Why ‘Road Safety’ misses the point

road safety week

We are living in curious times. We are a society overly obsessed with safety. And yet, danger from motor traffic – particularly to vulnerable road users – is characterised by official tolerance.

This week has been Road Safety Week, an initiative that this year focussed on encouraging drivers to stop speeding. We wholeheartedly support better enforcement of speed limits  – after all, a recent survey found that 40% per cent of motorists admitted driving at 30mph in 20mph zones. However, the term ‘road safety’ is divisive when the real goal is road danger reduction.

It’s easy to confuse one for the other, so for an explanation of the difference, we will defer to the Road Danger Reduction Forum (RDRF) – a group we support.

Those who formed the RDRF were professionals working in local government as Road Safety Officers, highway and traffic engineers, officers working to promote sustainable transport, with support from councillors in a number of local authorities. The thrust behind setting out the Road Danger Reduction (RDR) agenda was – and continues to be – dissatisfaction with various elements of the official ‘road safety’ establishment, arguing that this is often very much part of the problem of danger on the road.

For example, the definition of a ‘safe road’  is based on the number of casualties and yet often there may be a decline in, for example, child pedestrian casualties not because the road environment for children has become safer, but simply because of a decline in children’s walking. Any apparent progress, as officially defined, may be precisely because of an increase in danger from motor traffic: one of the main reasons for parents prohibiting children from being independently mobile. Other ways in which conventional ‘road safety’ falls short are explained in detail at rdrf.org.uk

For our part we continue to be the only insurance company that publicly and actively promote the road danger reduction. Occasionally, this challenging the status quo earns us a mouthful on twitter…but we have no intention of stopping.


We are an insurance company like no other

Not only are we Britain’s most ethical insurance company, we campaign for sustainable transport. Sometimes that means protesting until a school gets the zebra crossing they’ve been refused, or running 60 roadshows this year to encourage people out of their cars, or fixing bicycles for free. Supporting this work is easy – you simply have to take out cycle insurance with us, cover that just happens to be excellent.

Unlike other insurers we never devalue your bike. And if you ride a carbon bike, rest assured we will never have a cracked frame repaired – we will always replace your bike with a new one. How many other insurers can say that? Find out more

..and it’s not just cycle insurance that we offer. We provide  home insurancecycle insurancetravel insurance and breakdown cover  – all while putting concern for the environment at the heart of all we do.



  1. Gavin


    Hullo ETA,
    This is very commendable stuff. Thank you.
    The big one “we” cyclists* need to push is what the majority in Europe have enshrined in law but sad deluded car obsessed Britain hasn’t and that is. “Assumed Liability” in the even of an accident. i.e A truck hit’s a car it is presumed to the guilty party until proven otherwise. A car hits a cyclist – it is presumed to be the guilty party until presumed otherwise etc.
    It won’t happen here as this country, it politicians and mainstream media mainline the car as a drug addict does heroin.
    Keep up the good work ETA.
    * I once to drove Scammels (HGV-1) in the army… have driven lorries all over Europe and owned a Lotus 7… so I am not anti car/truck – but I prefer to use the cycle whenever I can. I’m available to give lessons to any HGV/LGV drivers who have “difficulties” passing cyclists safely due to their lack of skills and inadequacies.

  2. John Holiday


    Yes, we are out of step with most other countries in Europe in not having ‘presumed liability ‘,
    Every time the subject is raised, you get a Daily Mail headline about motorists being persecuted!

  3. Plevyadophy


    Sorry, but as mutli-mode transport user (bike, trike, car, taxi, bus, underground and overground, all pretty much used in equal proportion), I regard this article and its responses (and similar such write ups), as namby-pamby drivel.

    The notion that if I am in my car and collide with a cyclist or pedestrian, no matter how stupid their behaviour, I must be assumed to be at fault is utter nonsense and would not hold water in any other area of life e.g. big guy and little guy get into a street fight, the law assumes that the big guy is at fault??!! That scenario would cause outrage and rightly so.

    Quite frankly some pedestrians and cyclists deserve to be run over to divorce them of their stupidity (e.g. dimwit pedestrian engaged in social media whilst on their so called “smart” phone who then steps out in front of a car giving the driver zero opportunity to avoid hitting the idiot).

    Why in God’s name should I be held responsible for the stupidity of others??!!

    Cyclists who get crushed on the inside of lorries deserve it; what the hell were they doing there in the first place?! How about engaging their brain and (1) not going up the inside of a lorry as it approaches a junction irrespective of whether or not the lorry is indicating left and (2) learning that even if a lorry pulls out wide to the right before turning left, the rear nearside wheel will come very close to the corner and often clips it. I have lost count of the time where I have stopped behind a lorry or bus at lights, and I just behind that yellow sticker they have warning (idiot) cyclists not to pass on the inside, only for cyclists behind me to huff and puff and some times shout at me in frustration (no doubt in a hurry to get to their graves).

    The vast majority of cyclists I encounter (and have questioned) don’t even know the very basics in the Highway Code (a publication that can be published for under a tenner) and don’t even bother to ask if they have third-party liability insurance.

    The thing that annoys me about the self righteous cycling lobby is that cyclists contribute EXACTLY ZERO to road infrastructure for the use of roads yet cyclists are always “running up their gums” making demands (CTC even produced a policy document where they actually used the word DEMAND repetitively) as to what should and should not be done with roads (when the VAST majority of them learn the Highway Code, pay for third party liability insurance, have compulsory MOT tests, are forced to make themselves visible, have their bikes IMMEDIATELY impounded for breaches of the above (as motorists do), then they might be worth listening to)

    And no I don’t read the Daily Mail; just telling a few home truths to the irritatingly self righteous.

    • Gavin


      … did you actually read what I had written?

    • ara


      Can I point out a few things:
      1: there cycle lanes which lead you up the inside of lorries, and leave you in their blind spot at the traffic lights, all ready to be turned left over (left hook)
      2: there are vehicles which overtake and pull in on top of cyclists before completing the manoeuvre (this last happened to me, ooh, the day before yesterday)
      3: assumptions can be proven incorrect/invalid, as is permitted to be the case with assumed liability – it’s only an assumption
      4: road infrastructure is paid for out of general taxation

    • Bernard SHAKEY


      ‘Why in God’s name should I be held responsible for the stupidity of others??!!’

      Oh the irony…..

  4. Tony


    I had not heard of the RDRF before; I have drilled down into the links and found some really interestingly presented ideas on this problem of inappropriate “road safety”. Some great statistics for use in my local campaigning, come good counterpoints to the usual stereotypical comments. Thank you for a very informative article.
    I have noticed in this sort of debate that there are those who present thoughtful and reasoned comments of a serious nature, and then those who just rant irrationally (I imagine them frothing at the mouth with wide psychotic eyes). It illustrates the sort of problem that this issue of improving the poor targetting of “safety” campaigns – getting to the true root cause of a problem – faces. We need more people prepared to think the issues through to their logical conclusions.

  5. Gareth


    I sometimes think that the safest cars would have a great big spike coming towards the driver’s chest from the centre of the steering wheel and there would be no seatbelt for the driver. That would equalise the risk for drivers and other road users and help concentrate the mind.

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