This is another example of the horrid state of modern “journalism”. You may see reports that Boca Raton is one of the most dangerous cities for DUI deaths, covered in various “newspapers” such as the Miami Herald, the Florida Times Union and the Sarasota Herald Tribune.
The reports are based on a “study” by that famous research university – “Value Penguin” (a clickbait driven consumer finance website). Author Matt Timmons has a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and East Asian Studies, so obviously he’s an expert in statistics. Linda Robertson of the Miami Herald describes Timmons as “an insurance analyst.” Timmons describes himself as a “technical writer.”
Timmons “study” is statistical nonsense. It starts off with this factoid:
There were 515 deaths due to DUIs in Florida in 2017
In that same year Florida had a death rate of 672 per 100,000 people. With 21 million people that makes DUI the cause of 0.3% of all deaths. With a total of 3112 Florida traffic deaths in 2017, DUI deaths account for less than 20% of all traffic deaths.
The other problem with the number 515 is it’s small for statistical purposes especially if you’re going to do a breakdown by cities. Florida has 412 incorporated municipalities. That works out to an average of barely more than 1 DUI death per city a year. That creates sample size problems, which anyone slightly familiar with statistical analysis would recognize.
The small sample size makes it easy to include attention grabbing numbers. This study says Sarasota is the “the most dangerous city in Florida for DUI deaths.” It indicates Sarasota had “12.2 DUI deaths per 100,000 residents.”
But Sarasota doesn’t have 100,000 residents. It has only 60,000. So that 12.2 number works out to about 7 deaths. If they happen to have a bad year with a few extra deaths it vaults them to the top of the list. And many small cities will have no deaths in a particular year or even a few years, making them appear safe. Value Penguin hints at this problem when it mentions that the number is up dramatically from the previous period.
What’s really going on is the cities at the tops of the lists had bad years. Large cities like Miami don’t make the list because they’re big enough that an extra couple of accidents don’t move the needle.
When it comes to our beloved Boca Raton, Value Penguin has this to say:
Boca Raton is the most dangerous city in the Miami area and the 8th most deadly city for DUIs statewide.
Seriously? This is ridiculous. We don’t know how Timmons came up with his numbers but the odds are he got something very wrong. Driving in Boca has its moments, but it’s delightful compared to the insanity of driving in Miami. So this is where I started to suspect Timmons might be making things up. Did Timmons use data for all of Boca Raton, but compare to the population of just the city of Boca Raton (85,000 people vs 215,000 people)? No, it’s not that sensible.
I checked for Florida traffic deaths and found this pdf report for 2017 from the FLHSMV. Right off the bat page 12 of that pdf indicates there were 986 traffic deaths with alcohol, drugs, or both alcohol and drugs confirmed, nearly double the number used by Timmons.
Starting at page 45 is a breakdown of drug and alcohol crashes by county. Palm Beach County, of which Boca is a small part, had a total of 12 alcohol, drug, or drug and alcohol confirmed fatalities. Miami-Dade County had 30 such fatalities. Miami-Dade has twice our population but nearly 3 times as many DUI deaths, so on a county level Palm Beach is safer.
You can see the extreme variability when looking at those numbers. Broward had a terrible year in 2016 with 31 DUI deaths but only 13 in 2017. That’s not an improvement, it’s just the randomness of life and death in our world. Similarly in 2015 Miami-Dade had 48 DUI deaths.
Timmons says he used the FARS database, but it’s not clear whether his analysis of that data is accurate or if the data itself is accurate. It seems odd at least that he used the 515 deaths when FLHSMV reported nearly double that number.
I ran my own query on the database for Boca Raton (city code 290, county code 99) and found this
The right side shows that only one of the 13 fatalities reported for 2017 had police-reported alcohol involvement. It’s the far right column with nearly all indicating 0 (no involvement), one indicating 8 (not reported) and one indicating 1 (alcohol involved). It appears one other accident, number 7, may have also had drug involvement (THC, benzodiapenes and oxycodone). So that’s 2 fatal alcohol/drug involved accidents for the year for Boca Raton. The longitudes all seem to be inside the city lines, though that’s hard to tell. For a city population of 85,000 that’s less than the statistic reported by Timmons. If you take into account greater Boca Raton, including the unincorporated parts of West Boca, the number is closer to 1/3 what Timmons reported.
On the fun side the Herald comically reports:
The good news is that you’re at much less risk in Miami and Fort Lauderdale. And Miami Beach, Miami Lakes, Palmetto Bay, Florida City, Opa-locka and Sunny Isles Beach are among the safest cities.
Anyone who lives anywhere near Miami sees a warning flag in the claim that Opa Locka and Florida City are “safe.” In fact they’re among the most dangerous places to live according to … wait for it … yes, you guessed it … The Miami Herald.
A newly released ranking of the “most dangerous” cities in the U.S. lists two Miami-Dade County cities — Opa-locka and Florida City — in the top five … Opa-locka (2,807 violent crimes per 100,000 people) and Florida City (2,551 per 100,000 people)
I should also mention that Timmons ignores the statistical impact of pedestrian deaths. Pedestrian-vehicle accidents are far more likely to produce fatalities because cars are so much heavier and pedestrians are unprotected. So a city with more pedestrian activity is going to have more traffic fatalities. That doesn’t make drivers any less safe.
