Why anyone who genuinely wants to see safer roads should join the ABD

In 1966, UK road deaths reached a postwar peak of 7,985. Thirty years later, despite the number of vehicles on the roads rising from 12 million to 26.3 million, that figure had more than halved to 3,598 — a major public policy success that is not given the recognition it deserves.

The reasons for this are fairly well understood:

However, in the past few years the rate of reduction in road casualties has slowed to a trickle and indeed actually reversed. The ABD believes this is because the proven safety policies pursued in previous years, which have brought about such clear improvements, have been largely abandoned in favour of a "one-club golfer" approach of reducing traffic speeds through a combination of ever lower limits, "traffic calming" and the replacement of trained police traffic officers with speed cameras on clear roads.

This policy is fundamentally misguided, not to say downright irresponsible, and is not going to deliver the hoped-for benefits. The ABD believes instead that improvements in safety can be brought about by sensible measures across a range of areas, as listed below. It also believes that there is one significant policy option that has not yet been seriously tried, but does offer the strong possibility of achieving real advances in safety, namely improved training.

Currently, speed reduction has become the main plank of road safety policy, despite many studies that have shown that excessive speed is only a primary factor in a small proportion of accidents (around 5-6%) and that most accidents are caused by failures of observation and poor judgment of risk. The ABD recognises that a minority of drivers do travel at inappropriate and dangerous speeds on our roads but does not accept that reducing the speeds of already safe drivers will make any difference to casualties. "Keep your eyes peeled" would be a far better slogan than "Kill your speed".

An inappropriate emphasis on driving more slowly leads to an erosion of driving skills and will make drivers less able to judge appropriate speeds and to cope with hazardous situations when they arise. It also encourages drivers in the dangerous belief that simply by keeping within the speed limit they are driving safely and there is no need for them either to exercise proper vigilance or reduce their speed further when conditions require it. An inattentive driver can do serious damage at very slow speeds.

The ABD believes that the present approach to road safety is unlikely to pay significant dividends unless speeds are reduced to the extent that drivers cannot do any serious damage to people or vehicles, in other words returning to something very like the Victorian "Red Flag" law.

Anyone with a genuine interest in reducing death and injury on our roads (rather than simply making using the roads more frustrating and unpleasant) should join the ABD to campaign for real road safety.

Promoting effective road safety instead of the criminalisation of safe driving

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