If you’re reading this you’ve probably already diarised it – or volunteered as a marshal. (Hint.) Just in case not, the horse-drawn National Funeral for the Unknown Victim of Traffic Violence will start from Bedford Square at noon on Saturday and finish with a Mass Die-In at Marble Arch. Dress with dignity, and behave as befits a funeral.
Attending the Road Danger Reduction Forum’s annual conference this weekend has moved me to resume writing here. If you weren’t at Southwark Town Hall on Saturday, here is what stood out to me.
Tony, Lord Berkeley, RDRF president, chairing the morning session, mentioned the Labour Party’s commitment to a new Transport Bill. He spoke also of the need for “a complete review of existing legislation” regarding conduct on the roads. A faint hope, perhaps, but worth nourishing.
Bob Davis, RDRF chair, was encouraged that the conference was booked out soon after it was announced. He compared the ‘road safety’ lobby’s focus on protecting “vulnerable road users” to Mae West’s observation:
Most problems on the road stem from otherwise good people doing bad things. the culture of carelessness and its indulgence is what needs tackling. It begins with ourselves: recognising our own prejudices and working against them. We need to campaign to
stigmatise behaviour that endangers others
Close overtaking is the main source of KSIs.
Amy Aeron-Thomas of RoadPeace spoke eloquently to the statistics. In London in 2013, 2,000 people killed or injured in collisions. A person on foot 180 times more likely to be hurt than in a car. Police issued 7,275 Fixed-Penalty Notices for speeding, but only 5 boroughs averaged more than a single FPN a day for exceeding 30 mph. London sees only 2 FPNs/day for dangerous driving and 6 for careless driving. Ten times more charges brought for drunken driving than for dangers driving. Magistrates do not ban drivers for using phones while driving.
The definition of dangerous driving refers to disregard of other road users The definition of careless driving does not. RoadPeace asked the CPS if that implies disregard of other road users gets prosecuted as dangerous driving. The CPS says not.
National crime statistics: what gets included in the totals shows a bias to crimes against property. Dangerous and careless driving is included, but not drunken driving or hit-and-runs. Dangerous driving is excluded from statistics for violent crime. No count is kept of victims of road crimes.
Our culture of indulging carelessness behind the wheel is reflected in statistics that fail to capture the extent of road crimes and the damage inflicted.
Brenda Puech for Living Streets spoke of the 80 hit-and-run incidents a week in London, a shocking 20% of all collisions; of 400 KSIs a year from hit-and-runs.
The everyday normality of people getting killed on the roads.
She reviewed police analyses of the causes of collisions. Investigating officers more commonly blame pedestrians for failing to see cars than drivers for failing to see pedestrians.
Charlie Lloyd for the London Cycling Campaign spoke of 10% of cycling KSIs being caused by ‘dooring’ – careless opening of car doors. He examined Met. Police claims of a “crackdown” on road danger in its 2013 Operation Safeway and found of 14,269 FPNs issued only 93 were for careless driving.
Sgt Simon Clarke of the Met. Police spoke warmly of the new Road and Transport Command, with 2,300 officers, more than double the 1,000 officers of the former Safer Traffic Command. His enthusiasm for his work was encouraging.
My take-away from the conference: there is scope for an umbrella campaign against the culture of carelessness. It should be conducted on behalf of the general public, not ‘pedestrians’, ‘cyclists’ or anyone else who can be labeled as a special-interest group.
It might as well start by challenging representations of Mr Toad as high-spirited and lovable:
No more Toad on the Road!