London, 6 Dec 1999.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

What's Left Of Transport Economics?
Government in Cynical Attempt to use Safety to Justify War on Drivers
Government economists have this week attempted to use the supposed cost of road traffic casualties to justify both more spending on so called safety measures and more road user taxation.

Safety is cynically being used here as an excuse to justify both swingeing increases in road user taxation and unpopular "traffic calming" measures really aimed at obstructing drivers in the vain hope that they will use hopelessly inadequate public transport.

Meanwhile, genuine safety measures involving road user education and the construction of new and improved roads and bypasses have been shelved.

ABD Chairman Brian Gregory had this to say:

"The Government are worried about the unpopularity of their new taxes and road obstructions, so they have decided to play the safety card in the hope that emotive rhetoric about 'carnage' will defuse opposition."

"Government policy is costing lives on the roads - new road projects to upgrade dangerous single carriageway roads to dual carriageways, provide proper graded junctions to replace dangerous centre crossings points, and to bypass small towns and villages have all been cancelled in favour of cheap, nasty, politically correct and ultimately ineffective speed reduction measures."

"The motorist is being milked by this government, a very dangerous tactic with over 30 million drivers in the electorate. The DETR spin on motoring matters is getting more and more ridiculous as attempts to excuse the inexcusable become increasingly difficult."

Notes for editors:
  1. The ABD campaigns for real road safety improvements, the most effective of which require:
    • Road user education and training - 84% of pedestrian accidents are the fault of the pedestrian (TRL) and 95% of all accidents are caused by human error.
    • Re-engineering of road features such as bends and junctions, the expense of which rarely if ever considered.
    Instead, measures which are at best safety neutral - but revenue raising - such as speed cameras, are deployed with increasing vigour and with complete disregard for safety related deployment guidelines

  2. The latest excuse for future road taxation, supposedly based on safety considerations, claims that (for example) the total cost to the economy of a single road traffic fatality is of the order of £1 million. The ABD wants to know:
    • why the economists responsible for this 'calculation' fail to reveal in detail the basis for some of the 'estimated' components which form a large part of the final sum for each type of accident
    • why double accounting is excused in this context, since the notional cost of emergency services involvement is already paid for
    • why this year, when road safety levels have improved in spite of government traffic mismanagement, funds have not been witheld from accident and emergency services within the NHS on the basis of lower demand
    • why the existing contribution to the economy of road transport, particularly car use, fails to be included at the outset as a benefit in this type of cost-benefit calculation
    • why road accidents are prioritised as a result of the 3,400 fatalities each year when more fatalities arise, and more people are injured, as a result of accidents in the home (over 4,000 fatalities annually); more fatalities arise each year from an act of homicide or suicide (over 4,000 fatalities combined); more people die from infections caught whilst in hospital for other reasons (over 5,000 fatalities annually); and cold-related deaths over each mild winter stand at over 20,000 increasing to 40,000 in severe weather.
    • why the economists concerned want the UK to mimic EU partners such as Holland, which has a record of higher spending in this area, when all such countries have a poorer road safety record than the UK
    This economic analysis is deeply flawed and hides tax-take greed behind an apparently public-friendly safety banner. It will not be used for any real road safety benefits, but to justify further tax hikes on the already beleaguered motorist.

Brian Gregory, ABD Chairman, concludes:
"Economics of more relevance to the car driver includes the facts that motoring taxes outstrip corporation tax as a source of revenue for the government, providing for more than £1 in every £8 of government spending, and that over 80% of the price of a litre of fuel goes straight to the Chancellor's coffers. The £33 billion raised annually from motoring related taxation needs to be properly and fairly accounted for, and in this the government is failing singularly".

"Congestion is repeatedly used to justify anti-car tactics, and quoted as harming the economy, yet this year traffic census data shows that the measures used are exacerbating, not curing, these problems. Our members report growing delays on roads this year, yet for the first nine months traffic growth was zero. Last year, traffic on major urban routes declined by 1%, while delays increased. This shows that deliberate traffic mismanagement, such as the indiscriminate use of chicanes, humps, road closures and narrowing, arbitrarily lower speed limits and gating of traffic at traffic lights (to deliberately delay the private transport user) and the introduction of inappropriate bus lanes, are responsible for the growing delays we face."


Further Notes for Editors