Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Road deaths.

Had a really good meeting about road deaths in Leicestershire yesterday. That sounds bad but I'll carry on.

I must admit that roads, well transport in general is a bit a passion of mine, not sure if it's because I am a boy, but things that councils do to make roads safer etc interests me.

Anyway, so met some experts at County Hall because their annual road casualty report is out, with all sorts of fascinating stats about how crashes happen, where, when, well everything you can think of really.

Now in the county casualties are reducing steadily every year, but the number of deaths remains around the same, at around 50, in fact it has risen slightly every year for five years.

Every year around half of those will be people under the age of 25, and those are the people in particular the council wants to target.

They are changing road layouts, speed limits, putting in bumps and the ever-unpopular speed cameras, which is making the difference but is not breaking through the ceiling. Education also plays a part, especially targeting those who have not even learned to drive yet.

They are also starting an innovative profiling scheme, where they look in detail at the circumstances of people who have died, so they can target areas and certain types of people and hopefully cut deaths.

What no-one could explain is why young people are often so fearless, even reckless when they drive a car. Often these traits are the reasons why people are killed. Speeding, losing control, not looking and taking drink are still the key causes of fatalities. Year after year.

When I was a younger man, I hope at 27 that I am still fairly young, passing my driving test (after four tries) was the most nerve-wracking thing I think I can remember, and going out on my own (I was a cub reporter in Northants driving to Corby to find a man with a samurai sword) frightened me to death, not the man with the sword. What I mean to say is that it was also the responsibility of driving that frightened me, not just the thought of dying.

After a while you gain confidence, you take more risks, this is normal I guess, but I still can't get into my head where people go from this to, well, putting their lives, and others' at risk. Why are they not scared of death? All the adverts of TV now show in a brutal way how people die on our roads, motorcyclists, people without seatbelts, children hit etc. But it is still happening.

But today it clicked, I've never met anyone who said they are a bad driver. So many of us are just too cocky when it comes to driving and that's why too many people die. Everyone knows everytime you get in a car you could die, everyone does, but the attitude is that "I'm too good at driving" for it to happen.


  1. A look at the demographics of those involved in road accidents would make an interesting read(particularly socio-economic factors and, related, educational ability), epecially where half of deaths involve under 25s (a very small age category - 7 years - to take a lion-size share of the stat).

    In the USA, many insurance companies offer lower insurance rates to younger drivers with good grades at school as statistically they're less likely to be involved in an accident.

    Likewise, cheaper insurance is offered for younger drivers who agree not to drive after 9pm (some companies insist on tagging the vehicle to monitor compliance). Again, a sign of good education: the kids who do well at school aren't the ones driving around with their mates at 1am.

    What of the other half? Interestingly (perhaps), half of accidents occur within 3 miles of the home. Complacency through familiarity is thought to be the reason, which tallies with your own theory that "I'm too good for it to happen to me".

    My own approach is that "everyone else sucks" at driving, not "I'm too good". Particularly applicable around London, where the standard of driving can be third-world.

    On the plus side, the UK has a comparatively low road-death ratio e.g. It's over 3 times higher in the USA. The British driving test is much tougher than in a number of other developed countries.

    What irks me is why we set such a high bar on our driving standards while allowing non-native drivers to use foreign licenses indefinitely to drive legally on UK roads (defining feature: cruising the middle-lane of an empty M25 at 11pm)...

  2. Also, are the stats just car based or does that include motorbikes. I have passed a test twice, once for a car and once for a motorbike, both I consider achievements in my life. I think becoming a biker has made me a better driver since I am more aware of my surroundings. One area that any government should look at is Diesel spilage. Cars have an anti-spill device that trucks do not, and truck drivers fill to the brim. The device would not cost more than £20 and go to saving lots of lives.

    Cllr Andy Bayford
    Knighton Ward, Leicester City Council