By Lynette Shaw
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Additional info for Accident Proneness. Research in the Occurrence, Causation, and Prevention of Road Accidents
The main defect of these studies lies in the fact that, this time, the conclusions erred markedly in the direction of over-statement, and contained few of the reservations given in the text. As the legitimate way to convey the gist of a scientific report is to repeat the final conclusions presented by the authors themselves, it is little wonder that these writers have been accused of misrepresentation. To accuse Farmer and Chambers (let alone Greenwood and Newbold), of fostering a "myth" or a "folklore" of accident proneness, as later writers have done, is a matter of opinion : but no one can deny the fact that the conclusions stated in Farmer's and Chambers' reports did in fact present an exaggerated and unjustified picture of the scientific evidence so far obtained in substantiation of the concept of accident proneness.
If a particular selection programme achieves its desired practical purpose and results in a significant reduction in the total accident rate, then it must be working on the right lines, and its findings should not be ignored because they cannot be validated with statistical refinement. Strict methodology is very desirable, but it need not be made the be-all and end-all of scientific investigation. One way and another the many technical difficulties encountered should not (as they have been reputed to do) deter psychologists from working in the accident field, even if very often their findings can only be interpreted in a general way.
Irwin showed simply that the Negative Binomial distribution could be obtained under at least two other hypotheses just as well as under the hypothesis of accident proneness. . ] By contrast the opinion of Greenwood himself on these developments is refreshingly sane. ' Dr. May Smith did not mean that these two statisticians were the first to remark that some people had clumsier fingers and (or) less alert brains than others, a fact no doubt commented on by the overlookers in manufactories of flint arrows in the old Stone Age; she meant that they were the first, so far as present known, to propose an arithmetically simple test which could perhaps reveal the presence of some human characteristic, later to be christened Accident Proneness.