Letter: Car ownership, not class, is the great divider

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From Mr John Stewart

Sir: It is a pity that Hamish McRae in his comprehensive look at the car ("Driving a social revolution", 17 January) seems to have fallen into the trap of believing that safer cars mean safer roads. In fact, over the past decades our roads have become more dangerous. The main reason for the fall in fatalities is the marked decline in pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists using the roads.

In 1971, 80 per cent of seven- and eight-year-olds went to school on their own (mostly on foot or by bicycle); by 1991 it was 9 per cent. The main reason parents gave for accompanying their children to school was fear of traffic.

Further research shows that safer cars tend to increase the danger on the roads as drivers, feeling less exposed, take greater risks. Real road safety can only be achieved by reducing the danger at source. That requires taming the traffic through reduced speed limits, rigorously enforced; by the eventual installation of on-board speed limiters in all cars (which will ensure that the vehicle cannot break the speed limit); and through a fundamental reallocation of road space to other road users.

Yours faithfully,

John Stewart



London, SW2

18 January