Road Safety: DfT and TRANSCOM not Fit for Purpose
Time to Act After 10 Years of Government Failure 'Spun' as a Success
As the Commons' Transport Committee proposes yet more draconian restrictions — this time targeting young drivers — the evidence piles up that road safety is not improving.
The 20th July Metro News story said it all: "Deaths from drink, drug and dangerous driving have risen to their highest level in 30 years, Government figures reveal."
This comes on top of a truly terrible record for young driver deaths. Deaths per 100,000 teenage licence holders almost doubled from 9.76 in 1998/2000 to 19.23 in 2004.
How much evidence does it take for the government to put saving lives before saving face? The ABD has long campaigned for a much more rounded road safety policy instead of one that focuses on speed and speed cameras, which has resulted in the decimation of the most valuable road safety tool — traffic police officers.
The government admits that injury accidents are under-reported, yet continues to use statistics based flawed on data to make absurd claims for success in reducing road traffic injuries, including `think of a number' claims for speed cameras.
Year on year results for fatality reductions continue to be disappointing. The only significant fall in fatalities due to road traffic accidents in 2006 was a 4 per cent fall for car occupants, demonstrating the fact that safer car design is saving lives.
The Commons' Transport Select Committee (TRANSCOM), Chaired by Gwyneth Dunwoody has called for a raft of draconian measures to be applied to young and inexperienced drivers, following a steady increase in the number of deaths involving motorists under 25.
The ABD argues that the overall package will fail because, as usual, there are no positive incentives built in to reward and encourage better driving standards.
"The young people Gwyneth Dunwoody wants to penalise have grown up under a road safety policy that she herself has greatly influenced," said ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries. "These young people, who have never known anything but "speed kills" brainwashing, are killing themselves and others in ever greater numbers — a terrible indictment of a policy that criminalises safe behaviour and fails to target the real causes of collisions. This is happening because blanket speed reduction policy has prevented young drivers from acquiring key survival skills whilst camera enforcement of under-posted limits has made road safety look ridiculous."
The ABD welcomes the focus on young drivers because it tries to target an actual problem rather than simply penalise everyone. However, Dunwoody's team have reverted to type and focussed 100% on blunt, inflexible restrictions and penalties. This will create resentment and a culture of "box ticking" and evasion amongst young people. Had the Commons' Committee taken evidence from the ABD (which of course they did not!), we would have suggested a much more balanced approach, with more focus on improving skills both before and after the test is passed.
The ABD has the following suggestions:
- Road safety should be part of the national curriculum - pupils allowed to learn to drive around a track before they are 17 (there are already pilot schemes for this) - rather than delaying driver training - start it earlier!
- Cars driven by new drivers should carry 'P' plates for 12 months
- Compulsory 'Pass Plus' training to be completed during the 'P' plate period, involving motorway and night driving
- Raising the driving age to 18 and a 12-month wait before being allowed to take the test is unlikely to be effective. A survey has revealed that two-thirds of young drivers already take 12 months to pass the driving test.
- Age restrictions for engine size or power are unlikely to be effective because young driver insurance is already very high even for cars with small engines.
- A new driver receiving 6 points in the first 2 years of driving has to retake the test - so they are under pressure not to get caught speeding. According to Lincolnshire Camera Partnership only 4% of tickets are issued to young drivers, but this is not preventing young motorists' deaths.
The DfT and TRANSCOM continue to be part of the problem, rather than the solution. They need to win back the respect of the motoring public with sensible motoring laws — especially speed limits — and properly targeted enforcement, linked to stronger incentives to raise driving standards.