Altogether this “news” story getting attention from supposedly reputable newspapers shows the state of modern journalism. Pathetic.
Sunday morning before 4 am there was a crash on Hillsboro Boulevard in Deerfield Beach. Readers reported that Hillsboro was closed for as long as 14 hours, and we verified this with both Google Maps and to some extent with the Broward Sheriff’s Office.
Traffic accident near 3200 W. Hillsboro In Deerfield Beach. Roads will be closed for several hours. Avoid the area.— Gina Carter (@bso_gina) March 10, 2019
The Sheriff’s office has provided almost no detail about this incident.
Update: Sheriff’s Office responded Tuesday morning. The 2o-year-old driver of the white BMW has been charged with vehicular homicide, DUI and reckless driving.
Just before 4 a.m., Raphael Candido Vilela was driving a 2005 BMW 530i traveling westbound on West Hillsboro Boulevard at a high rate of speed. Sebastian Espinoza was driving a 2018 Tesla Model 3 traveling eastbound in the designated left turn lane, turning northbound on Country Club Boulevard.
As Espinoza’s Tesla entered the intersection, Vilela’s BMW struck the passenger side of the Tesla. The impact ripped the passenger side, rear seats and trunk area off the Tesla.
After impact, the BMW caught fire as it continued westbound for approximately 700 feet. The front wheels of the car detached at impact causing the engine compartment to drag across the roadway.
Broward Sheriff’s Fire Rescue transported all the occupants to Broward Health North with varying degrees of injuries. Thais Haug, the passenger of the Tesla, died as a result of her injuries. Sebastian Espinoza, the driver of the Tesla, was treated and released with minor injuries.
The driver of the BMW, Raphael Candido Vilela, as well as the three passengers, Alive Silva, Giovannia Silva and Joao Coneglian, suffered serious bodily injuries and remain in intensive care.
The investigation released that excessive speed and driver impairment were the primary factors of the crash. Vilela is now facing charges for vehicular homicide, DUI and reckless driving.
The investigation is ongoing. Anyone with information is asked to contact BSO Traffic Homicide Det. Anthony Morales at 954-321-4840
Our sources tell us that the white car in the middle of Hillsboro is a Lexus (update: Some readers say it was a BMW) and had a driver and passenger both injured. At last report both are still alive.
The Sheriff told us there was on fatality and two critically injured. A couple sources tell us that the other car in the accident was a Tesla and that the driver passed away. Our best guess is a Model 3, though we’re not completely sure it’s a Tesla at all. We saw a photo that looked like a Model 3, but the wheel logo did not look like one from a Tesla. We don’t have the rights to include that photo in this article, we don’t have a good enough photo to be sure, and the Sheriff is not talking.
We don’t know how reliable this is but there is some indication that the White Lexus/BMW driver may have been impaired by alcohol. A source also indicates the white car was driving above the speed limit on Hillsboro when the Tesla came out from a plaza on the side.
If it is a Tesla there’s a good chance it will have video of the incident that can be used to accurately determine fault, and otherwise let everyone know what happened. But that’s only true if the Sheriff decides to share information with the public, which so far they’re not doing.
It is unusual for a crash investigation to take 14 hours. We usually see them take 4-5 hours. And it is also unusual in our experience for police to keep details quiet and be unresponsive when they’re blocking a major road for such a long time.
There is no indication as yet whether the Tesla was operating on auto-pilot, but from the source’s description it does not seem like a situation where a Tesla would be self-driving.
We will reach out to Tesla to see if they can provide any information.
Disclosure: The author owns stock in Tesla and runs an Elon Musk fan club group on Facebook.
Joe “Smokey” Lasorda died last night in an accident with an unmarked Boca Raton police SUV. Lasorda, 83, was the brother of Tommy Lasorda, former manager of the LA Dodgers and a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Smokey was also the founder of the former Lasorda’s Restaurant and Pizzeria in Exton, Pennsylvania, near Philadelphia. He had retired to Florida and lived in Colonnade at Glen Oaks near Yamato and Jog Road (upper left corner of the map, below).
The accident happened at the intersection of Military Trail and Potomac at the southeast corner of Lynn University.
According to an accident report from the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office, Sgt. Doug Immler of Boca PD was on duty, traveling southbound in an unmarked Chevy Traverse. Lasorda was traveling northbound on Military and turned left toward Potomac, causing the collision. The two vehicles then came into contact with a third vehicle that was stopped on Potomac. Sgt. Immler sustained minor injuries and the other driver was unhurt.
The media relations staff from PBSO and Boca PD have both been responsive to our inquiries. The accident occurred inside the city and it seems wise for Boca PD to have called in PBSO to conduct the investigation. The PBSO Vehicle Homicide Unit determined that Sgt. Immler had a steady green light and was not at fault in the accident. They are working on an accident reconstruction and we know from experience that takes time.
Sgt. Immler’s father is Mark Immler, former chief of Boynton Beach PD and currently employed as an attorney for Boca PD. Sgt. Immler’s brother Zachary Immler was a police officer in West Palm Beach who made the news in the wrong way recently for stealing money during a narcotics investigation.