What Makes Road Safety - Who to Believe?

Question MarkI've just finished reading Eliminating Serious Injury and Death From Road Transport and find myself in agreement with much of its content. The time I've spent in traffic law enforcement and the investigation of a large number of collisions has shown me that many of them are suffered by people just like you and me. We aren't significantly misbehaving, we're experienced drivers and we were doing our best to drive safely in the circumstances. Human error, not lack of driver training or respect for other road users is at the root of more crashes than we would expect.

I mentioned the book to an acquaintance who takes a somewhat different view of the information contained in it. He was vehement in his response that it was nothing more than political propaganda, poorly researched and that an expert who had been retained to review the work supported this conclusion. It is an attempt to sell oppressive (speed) enforcement to the public.

The book does spend a considerable number of pages in the examination of unsafe speed. It suggests that an unsafe speed is one where a collision would not be survivable or would result in catastrophic injury. The unsafe speed would be decided in the context of vehicle safety systems, driver capability and the driving environment. The 85th percentile speed alone would not be sufficient criteria for setting the limit. Set speeds would be subject to review as circumstances changed.

Given that our provincial government has begun to ask us all what we think is appropriate for changes to our traffic laws, this has raised the question in my mind about the quality of that advice. Job One should be to lower the frequency of collisions on our highways, perhaps even to adopt Sweden's Vision Zero Initiative. If there are so many points of view about what should and should not be done, how does one properly inform themselves to assist in making the correct choice?

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Maybe it's time to take a step back

The question “What makes road safety” is an immense topic. Perhaps better phrased, “What will make our roads safer ?” In my opinion even after many many decades of motor vehicle use we haven’t really answered that question. What we have done, is basically, through our governments, made rules that, if obeyed, would curb some of the carnage. To really create a safe atmosphere of road safety, we as a society would have to come to a complete understanding of all the risks involved in motor vehicle operation.

Some dangers are created by others operating vehicles in close proximity, some environmental, some geographical, some physiological. We as a society don’t spend much effort training drivers, testing drivers, re-training and re-testing. Hell, we don’t even include motor vehicle operation as a course in our schools. As a society it is more important, in the view of or educators, for a child to know about pharaohs of Egypt 1000’s of years ago than to learn something about the operation of a motor vehicle that could save lives.

Make sense ?

Our legislators have decided that if driver’s commit certain acts they are more likely to cause collisions. Drivers who are apprehended committing these violations, on top of monetary fines, are assessed points or demerit points which for each violation are scaled on a pre-determined scale of severity and if too many points or demerits accrue, driving suspensions are assessed.

In our “wisdom” we, however don’t have a corresponding system of points or demerits assessed for involvement in collisions. When a collision results in a police investigation and an infraction is determined, a violation could be assessed, but most minor collisions are not investigated. So, commit a violation that has been determined could cause a collision and be fined and assessed points, but actually cause a collision and quite possibly not suffer the consequence of a fine and points.

Make sense ?

A driver who accrues a number of points will come to the attention of an overseeing body and if that number is in excess of a pre-determined amount, in the vast majority of cases it will result in a driving suspension. Following the suspension, the driver’s privilege to drive will be re-instated.

No, retraining ? No re-examination ?

Make sense ?

As I said the topic of road safety is very complicated, but don’t we as a society over simplify it ? The violator who is irresponsible and does not care about his/her own safety, the violator who for whatever reason cannot see and comprehend the dangers of their actions, the violator is wants to obey the road laws but for whatever reason can’t comprehend and process the rules of the road, actions of adjacent vehicles, traffic signage, are all lumped into one category and generally dealt with in the same manner.

Driving suspensions, the traffic rule version of a “time out”.

Make sense ?

I haven’t even got into efficient ways to identify problem drivers. But what is the sense in continuing to apprehend violators, when the way we handle them is ineffective.

Can you imagine flying on a commercial flight, with a pilot who has had several crashes, determined to have been caused by his/her refusal to follow safe proceedure and the only remedial action taken (no re-testing, no re-training) was a suspension from work ?

