Tag Archives: Train derailments

train crashes and base rate fallacies, by el gato malo

Train derailments happen all the time and their generally not news. From el gato malo at boriquagato.substack.com:

“oh my gawd, another train crash!”

“it this some kind of sabotage?”

this seems to be quite the furor on social media right now as the newshound junior reporting team is suddenly amplifying every ill outcome.

but let’s catch our breath for a moment.


the US has about 1000 train derailments a year. that’s roughly 3 per day.

so is the rate actually up, or are we just having another “summer of the shark/food factory fire” media moment where an event that is actually no more common than usual suddenly seems so because it’s being breathlessly reported at high frequency all of a sudden?

the internet (and humans in general) seem to really struggle with the idea of “base rate” likely because you can make nearly anything look like some crazy clustering or wild trend by just starting to report on it all the time.

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