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The world's most expensive auto accident - NOT!

By

December 5, 2011

In yet another example of internet mass media hysteria (reporters not checking facts and racing to get the story out quickly in the unholy pursuit of the holy dollar), a pile-up of 14 cars in Japan on Sunday morning has been universally labelled as the the world's most expensive automobile accident. Among the wreckage were eight Ferraris (including two F430s, two F355s, two 360 Modenas and an F512), a Lamborghini Diablo, a Nissan GT-R and a Mercedes CL600, and while there will certainly be a few very expensive repair bills, the crash doesn't even come close to being the world's most costly.

It's something we're seeing increasingly often at Gizmag. You see a story which has some elements which make it worth looking at, and when you begin assembling the information, hundreds of internet sites are reporting what are basically a handful of unchecked facts and erroneous assumptions.

Yes, Ferraris, Lamborghinis and Mercedes cost a lot of money, but there were only 14 vehicles in total in the pile-up and no-one was killed or even seriously injured. Just three days prior to this 14-car accident, there was a far more serious pile-up in Tennessee which involved 176 vehicles, one death and 16-18 injuries.

Just a month ago, there was an even more tragic (and costly) pile-up on the M5 in Somerset. It involved 34 vehicles, seven fatalities and 51 injuries and while there may not have been as much expensive machinery involved, insurance companies will be paying out far more money than will occur in Japan.

Mass pile-ups of far greater magnitude are not that uncommon and you don't need to do much research to recognize that there have been many more expensive automobile accidents including a 60 vehicle accident in UAE in March 2008 during which 25 vehicles caught fire, three people died and 277 were injured.

The same Wikipedia entry lists 18 accidents in which more than 100 vehicles have been involved and there are almost certainly many more which are not listed.

Wikipedia also lists dozens of accidents where more than 14 people were killed (the same number of cars in this accident) and people are worth more than Ferraris.

Finally, to all those organizations (more than 500 such stories are listed on Google News) which immediately picked up on some headline writer's erroneous claim that this was the world's most expensive automobile accident and reported it as news ... bollocks! You should be ashamed of yourself.

About the Author
Mike Hanlon After Editing or Managing over 50 print publications primarily in the role of a Magazine Doctor, Mike embraced the internet full-time in 1995 and became a "start-up all-rounder" – quite a few start-ups later, he founded Gizmag in 2002. Now he can write again.   All articles by Mike Hanlon
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19 Comments

thanks for reinforcing my views on most journalists out there today. You guys can teach them real informative and accurate journalism. Thank you

robinyatesuk2003
5th December, 2011 @ 06:48 am PST

What do FACTS have to do with this? Mass media is in the ENTERTAINMENT business -- not the NEWS business.

Mark Petereit
5th December, 2011 @ 07:49 am PST

Gizmag, i now come here first for tech news, and have abandoned several flashy tech websites, including FastCompany and Gizmodo, for the very reason mentioned. I value Gizmag's more in-depth, intelligent reporting, and especially the confidence i feel that what i read here is true. The other sites can keep their sassy wisecracks and 100 word articles. Most days, Gizmag is all i read re: new tech and light science. Which i read a lot. I'm here almost every day. Yay, you!

Kim Holder
5th December, 2011 @ 08:17 am PST

There are other news sources then gizmag? ^^

Facebook User
5th December, 2011 @ 08:31 am PST

Its rare to see common sense on the internet these days. Well done Mike !!

greglo23
5th December, 2011 @ 10:16 am PST

Mark,

News media, in addition to entertainment, are also very involved in driving their political agenda (typically a very liberal one).

Vadim
5th December, 2011 @ 10:33 am PST

ok. Lets rephrase this. Worlds most expensive 14 car accident. Worlds costliest auto accident with the biggest number of super-expensive cars involved.

thats more correct

Facebook User
5th December, 2011 @ 11:07 am PST

Is not the Journalists' motto: "Ne Bona Fabula Obstruatur Veritate"

bushman Jack
5th December, 2011 @ 12:24 pm PST

can we still call it the "most expensive accident" in a way that PER CAR involved, excluding injuries and deaths and insurance costs more than a usual 4 car pile-up. so most expensive pile-up per capita or something like that. thanks for throwing some water on the flames though, stuff can get out of hand to the point where a nothing event becomes news.

johnweythek
5th December, 2011 @ 01:04 pm PST

It's ironic that you reprimand the lemming-like "journalists", but then go on to quote Wikipedia, which is often criticized by academia as being unreliable. Don't get me wrong, many of the hacks writing news today simply spew the dribble du jour, and, in fact, I personally rely on Wikipedia for what I would consider to be facts, but if we're talking about irrefutable data, Wikipedia is not necessarily your most reliable resource. I'm just sayin'...

