As if we’re incapable of driving in a straight line at a plodding 60mph, Jim O’Sullivan, CEO of Highways England, wants a year to test the raising of the motorway speed limit when no roadworks are in progress, e.g. on Sundays, from 50 to 60. They have been delaying and causing us unnecessary stress for years, and they want another year to consider whether human beings, with proof of proficiency in the form of a driving licence, are capable of – as I said – driving in a straight line at 60. Moronic!
I’ve said this before but I’ll say it again.
To transform road safety and transfigure the public realm, we need to reverse the balance of power in favour of the vulnerable. Supported by legal reform, the new hierarchy would make the driver responsible for road safety, not the child!
Change the basic rule of the road from priority to equality. Rewrite the driving test and traffic rulebook accordingly. The new rulebook could be written in a few lines: drive on the left; take it in turns; mind how you go.
This will transform road-user relationships and bring about a change in culture from competition and hostility to cooperation and empathy. “Get out of my way!” to “After you”.
Change the design of roads to express equality and a social context. In the absence of a bridge or flyover, let junctions be all-way give-ways. Instead of “needing” traffic lights – those weapons of mass distraction, danger and delay – we’d use our social instinct and sense of fair play to take it more or less in turns.
Not only will this make roads intrinsically safe, it will cut journey times and emissions by up to 29 times. It will save the economy tens, even hundreds of billions, currently wasted on regulation that costs lives, costs the earth, and acts to our detriment.
Grenfell’s 73 and Gosport 456 deaths get week-in, week-out media coverage, but the far greater number of casualties on our roads is barely mentioned or remarked upon. It’s as if we accept road casualties as inevitable. They are not. Most of them are the victims of a dangerous, dysfunctional system whose perpetrators continue to get away with murder.
Now there will be wall-to-wall media coverage of the Gosport hospital deaths (from over-prescription of painkillers) in the 1990s – 456 plus possibly another 200. Will the media kick up a similar storm over the 24,000 killed and hurt on our roads every year? No, they won’t even mention it.
The traffic system is based on priority aka inequality. It sets the stage for conflict. It puts vulnerable road-users in danger. It puts the onus on the child to beware the driver, when it could and should be the other way round. By making children learn age-inappropriate road safety drill to help them survive on roads made lethal by the system of inequality, it is guilty of child abuse. The officals and the ministers I’ve briefed who take no action, as well as the councillors and council leaders, the DfT and the highways departments – all collude in this child abuse. You know who you are.
Yesterday I emailed several BBC news programmes and national newspapers the following. So far zero response:
So there will be no Brexit dividend, and we face tax increases to fund the NHS. Meanwhile, a fount of public money, currently squandered on a dysfunctional system that acts to our detriment, is overlooked.
Bizarrely, the field is ringfenced. I’m talking about traffic control. Annually, it costs tens of billions, but 22,000 killed or hurt on our roads every year testify to its bankruptcy.
Traffic officers have persuaded us we need their interventions to keep us safe. Poppycock. When traffic lights are out of action and we are free to use common sense, we approach carefully and filter. Congestion disappears. Snarls turn to smiles. Fuel use and emissions drop dramatically, because filtering at low speeds is up to 29 times more efficient than stopping and re-starting. As soon as the lights are “working” again, the jams, the dangers, the choking air, the stress and the hostility are back.
As I explain in this piece
, traffic regulation is the last bastion of institutionalised inequality, and a vast source of beneficial spending cuts.
Coverage of the avoidable Grenfell fire continues unabated. Ben Okri’s critique of system failures (Today, 14 June) that led to the disaster is equally relevant to the dysfunctional traffic control system, which continues to set the stage for avoidable conflict and claim innocent lives (in far greater numbers).
Today the IFS called for tax increases to fund the NHS. Once again, the think tanks and media outlets (Today, Radio 4, for example) overlook the field of dysfunctional traffic policy. Reform would provide ample funds for the NHS as well as the police and armed forces, and would bring a host of accompanying benefits.
This piece about Mayer Hillman leaves little doubt that the world with its dependence on fossil fuels is on an irreversible path of self-destruction. If the UK went zero-emissions tomorrow, it would make barely any difference. Individual acts such as re-useable coffee cups are drops in the ocean. My plan to let traffic filter at low speeds and low revs would make only a small local difference to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere (though it would bring a host of other benefits). Even adopting it worldwide would hardly dent the inevitable decline of the Earth’s biosphere. Depressing? Yes, but not to the point where we give up trying.