Make sense ?

Yes, we need dialogue on this subject.  Lots of it.  That would make sense.

What makes road safety?

"The unsafe speed would be decided in the context of vehicle safety systems, driver capability and the driving environment. The 85th percentile speed alone would not be sufficient criteria for setting the limit."

The first two items used here are difficult if not impossible to control, as they would change in every instance.  That would leave us with the driving environment as the most important thing to determine what an unsafe speed would be.  Where I live there are two roads nearby.  One is wide, straight, and flat, with a good quality asphalt surface.  The other one is narrow, full of blind corners with trees and shrubs within a couple of feet from the road.  It is also very hilly, and has a poor quality tar and gravel surface.  Both have a speed limit of 50 km/h.  That makes no sense.  The good road could easily accomodate a speed of 60 km/h (and that's what most drivers do anyway).  The poor (really bad) road should have a much lower limit.  But the bureaucrats wouldn't think of changing anything, and have a long list of stock excuses for the staus quo.  I believe te only thing that might change their mind is if one of their children or close relatives was a victim of unreasonable speed.  Sad but true.

Submitted by E-Mail

Not just speed alone.Inexperience tells on youth. Mobile phone use in drivers hand danger to life.Easily distracted by sites and other things like half dressed girls and jealousy over rich peoples gardens,houses and fast cars as they drive past. Taking eyes off road is the real reason for low speed crashes. Speed in the hands of none trained fast drivers is hell on crash rates.This hold on drifting at the moment of writing causes 6 out of ten road accidents near my house.

Older drivers suffer in coming the other way when no were to go out of a car oncoming sideways and out of control head on. Responsibility seems lacking in nine out of ten thirty year old youths.Not to mention the day dreamers much younger. Drunks account for just 6 % of road accidents which suggests fewer drunks drive at all. A car is a weapon in the hands of fools. It took me years to buy a car. I polished it every day.Over sixty years of driving cars ,vans  and heavy goods all over Europe from England I had covered 9 million miles behind a wheel and had just one accident on black ice with no damage to anyone thankfully and none to my Jaguar sports car. The Police test had taught me to turn into a skid not away from it. I landed sideways at 38 MPH in a hedge on the same side of road without damage. Thanks to the way Police train you I had the skill to save my life.

Once you pass a driving test and I passed mine in London Central. You learn the ropes over the following three years before you are anything like a driver. Then schools exist to take your skills higher. After that road use gives you that edge. I then took up track racing as a hobby. I found out how to cope at high speed around six bends at 90 mph out to straight to 187 mph and a twister at 60 -68 mph up in seconds to 120 mph. The dust was all over windscreen as we crossed the sand barrier at side of track.You had to drive like you meant it or suffer a crash. I had about sixty tries and twenty four passes. I trained with the police and paid for being told off. I listened hard to the trainer whom had spent ten years in the Sweeny .

He had get away drivers to chase and catch. One big bull of a man with attitude but he did not let up on me. After that second run he shook my hand and parted. I had another six days and a skid patch to win over. Then I did it in a six toner after that. I still was not a driver in my mind until I had that pass license. My jobs since leaving school have involved cars and lager vehicles every day. I think now perhaps I am good enough behind the wheel.My eye sight is good and fit as I am at my age retired I see that danger as sideways cars attempt drifting around the fast bend near my door. I drive with greatest care my car is worth more than many houses and my life even more. I still polish wax and take care of my vehicles which makes my wife laugh. A clean car is a clean mind I tell her.

Regarding the above:

I don't understand why anonymous individuals are allowed to use this site to vent their personal opinions, prejudices, and bile.

But in as much as most experts - from the police to the licensing authorities to the insurers - are in common accord in realizing that it's the attitude of the driver that is most important when it comes to road safety ... 

Anonymous comments?

It may have escaped your notice, but we are all anonymous, even you. 

Your first paragraph could just as easily apply to you.

The comments are monitored by the author of this blog, so if you think something is offensive perhaps it would be better to message him.

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