Stephen Hume: That ‘ethnic driver accidents’ stereotype? It’s wrong

December 28, 2016

By Stephen Hume, Vancouver Sun |

Mail responding to columns about the easiest way to reduce insurance costs for B.C. drivers includes dog-whistle demands for statistics correlating traffic accidents to ethnicity in Metro Vancouver.

For example: “Why don’t you reporters demand answers to the ROOT of the problem? What are the stats on ‘ethnic’ driver accidents?”

“Everyone knows who the culprits are that are driving up our rates but no one has the guts to come and say it. Don’t give me the argument that there are no stats on this.”

Well, we all know the colour of this particular elephant in the room. It’s not white. And anyone who overhears casual conversation knows the stereotype to which the coded language refers — all those inherently terrible Asian drivers.

I hate to be the bearer of news but first, there’s no coverup and, second, that elephant is a chimera, that is, something that may be devoutly wished for by someone but which turns out to be an illusion.

There are some statistics, just not from Metro. The Insurance Corporation of B.C. does not track accident statistics according to ethnicity. But then, why should it?

However, there is third-party research into what’s essentially an ethnic stereotype: that adult immigrants are unsafe drivers and responsible for more road crashes than long-time residents.

The study was centred on Metro Toronto, one of the most ethnically diverse populations in Canada. It looked at the driving records of more than four million drivers and set out to discover whether recent immigrants represented any increased risk of involvement as drivers in serious motor vehicle accidents.

It was published in the journal Accident Analysis and Prevention.

Contrary to popular opinion, it turns out, recent immigrants are actually better drivers than the native-born scofflaws who like to speed, race the amber lights at intersections, change lanes abruptly without signalling, smoke, eat and drink hot coffee while at the wheel and other common transgressions.

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