Until this month we felt that fact checking sites were immune to the ignorance and bias evident in media reporting of drugged-driving facts. Our experience with FactCheck.org and their subsidiary SciCheck has proven to us that they too are “drinking the Kool-Aid.”
December 14th SciCheck took AG Jeff Sessions to task for errors he made in a June 22nd private Q&A with interns at the DOJ. Fair enough, Sessions’ statement was flawed, but directionally correct and not nearly as flawed as FactCheck’s report. See our restatement of what we believe FactCheck should have said about the Sessions comment.
But SciCheck went further, supporting the following myths:
- The GHSA report relied upon by Sessions for his comment “shows alcohol – not drugs – was present in the system of more drivers killed in car crashes;” and
- “Overall, experts disagree about the relationship between marijuana and driving.”
GHSA revealed that a greater percentage of drivers tested for drugs were positive than was the case for those tested for alcohol according to 2015 FARS statistics that no one can deny. But SciCheck observed that since fewer drivers were tested for drugs than were tested for alcohol, the absolute number of drivers found positive for drugs was less than those found positive for alcohol. The arithmetic is correct, but it misses the point that the GHSA report and Sessions were making. If testing had been performed as required, existing test results predict that not only the percentage, but also the absolute number of drivers found positive for drugs would be greater than those found positive for alcohol. SciCheck was guilty of using statistics to mislead, something we’ve termed “statistical malpractice.”
It is still true, as we pointed out in our letter to the Bennington Banner, that “arguing about which is more dangerous, drugs or alcohol is quite foolish. This isn’t a contest to see which causes more fatal crashes. In fact, since so many drivers are impaired by both simultaneously, that can never be determined.”
Rather than acknowledging this truth, SciCheck embarked on a literature search in attempt to prove that not only was stoned driving safe, it might even be safer than driving sober. Obviously this could only be done by relying upon references of dubious quality and selective extraction of quotes from good quality references.
Experts do not disagree about the relationship between marijuana and impaired driving, only about its magnitude, as described in our analysis.
We presented our analysis to two of SciCheck directors who responded to some of our charges, but they refused to retract or make substantive changes to their posting. We’ve advised the director from FactCheck supporter Annenberg Public Policy Center that their publication and lack of responsiveness will stain their reputation.
At least for those who are not drinking the Kool-Aid.