Peter Bottomley, a Co-Chair of PACTS, has been MP for Worthing West since 1997, having previously been MP for the Eltham constituency. In 1986 he was Minister of Roads and Traffic at the Department of Transport and has previously served on the Select Committee for Transport. He is a member of the Drapers’ Livery Company and a member of the Transport and General Workers’ Union.
The task is to cut the causes and the consequences of the crashes that result in death and serious injury.
Events involving trains and planes are rare enough to attract world wide attention. Yet the number of lives lost compared to road is low.
Somehow we must get society to care about the total of the ones and twos, the steady accumulation of road deaths that can be reduced by clear analysis followed by action that works.
When I was told that widespread restrictions or requirements would be justified if just one life would be saved, my reaction was that the alternative was less effort to bring greater benefits.
Sometimes requirements are brought in that do not appear to have a research basis or a way to test their effect. Examples where I have not seen supporting evidence include the ban on coaches from the third lane of motorways and the theory test.
If there has to be a preliminary test, I should perhaps have chosen a short list with the single choice answer against each question. Example: “When I am most likely to collide with a pedal biker?” “When I turn left at a roundabout, no matter whose fault.” Another: “When am I most likely to collide with a motor biker?” “When I turn right or pull out or at a roundabout.” And: “How do I help reduce serious drink driving?” “By providing alcohol free drink within reach at pub, club, party or home: by picking an alcohol free driver for myself; by deciding in advance, not half way through a party, whether I am drinking or driving.”
Most knowledge we hold comes from mainstream media. It would help if local news adopted the habit of reporting routinely when known whether vehicle casualties were wearing a seatbelt, whether a night time pedestrian casualty had been walking towards oncoming traffic, where a drinking driver had been, with whom and whether companions must have known about the prospect of drink driving.
It strikes me as odd that mainstream television can help us learn the common and the arcane features of cooking, cars, antiques, house renovation and family histories. I watch in vain for the interesting important information presented well on the common ways to reduce the risk of a crash, of the simple ways to reduce the injuries when things go wrong together with the language, the way of speaking, that might get people we care about to do what we know we should also be doing ourselves.
PACTS’ members’ skill and experience can help develop the road environments and the vehicles. There is a role for law, legal requirements and sensible regulation. Overlaying all that is doing what works whether everyone understands the reasoning or not. That includes the proper use of restraints (maybe I should only tip taxi drivers who wear their belt too) or volunteering more often to be on the wagon before driving it or by leaving in front of me a gap long enough to allow for my mistake or the mistake of another road user.
Memorial flowers by the roadside tell us there is more to do and that it is worth doing.