Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Safer than a very safe thing

A contribution by TediousTantrums

I’m sure I’ve already admitted to being a petrol head. I like cars and motorbikes, I like driving and I used to drive something like 40,000 miles a year.

You may well have noted the announcement by our friendly (only to each other) Westminster Government that they are going to consult on raising the speed limit on motorways? 80 MPH is their aim and reducing the limits around schools to 20 MPH plus other tweaks and the like.

The usual suspects will soon be on TV saying what a bad idea this is. People will die. The Earth will spontaneously combust. Babies’ brains will be pickled and small children will drop like flies with asthma. They will want slower speeds, cars done away with, electric cars and bicycles. Yawn.

The development of vehicles has been incredible over the past ten years. The NCAP safety testing has made them safer than ever. You may not be able to see out of your NCAP vehicle, as the pillars are thicker though. If you have an older car and you hit or are hit by an NCAP car it will hurt. They are like tanks in comparison to older cars. They don’t hurt pedestrians as much when they bang into them and they don’t pollute as much either. So they are safer.

Roads have improved although they have also become pitted and holed. Barriers are more plentiful and more thought has gone into engineering the safer roads. Then we have those joys of motoring the speed cameras or should I say cash generators. If these cameras are placed sensibly at genuine accident black spots they work well. The vast majority of cameras aren’t at black spots though they are in places where it’s easy to speed. Sometimes that’s a good idea sometimes not (I mean the camera as a deterrent obviously).

I looked on the Department for Transport website (if you’ve walked past their offices you may be slightly puzzled as to why there is a Mini showroom on the ground floor at one end. I know I was. Product placement?). The latest accident figures make interesting reading, here is an extract for 2010 –

“The number of people killed in road accidents reported to the police fell by 17 per cent from 2222 in 2009 to 1850 in 2010. Now wait for it, wait for it – This is the lowest figure since national records began since 1928.”

Two interesting points there. One is the “reported to the police.” This implies that the figures could be much higher because not all have been reported. I’m pretty sure no one is keeping the death of a loved one in a traffic accident quiet. It may be that they died within a period of time following the accident but the figures in detail show the numbers that did.

The second is that this is a record. I may have missed this being the main evening news item. I don’t recall newspaper headlines shouting about it. In fact I can’t recall any mention of this at all, even in the motoring press or on Top Gear. This is amazing and fabulous news. Our roads are so safe now that they are the safest they have ever been. How many cars were on the road in 1926? Very few and how many of them could you out run with one leg was in a stookie? Almost them all. Why is no one shouting about this?

There are millions of cars making billions of journeys annually. It is safer than a very safe thing to drive on the roads. Again I quote “the overall casualty rate for accidents reported to the police per billion vehicle miles fell to 677 per billion vehicle miles.” That’s billions, not millions or hundreds of thousands. Billions.

1850 people were killed. That’s a big figure. But out of 60 million souls in the UK? Obviously if you knew or were related to any one of them it’s not going to be a positive experience, least of all for them. However, I’m quite sure there will be another website which will detail the number of deaths of people who fell out of their slippers, tripped on their pyjama cord or plugged them selves into the mains by mistake and the numbers will be much, much, much bigger.

Let us have the 80 MPH limit or even push the boat out and give us 90 MPH sections? I’ll never refer to that nice Mr Cameron as Call Me Dave again if he does this. Nah! I’m not going to stop!

Last thought. If motoring accidents are dropping so significantly why are motoring insurance costs not dropping accordingly?  


pa_broon74 said...

There should be a minimum speed also, this would mean cars would be travelling fast enough not to have lorries lumbering past slowpokes at speeds in excess of, oh, 0.0000000000002mph faster than the old fart in the Micra they're trying to pass?

They tried keepeing lorries in lane one but I don't know if that worked.

Oh aye, they should also allow undertaking, because it's fun and necessary.

petem130 said...

I like the American system. Use any lane for overtaking. Also turn left at a red light if there's nothing coming (that's in our language anyway).

Thanks Pa.

RMcGeddon said...

Is 80mph not the proposed speed limit across the EU ? Maybe they're bringing it in early to avoid being accused of 'pandering to the EU'.
The planned changes to MOT timescales ( every 2yrs for certain cars etc )turned out to be an EU initiative as well.

Woodsy42 said...

Lorries are the biggest problem, theoretically speed regulated to the same speed yet they still try and overtake causing mobile road blocks.
Solve that and most motorways would be beter and safer for everyone.

JRB said...

TT - Your use of statistics, whilst accurate is perhaps a little selective.

You fail to mention the total picture for RTA’s, to take but one year 2010 -
The number of people seriously injured was 20,803
The number of people with lesser injuries was 185,995
In 2010 the total killed and injured in RTA’s was 206,798

206,798 people, at best being used as a mere statistic, or at worst to be disregarded, in order that a few motorists can drive a little faster.

206,798 people – that is roughly the population of Aberdeen. If there were to be a major incident that killed or injured the 206,798 men, women and children of Aberdeen in a single day it would be a global catastrophe and the world would want to know how this happened and why.

We know why 206,798 people were killed or injured in 2010 – each and every case involved a vehicle.

It is a sad reflection on society, that whilst 206,798 as a figure is down from the previous year’s figure of 222,146 those who generate and perpetuate these RTA statistics would use such statistics of human tragedy to seek the freedom and indulgence to do more of the same - but only faster.

