaganda message of Instagram is self promotion!

Many of the accounts that followed mine had a business connection – their goal was to increase followers to their (usually) small business. They followed everyone in hopes you would follow them back.

At the bottom line, Instagram is just another propaganda platform – for the purpose of self promotion. This phenomena has turned into an industry of “a new kind of social-media celebrity, someone famous not for starring in movies or recording hit songs but for documenting an enviable life.” Look at me!!!!!!!

Social media, especially Instagram and Youtube, enable this new industry. Today, Youtube has numerous channels of world travelers and sailors who post videos and live off donations via Patreon. Fair enough, some post high quality travelogues that rival professional productions and are worthy of support while others make  clear “Your donations allow me to pursue this dream life where I post photos of my self and my girlfriend who is really cute in a bikini on a white sandy beach over turquoise waters.”

The desire for approval – via likes – is so intense that it seems one photo sharing site uses an army of bots to give fake likes and followers to their members.

Face palm: PRWeek names United CEO “Communicator of the Year”

 

Our Communicator of the Year, United Airlines’ CEO Oscar Munoz, said it best when he came on stage to receive his honor. He commented that the turnaround he has led at the beleaguered airline was not just something that needed to be communicated – it was all about communications.

It’s telling when a major CEO from a $36 billion global company recognizes the value of communications, not as a promotional tool or part of a strategy, rather as a fundamental strut through which the business is built.

As I wrote last week, Munoz’s humble and empathetic approach has bypassed the choppy headwinds surrounding the airline and set United on a positive path for the future, with an engaged workforce checked in and on board.

No longer is PR begging for crumbs from the table, it is playing a full and active role at the head of it.

Source: PRWeek

This confirms everything we already thought about the public relations profession. In one swoop, PRWeek makes fun of the entire public relations industry and highlights the buffoonery of their silly awards.

And in the last sentence makes clear what happens when PR goons run the company.