Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Let's not exaggerate the liability issue

Wow it's been over a month since a new blog entry has been entered.
Here's a little blurb that we sent to the Commercial Appeal. There are two versions of the letter. Our version and the one that was edited by the Appeals'.


Here is ours. Our statistics come complements of TOSA skateboarders united (Here is their site)

As a researcher in the biological sciences I was trained to provide rigorous data and references that support our discoveries or hypothesis. Consequently when I read articles that claim they have made a significant scientific finding, I expect to see a lot of data and precedence established by other researchs groups. This is how it works if researchers plan on publishing in a peer reviewed scientific journal.

Now we shouldn't expect to see the same type of stringency applied to the letters sent to the editor, but when a letter is published that makes some very strong assertions, then it better be well supported. Sadly, this was not the case with a letter that was recently published in the CA. The letter "Expect Lawsuits when skate park opens" does a fantastically gross injustice to the skate community and their efforts to establish a permanent and safe place to enjoy their activity.

Facts please
The letter is written with an air that one would expect from a seasoned insurance claims professional that has first hand experience with liability. He basis his assumptions on "ghost statistics." His assumptions are flat out WRONG. Let's set the record straight and let's do so with facts that come from real studies. Skating boarding has an injury rate of 0.59% compared to baseball (1.26%), soccer ( 1.42%) ,basketball (2.57%) or football (2.78%). Half of the skateboarding injuries occur from poor riding surfaces and most of the serious injuries that occur are due to collisions with automobiles. The injury rate in skate parks drops dramatically to 0.03 %. How can you claim a ten-fold decrease in an injury rate is bad?
Lawsuits?
And where is precedence for massive lawsuits filed by skaters ? There is none. A study of 48 California skate parks showed that only two claims have ever been filed and no claims have ever been won. In a study of 12 Washington State parks no claims have been filed. The president of a Bay Area company that insures over 30 municipalities for liability says, "Our office does not view skateboard parks as a high risk for cities."
People don't' think twice about putting in a dog park even though there are 800,000 annual visits to the E.R. from dog attacks and $350 million in lawsuit settlements associated with these attacks. I love dogs and I am not advocating shutting down or preventing future dog parks but let's be fair and not severely distort the truth about skate park liability. Our youth of today deeply cherish a skate park and when it's your child that's in the E.R. because they got hit by a car or sustained a head injury from hitting a crack then maybe you too will become an advocate for a safe place for our kids to skate! If Memphians have questions or concerns or you want references for these statistics mentioned, please contact me through our website at skatelifememphis.org. Congratulations to Memphis Parks and Recreation for connecting with our youth! Thanks giving a very ignored demographic some long needed affirmation and recognition for what they value and love doing.


Here is the CA's version from today
Skate park dangers are exaggerated

The July 1 letter to the editor "Expect Lawsuits when skate park opens" was written with an air that one would expect from a seasoned insurance claims professional who has firsthand experience with liability. He bases his assumptions on "ghost statistics," and his assumptions are flat-out wrong. Let's set the record straight, with facts from real studies.

Skateboarding has an injury rate of 0.59 percent compared to baseball (1.26 percent), soccer ( 1.42 percent), basketball (2.57 percent) or football (2.78 percent). Half of the skateboarding injuries occur from poor riding surfaces, and most of the serious injuries that occur are due to collisions with automobiles. The injury rate in skate parks drops dramatically to 0.03 percent. How can you claim a tenfold decrease in an injury rate is bad?

Where is precedence for massive lawsuits filed by skaters? There is none. A study of 48 California skate parks showed that only two claims have ever been filed, and no claims have ever been won. In a study of 12 parks in Washington state, no claims have been filed.

People don't think twice about putting in a dog park even though there are 800,000 annual visits to emergency rooms from dog attacks and $350 million in lawsuit settlements associated with these attacks.

Let's be fair and not distort the truth about a skate park liability. Our youth of today deeply cherish a skate park, and when it's your child who's in the ER because he got hit by a car or suffered a head injury from hitting cracked pavement, then maybe you too will become an advocate for a safe place for our kids to skate.

Aaron Shafer

Memphis


Hopefully we'll have some news soon about the Parks and Recreation skate park location.

5 comments:

Tony HAVOK Henley said...

it's no suprise the CA edited the letter down to meet their standards, because your letter was well written and thought out. the CA doesn't make a point of printing true stories told plainly, for they sell more papers without it. they didn't even print your contact info. i freestyle and would love to have a park here, but we live in a city that doesn't do anything in a reasonable time frame or with well thought out plans. keep on trying and get with the real newspaper...The Memphis Flyer.

Aaron said...

I was a bit disappointed in what they chose to leave out. Unfortunately my letter was a bit on the long side.

Hopefully you got a chance to read the article that came out in the Flyer a few weeks back in the early part of July.

The good news is that the city is working on getting a skate park built. If all goes well will have our first concrete park perhaps in 2010. The bad news is that we need about 4-5 of these skate parks in order to provide enough skate space for a very large demographic of skaters. My favorite stat: 48 baseball fields , 5000 little leaguers, 6000 skaters, 0 skate parks, nuff said.
We need to make a bumper sticker with these stats.....

Anonymous said...

It's amazing that someone at the CA took the time to rewrite your letter like that. I read the published version and thought it was awesome and persuasive.

I'm a skatepark supporter but seriously, your original letter is a badly written rant.

Aaron said...

Fair enough. I appreciate the criticism. After re-reading my version, I agree with your assessment that it is poorly written.
That's the difference between an amateur (sophmorish) writer/blogger and a professional who gets paid to write.

I'll keep working on improving the writing and less ranting.

Mary Yardley said...

I live in Silver City New Mexico, popluation 10,000. We finally got a community skate park built after 8+ years of planning and fund raising. The City has just succeeded in closing the park because of the "liability" issue. There hasn't been 100% compliance with the helmet rule - so now none of the kids can skate. Any ideas to share that might help us deal with our situation?