Brian said...

Here's the stats for Scotland whose major roads are the responsibility of Transport Scotland.
The DfT is only responsible for motorways and major trunk roads in England through the Highways Agency. Other roads are the responsibility of highway authorities - councils.

pa_broon74 said...

206,798 is a shocking figure.

But, how many were the fault of the injured party and how many of the killed and injured were travelling on a motorway at the time?

Indeed, how many were killed and injured by excessive slowness for that matter and how many in fact killed by excessive speed?

Statistics work both ways. People will always be injured & killed by the things we do as a society in the name of progress, advancement or plain stupidity.

petem130 said...

RMG, Yes spot on with both. The EU is behind everything it would seem. In this case it;s an ill wind maybe though.

petem130 said...

I agree Woodsy. I think a big part of the problem is that the differentiation of performance between cars and other vehicles has shrunk over the years. Additional restrictions on lorries and vans etc. might help everyone. Maybe more Police patrols would help.

petem130 said...

You are right JRB. I was careful with the statistics. mainly because they hide a huge amount of nonsense. The injured include loads of silly things like people falling of bikes, incidents which have very tenuous links to vehicles and of course all those "injuries" which will be the subject of insurance claims.

The headline figure on deaths shows the significant progress made.

Also risk is worth considering. That's why the billions of miles and journeys versus the number of accidents proves it's a pretty safe way to travel.

The "don't do" brigade have been abusing the statistics for years.

petem130 said...

Thanks Brian. Very useful.

petem130 said...

Thanks again Pa. Better driver training would help and additional driving checks for older people as well as similar for younger drivers would also help accident reduction.

Investing in more safety engineering on the roads also would but the government doesn't mention that since it's costly at least in monetary terms.

Brian said...

Apologies if I am usurping the role of the Press Officer of the Dundee Temperance Society but alcohol caused over 9,000 deaths last year and 35% of A & E admissions were alcohol related (70% at the weekend)and the trend is rising.
Every RTA is a tragedy to the family and friends of the victim and a cost to the economy but at least roads and cars get one from A-B. What good does booze do except irrigate the liver and kidneys?

Clarinda said...

An element to add to and probably complicate the death statistics is increased life saving clinical competence. If medicine and surgical skills had not progressed I suggest that the death statistics would be much greater than the current numbers? This may also affect the apparent statistics for deaths associated with violent crime. It is probably a better guide to compare combined total figures of those dead and injured in both circumstances to have a clear idea of the whole picture to compare with previous annual figures.

Dick Puddlecote said...

Nice article. pa_broon has said everything I wished to add, especially the minimum speed limit. And Brian, wash your mouth out, lad! ;)

Brian said...

@Dick Puddlecote: With a wee dram of medicinal single malt? :-)

Joe Public said...


I now know why politicians so love statistics.

"If there were to be a major incident that killed or injured the 206,798 men, women and children of Aberdeen in a single day it would be a global catastrophe and the world would want to know how this happened and why."

TT uses a per-year figure; yours transmogrifies into a single day.

Dramfineday said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dramfineday said...

I’d like to see a five vehicle rule introduced on A grade roads. It goes like this: slow moving vehicle on A road. Driver looks in mirror - 5 other vehicles trailing along behind. Lead driver pulls into the first available lay-by or safe passing place and allows the vehicles behind to clear. Restarts journey. I was coming back from Dumfries on Sunday and at least 30 cars were stuck for miles behind a JCB. Needless to say the more reckless / impatient started taking some awfie risks trying to pass (others in the tail back so they could have a go at getting past the rolling road block). So while we are at it a five vehicle rule as well please

subrosa said...

Dram, I'd like to see a three vehicle rule introduced. In rural Scotland there are few places - for those who don't know the road well - to overtake and so some journeys which would normally take an hour can take two if agricultural vehicles are involved.

Don't get me started about their sudden indication to turn right. Just don't do there!

petem130 said...

Yes Brian drink and drugs are the casue of a growing number of accidents. The statistics didn't provide a breakdown for them. Thanks.

petem130 said...

Hi Clarinda,
I think there are many reasons for the figures dropping. But also bear in mind that car use has increased so the number of miles and journeys has also increased. Safety has increased and drugs and medical procedures also improved.
Lots of things have contributed and have also probably masked the increase in drug related accidents.

petem130 said...

Hey thanks Dick. As you say great pints from Brian also.

petem130 said...

Sorry Joe but I think you and JRB have maybe gone of on a bit of a tangent. If we added up all the people who were injured or killed at home the resulting total would be horrific.

The improvements to the yearly motoring accident figures are worth celebrating even although the numbers are large. It's just that the risk of being killed or injured has been reduced significantly.

I welcome your comments. though. Thanks for taking the time.

petem130 said...

Dramfineday and Subrosa. Thanks for comments.

I'd like to add a further rule. CCTV and should be installed beside all schools to record parents dropping off and collecting their children. All motoring offences committed and recorded would then form the basis of a prosecution.

At the school beside where I live the driving is ridiculous, dangerous and selfish. It endangers the children.

subrosa said...

I'm certainly with you about some form of supervision outside schools TT. Here's it's appalling the way many drive, especially the 4 x 4 mothers who have no clue about the size or strength of their vehicles.

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