Information numeracy and literacy

Another of this summer’s press stories was one of the tabloid papers announcing that petrol prices were going up and that this would add £20 per month to drivers’ fuel bills.  My reaction to this is to wonder how much the notional driver referred to in the headline was in fact spending.

Admittedly I use my car fairly lightly, but I typically fill up with petrol about once every three weeks and buy about 50 litres each time.  So that’s just about 70 litres per month on average.  I’ve recently been paying £1.18/litre: the article mentioned prices going up to £1.20 and let’s make the charitable assumption that it’s talking about an increase of 5p/litre since I have seen prices as low as £1.15 in a few places.  So that would mean an increase in £3.50/month in my fuel bills.

Of course there are doubtless people who buy six times as much petrol in a month as I do, which would lead them to spend an extra £21/month.  But I’d suggest that they are the exception, and that this is a news story which needs to be read with some thought given to the numbers involved.

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