Sunday 4 July 2010

Is it possible to change the way people do things

Not when it comes to driving apparently.

The BBC reported last week on Britain's most dangerous roads, as enumerated by the Road Safety Foundation. As one might expect, half of Britain's fatal accidents happen on one tenth of our roads. The answer to this, according the Foundation, is to spend money making the roads safer. It never occurs to them to make the drivers safer. A particularly telling point is that "most crashes happened at weekends during the summer in dry, daylight conditions" which kind of suggests that the roads themselves are not at fault. They may be twisty, they may be narrow, they may be bumpy, but there is nothing dangerous about them if the drivers on them would just............. slow down a bit. And keep their eyes open. So many of us seem to think that there is no need to concentrate on the road while driving as fast as we can possibly go; the radio, the mobile - even if handsfree, the conversation of passengers and, for heaven's sake, looking at the scenery all rank more important than actually looking at what is happening on the road in front of them.

I have two suggestions, which would be a lot cheaper than the improvements suggested by the Road Safety Foundation. The first is to erect large signs all the way along the dangerous roads: "If you drive here the way you usually do, you are twenty times more likely to have an accident".

That of course relies on drivers being sensible, which is unlikely. So my second suggestion is signs that say: "If you drive here the way you usually do, you are twenty times more likely to find your insurance going up."

Neither is likely to do the job. It would be nice if one of them did though.

The Road Safety Foundation also responds to what I am tempted to call "Parsons' law of monetisation", which states that the more widespread any phenomenon is, the more likely its financial cost is to be reported, and the less likely its human cost. There is no mention on the Eurorap report page of twisted bodies, mangled limbs, orphaned children. But there are several mentions of the cost of the suggested changes and the potential savings to the Exchequer.

Perhaps I'm being unfair to the RSF. It does report its purpose as being to reduce road casualties by acting on all three components of the system - roads, vehicles and behaviour. But there's no mention of behaviour in this report. Shouldn't there be?

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