Commons Report Admits Abuse of Road Safety
MPs Fail to Understand Key Safety Issues
The latest House of Commons Transport Committee road safety report confirms that road safety policy has allowed a litany of political aims to take precedence over reducing casualties 1
. It also shows that MPs have no grasp of real road safety issues, bizarrely misrepresenting expert driver criticism of current policy as "defending risk taking".
The Association of British Drivers, which gave evidence to the Transport Committee's inquiry into road safety, says the Committee's final report is a missed opportunity to improve road safety in Britain.
In its first paragraph of conclusions and recommendations, the report commends the Government "for recognising that road safety needs to be integrated with other important policy objectives such as promoting good health, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, tackling deprivation and improving quality of life."
ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries comments:
"The reason that recent road safety policy has failed is that it has become a facade for the anti-car agenda — a deadly mistake that the Transport Committee wants to continue and expand. The stated political objectives have nothing to do with road safety, yet drivers have been obstructed, penalised and bullied to achieve them, and this has been done falsely in the name of road accident victims. While this has been happening, the real causes of these tragic deaths have been neglected."
The report misrepresents the evidence given to the committee by the ABD and other driving experts critical of current policies: "Relatives of those killed in traffic collisions call for radical measures whilst restrictions on the rights of individuals to take risks are often strongly resisted by some motorists (1)."
"This shows that the committee of MPs either can't or won't understand the arguments," continued Humphries. "We have already seen that safety policy is riddled with irrelevant political agendas, so it's not surprising that pathetic attempts are made to dismiss its critics as dangerous drivers. Of course nothing is further from the truth — it's the ABD who are standing up for safe and responsible driving against those who seek to criminalise it in order to make using a car unattractive."
One of the report's recommendations is to make it easier for local authorities to introduce 20mph speed limits more widely, but they "must not rely on high levels of fines or draconian enforcement." These aims are incompatible.
Nigel Humphries observes: "The ABD does not object to 20mph speed limits in principle, but one of the main arguments in the ABD's evidence to the Committee 2
was that speed limits must be set at levels that are seen as reasonable by the responsible majority of drivers. Only then will there be a high level of compliance, so that enforcement can be targeted at the reckless minority."
There are some aspects of the report welcomed by the ABD, in particular the recognition that official figures for seriously injured casualties are flawed and numbers are not reducing in the way the Government claims. The ABD supports separate targets for reductions in fatalities and the establishment of an independent body to track overall casualty and safety trends.
Although the report makes some useful recommendations about better education and training, it does not fully recognise their importance. Since the vast majority of accidents are caused by human error on the part of one or more road users, helping people reduce these errors could produce far greater improvements in safety than any amount of legislation or enforcement. A start could be made by publicizing the real causes of serious accidents rather than covering up this information because it doesn't suit the policy agenda.
ABD chairman Brian Gregory sums up:
"The Transport Committee's report is a missed opportunity to learn from the failed road safety policies of the last 15 years. Instead of proposing positive measures to treat road users as responsible people, which most of them are, the report paves the way for more of the same failed, oppressive medicine. The deadly consequences of using road safety as a facade for other unrelated political objectives is the real scandal here."