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It is difficult to find pure statistics. Nothing useful is gained by impugning the motives or the intelligence of those presenting statistics. The best approach is to present your own with the very best transparent methodology possible.

I have driven Bremer from East to West and back again for 42 years at an average of twice a day.

Now we are in trouble with statistics already. Average of twice a day — how about exactly how many times? Exact number was not kept and does not exist.

When I multiply that out using 42 years at 365 days times two, the number is 30,660. That’s 30,660 times I have driven Bremer without seeing or being in an accident.

Well then, in the interest of honest commentary, I have to adjust. Two weeks after I moved here in 1976, I ran the red light at the west end of the bridge on Bremer and side-swiped the Chief of Police. I probably have to subtract something.

Would I subtract one for the “accident?” or would I subtract two — one for the light and one for the side-swipe?

Then again, there was no property damage, we both ended up in what was the dry-cleaner’s driveway, and we did not call police because well, the Chief was already there. So do I deduct any?

And how about all those times teaching two sons to drive? And traveling Bremer as they drive? So 30,658? Fifth-nine? Sixty is low but as good a number as I can demonstrate?

Now, let’s talk what kind of driving. I have driven in school, work, college, shopping and holiday traffic on Bremer. All four seasons. All kinds of weather. Does the kind of driving affect the validity of the times driven? I think the kinds only make the number of times more valid. Others might want the number of times broken out into the kinds of driving. Not kept and therefore not available reconstructed from weather, school and college, work, or shopping with any level of accuracy.

That’s how statistics work. Always look first at the rules for the counting. Are these numbers only for when the police are involved? When the police are called? When there is property damage? When there is property damage of a certain amount? When someone is hurt? When someone is hurt enough to require an ambulance? When someone is killed? When it is at a traffic light? When it is on a bridge? When it is at a stop sign?

Back in 1976, Police Chief Clarence Wickham made me come to his police car and show identification. He gave me a gentle talking-to that went something like this. “You’re new to Waverly, aren’t you? The new librarian I believe. You know a lot of people miss that light. I want you to remember to obey that light and try to remember that if you do run a red light, it would be good not to also sideswipe the Chief of Police.” I remembered.

Once you have statistics as clearly defined as you can make them, you and everybody else can and will study them and interpret them and interpret them and interpret them. Everybody wants the statistics to favor their view.

And now percentages! Another layer to finesse. Percentage of what? And how was it determined that a percentage of that would be valuable in the discussion?

Nothing useful is gained by anyone being ugly about another’s statistics. Keep your own, make your reasoning as clear as possible and present your statistics. You can do a comparison without attacking anyone. Work in good faith and trust others to do the same.

Some will still see them as lies, darn lies and statistics.

Some will see them as attempts by all to keep Waverly vibrant and healthy.

Patricia Coffie is a storyteller and retired librarian living in Waverly. She can be reached at