Why is road danger reduction so politically toxic?

road danger

Road danger reduction is the third rail of of politics – a live wire ready to fry any politician brave enough to touch it. How else would we have found ourselves here?

A driver parking their car last year, and travelling at an estimated 5mph, not only managed to collide with a woman, but continued driving until the car had passed over her body – killing her in the process. The same driver had previously been banned from driving twice. At the time of the fatal crash, the driver was banned from driving and uninsured.

Sentencing, Judge Mark Brown told the defendant: ‘This is on any view a very sad and tragic case. You drove your car looking for a space and your vehicle collided with her and you then drove over her body. I have no doubt this has all happened within the blink of an eye.”

A collision report concluded that the defendant was driving at about 5mph and there were no defects with the vehicle.

| “One man in Britain continues to drive legally with 62 points on his licence”

The judge summed up by saying ‘I hope you have learned a profound lesson’ before allowing the defendant to walk free with an 18-month driving ban – that’s a ban, on top of a ban on top of a third ban. A recent Freedom of Information Request sent out by the BBC, found 203 people in Britain were still driving despite accumulating more than 18 points. One man in Britain continues to drive legally with 62 points on his licence.

The police are under-funded and hampered by an inadequate legal framework – both symptoms of the complete absence of any systematic approach approach to road danger reduction. Little wonder there is such institutionalised apathy towards death and injury on the roads.

Recent articles of ours highlighting the case of a four-year-old girl on a footpath killed by a delivery driver who didn’t want to obstruct traffic attracted a barrage of criticism – one comment on this website accused us of being ‘rabid militants’.

On top of an aggressive driver lobby, British transport policy is centred on encouraging car use through heavy subsidies, the neglect of active travel and sinking billions into new roads that quickly fill with traffic. Little wonder road danger reduction in Britain is as politically toxic as gun control in America.

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Comments

  1. Tony Williams

    Reply

    Perhaps you would clarify “heavy subsidies”. There are several things it might mean: I don’t have to pay to access roads in the way that train operators pay to run trains on railway lines; the total receipts from vehicle excise duty are lower than the costs of building and maintaining roads (or of what SHOULD be spent on them but isn’t, as numerous potholes show); there are many places (though certainly not everywhere) where I can leave a car beside the road without charge, or in a school car park when dropping or picking up pupils; larger lorries pay proportionately less in vehicle tax and fuel tax than the wear and tear they cause to roads; and no doubt others. But when I fill my car with fuel, pay the VED or for car insurance, I don’t feel that I’m being encouraged to use it through heavy subsidies.

    I think that in order to have a rational discussion about road safety issues it is necessary to choose words carefully. If we don’t do that, the debate too easily becomes one about the inaccuracy of claims made on each side instead of the real issues and how they can be improved. .

  2. Tim Cooke

    Reply

    These arguments continue to push the idea of shared road use. I would much prefer, as both a cyclist and a motorist, to see separate provision for both. There are plenty of idiot cyclists and also idiot motorists around. Segregation is the only way to keep these two groups safely apart.
    …and yes, transgressions of the law from either group should be much more harshly punished than at present. A driving licence is a privilege. Not a right. …and red lights mean stop for everyone.
    You don’t like the rules then campaign for change. You don’t have a right to just ignore them

  3. Helen

    Reply

    Thank you ETA. You are a breath of fresh air!! I despair during the many many conversations with people I have about road danger reduction. People seem so wedded to their cars and totally unable to see beyond the car as a primary form of transport. Surely one life is too many to sacrifice for the sake of cars. How many times do you really need to use a car rather than a more sustainable and environmentally friendly form of transport? It drives me mad so thank you so much for making me feel sane again…

  4. Julian

    Reply

    I totally agree. Why is this form of abusive not even acknowledged, let alone talked about? We seem to be currently making (slow) progress on other forms of injustice/bullying, but this issue of non-car users being habitually abused and maltreated seems to be entrenched in the UK, like gun ownership in the US….

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