This article was originally published for the Subrosa blog and is republished here with permission.
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?