Fri 12 Nov 2010
Warning this is not a happy post, the writer is angry:
In Afghanistan it is considered dangerous for women to go out on the streets in case they are raped. The Taliban’s answer to this is to make all women there wear a burqa to “protect” them. If a woman is unfortunate enough to be raped, she is then at risk of being accused of adultery and stoned to death. The attitude is very much one of blaming the victim.
“But, what has this to do with road safety?” I hear you ask. Well, here in the UK, government funded road “safety” campaigns aimed at pedestrians and cyclists (especially those intended for children) take a clear stance of blaming the victim. They say to children, if you go out on the roads, not wearing “protective clothing”, you might get hurt and it will be all your own fault. There is no attempt to put the responsibility on those most capable of causing the harm. I mean, what sort of sick person came up with “Tales of the Road: What happens when it all goes wrong”. No wonder parents are frightened to let their children out on the roads. We have been using this approach for over 30 years, starting with the Tufty Club and the Green Cross Code, and over time the campaigns are steadily getting more extreme. This marketing of fear is not making our roads safer, it is just frightening people. Britain has one of the worst road safety records in Europe for child pedestrians and almost 20% of casualties occur on the way to or from school. This is not the way to change the situation! It is well known that drivers are responsible for over 90% of all road
accidents crashes, so why does the Department for Transport choose not to deal with the real issue? Why is the UK one of only five countries in Europe which does not have a law of strict liability? We also has the lowest rates of active travel in Europe and the highest levels of child (and adult) obesity.
In a time of austerity, it is time to cut this cr@p! If we really wanted to save public money, we could take real action to reduce the harm done on our roads. Injuries caused by road
accidents crashes cost the NHS £470m a year, and the cost to the wider economy is £8bn a year (from figures collated by RoSPA in 2007). If we want to reduce this cost, we need to change driver behaviour and place the blame on the guilty.
If you were to walk down the street with a shotgun and it were to accidentally discharge, then you as the person holding the shotgun would automatically be held liable, not anyone you hit. You can legally carry a shotgun down a street, so long as you hold a licence to own one and observe certain strict conditions. Likewise, you can legally drive a car along a road, as long as you have a driving licence and observe certain conditions. Sadly, the latter conditions are not so strictly observed or enforced.
A car driven at 20mph or above can easily do as much damage to the human body as the blast from a shotgun. Yet, no one suggests that we should all wear flack jackets as we walk and cycle, just in case someone is negligent enough to accidentally discharge a shotgun. Nor do we expect to have to keep out of the way of someone legally carrying a shotgun. Why is this? Both have an equal potential to cause harm. If you injure or kill someone by negligently discharging a firearm, you are looking at a prison sentence. Yet if you do damage to another person while driving a car, the penalty is likely to be a £200 fine and three points on your licence, for the same level of harm. Where is the difference between killing someone by negligently discharging a legally held firearm or hitting them with a car, the victim is dead. So why is it considered acceptable if the perpetrator is driving?