No Accidents

Apr 28, 2001

RAY: This puzzler is from the Wonderful World of Statistics. A graduate student worked at one of the institutions of higher learning in Our Fair City, and wrote his dissertation on the relationship between uncontrollable outside forces and automobile accidents.

He collected thousands and thousands of accident reports from the State of Massachusetts and correlated the time of the accident with other factors, like temperature, road conditions, automobile size, age of the driver, alcohol usage, speed limits, and whether the accident victim was listening to Car Talk.

After thousands of hours of data input and hours of computer grinding, he discovered an amazing statistic. He found the absolute safest time of year to drive an automobile on a public highway.

It was so safe, in fact, that not one single accident had occurred.

However, still not able to believe his own conclusions, he returned to collecting more accident reports -- this time nationwide. Nationwide, he found that there had been statistically less than 2% of the number of accidents in any other time frame.

The question is: when was the safest time of the year to drive on a public highway and why?

Answer: 

TOM: That's really the wrong question, isn't it? Now that I think of it; now that I know the answer.

RAY: Why is it the wrong question?

TOM: The safest time of the year?

RAY: Ah, well.

TOM: See, it's not the safest time of the year.

RAY: There is no time.

TOM: It's just the data happened to show it because he was a moron, and all those jerks in academia kept paying for his research because they got no more brains than he had.

RAY: Well, I bet it took a long time to figure out ...

TOM: I bet it did. It took us a while.

RAY: Because there is a phenomenon that occurs, I think, the first Sunday in April now ...

TOM: Yeah.

RAY: Where we turn our clocks ahead. And it occurs at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. So, if you were a police officer at 2:00 a.m., when you're supposed to change the clock ahead ...

TOM: You change it to 3:00.

RAY: You change your watch to 3:00. So it is impossible for an accident to be recorded between 2:00 and 3:00 a.m. on that first Sunday.

TOM: That one day a year.

RAY: And that is indeed the safest time to drive. And, of course, nationwide there were some accidents when he did the nationwide investigation.

TOM: Oh, yeah.

RAY: Because there were a couple of states, Indiana and Arizona, that don't do daylight saving time, to the best of my knowledge.

TOM: Wow.

RAY: Do we have a winner?

TOM: Yes, we do. And quite a little Puzzler that was. And congratulations to Doris Bailey from Burlington, Vermont.

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