We've got a long way to go on road safety

Bad cycling hurts no one other than the cyclist. Bad driving kills.
  • @TheIndyBusiness

Did you know that people convicted in England and Wales for the offences of ‘dangerous’ and ‘careless’ driving, and their ‘causing death by…’ equivalents, fell by 81 per cent between 1985 and 2011?

That’s a shocking statistic which has been unearthed by the CTC, the National Cycling Charity, for its Road justice Campaign. All the more so because it doesn’t appear to have been backed  by a proportional improvement in drivers’ behaviour. 

Au contraire. 

Since I was crippled by a cycling accident, I have become a regular driver in and around central London. 

It’s the only way I can get about without calling upon the assistance of a close friend or family member thanks to the charming eccentricities of the capital’s public transport network. It is not something I enjoy. 

Now I’ve never had so much as a point on my licence in more than two decades of driving. Despite what the motoring lobby might have you to believe, it is perfectly possible to achieve this even with the advent of average speed check cameras. 

All you have to do is obey the speed limit. Paying attention to the Highway Code isn’t a bad idea either. 

That means not blasting on your horn if someone doesn’t move within a split second of a red light turning to amber. And it means not bumping your car into the back of that person if they wait longer than a full second before gunning their accelerator. 

It means not cutting people up or pulling out in front of other drivers, and it means keeping a careful look out for cyclists. 

Bad cycling hurts no one other than the cyclist. Bad driving kills. 

I’d be the first to admit that I am not a flawless driver. But when I get behind the wheel of two tonnes of metal and plastic, I treat it with respect. 

Unfortunately, a significant number of drivers on the Capital’s roads (and sadly it ain’t just London) engage in some or all of the above dangerous, illegal, and potentially lethal, activities every time they get behind the wheel. They don’t treat their metal and plastic with any respect, relying on others to avoid them. People get killed like that. 

The reduction in convictions can be partly explained by a reduction in collision numbers – fatal and serious injuries in Britain fell by 67 per cent between 1985 ad 2011. That’s great. I’m delighted. 

But in 2008 the Department for Transport noted: “It seems unlikely that any improvements in driving standards could account for a drop [in conviction numbers] on this scale.”

Which means that more needs to be done. Much more. I say this not just as a (former) cyclist - I back the campaign and have participated in it. I say this as a motorist. 

I see too much disgraceful behaviour on the roads every day. The numbers of people getting killed or injured might have gone down, but that doesn’t change the fact that people are still getting killed or injured avoidably. Why do we allow this situation to continue?  

If the pain and suffering of those caught up in accidents doesn’t move you, then how about this: the annual cost to the economy of road death and injury has been calculated at between £15bn and £32bn. To put that into context, we pumped £45bn into bailing out Royal Bank of Scotland. Cut that cost significantly and we’d go some way towards getting all the RBS money back in fairly short order. That’s a lot of money for schools and hospitals. Makes you think, doesn’t it.