Jason Jones
5th December, 2011 @ 01:43 pm PST

@johnweythek, nope, not even close. For example http://www.wreckedexotics.com/articles/040.shtml

http://www.wreckedexotics.com/newphotos/exotics2011sep19/2003-ferrari-enzo-edo-xx-2496.shtml

I'm sure there are plenty of worse examples too.

Synchro
5th December, 2011 @ 02:24 pm PST

Do I tire of terrible 'reporting'. Thanks for showing what the merest hint (you obviously went further) of research can turn up to contradict all the claims out there about this luxury car pile up.

I have stuck to Gizmag since early days and latched onto BBC/Al-Jazeera in equal measure; that of a survivor clinging to his life raft.

Cheers to rational, researched journalism.

Seb
5th December, 2011 @ 02:45 pm PST

Perhaps the most expensive automobile accident actually involved a ship.

A Ferry load of BMW s which sank in the English channel. Add the cost of the ship and it would be hard to beat.

Nick Hill
5th December, 2011 @ 05:19 pm PST

probably all too late, yes

tthb
5th December, 2011 @ 09:21 pm PST

The original headline for the story was Japan's most expensive car crash. The real question is what is the cost of a crash in insurance files payout minus recovered vehicle cost. Expensive cars going into salt water- most of the value will be kept as they have very good corrosion protection, sure the engine et al will need a lot of work to get back of the condition.

Mark Smith
6th December, 2011 @ 02:31 am PST

I am sorry to find out again, for the umpteenth time, than news are not meant to inform but to sell trash paper to innocent, gullible, adrenalin-starved populaces all over the world... It is not our sacred right to be informed, but our indulgence in mild titillation that is addressed!

Andrei Bădescu
6th December, 2011 @ 02:33 am PST

It probably is the most expensive in terms of cost per car involved. You can't really price a life, though insurance does, so the story is just about the price of the cars involved. Stop nit picking.

Max Kennedy
6th December, 2011 @ 08:03 am PST

The most expensive car accident allegedly ever happened in Germany involved a BMW 3 series, a fuel truck and a bridge. The BMW cut lane of the truck, the truck crashed against the border of the bridge, almost fell off the bridge and exploded. This explosion was so harmful to the inner structure of the bridge, that it became necessary to completely knock down and reconstruct the bridge. Total cost: approx. 24 million euros.

Headlines such as "[superlative] thing ever has happened here, click for heaven's sake!" will continue to appear in modern online media. The reason is clear: As long as internet media are paid by advertisement and their success is measured by clicks, the writers are bound to make headlines as dramatic as possible. They have to think in a way junkmail spammers do: "Lady Gaga gives a BJ" works better clickwise than "EU Commission President Barroso demands firm rules for Euro Bonds", even if the latter may be of far more importance for our standard of living in the future...

Frank Kemper
6th December, 2011 @ 08:47 am PST

I think it's a mistake to say that the phenomenon of titles that intentionally mislead in order to get attention is something that comes from the internet. Yellow Journalism is nothing new, and not exclusive to any political party, be they Torries or Loyalists. Also, speaking of fact checking, I doubt that a worldwide look at journalistic bias would reveal a liberal bent, but I would love to see a well documented article to this effect. The internet probably has a slight liberal bias because age tends to co-correlate with internet use and political viewpoint, but I doubt China is publishing much with a liberal agenda and with Rupert Murdock and Clear Chanel controlling an overwhelming amount of the US media, it's hard to believe that US media is very liberal either. Still, I could be wrong.

Whatever the state of other media, I honestly appreciate the Gizmag's usual commitment to good fact checking and even first hand reporting.

Charles Bosse
6th December, 2011 @ 03:31 pm PST
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