Dumbing dunn? (How safe are Britain’s roads? Part 1)

On 31 October, the BBC aired the first of a two-parter about road safety. It skated over the subject of shared space, implying it was lunatic fringe stuff. The presenters were much more excited by technological “solutions”.

They prefaced the myth about seat-belts (exposed by John Adams here), by saying, “It is estimated that 60,000 lives have been saved …”, but they did nothing to challenge it. Co-presenter, Anita Rani: “A third of people killed last year weren’t wearing belts”. So what? What about the other two-thirds? There was no attempt at closer analysis.

It was not surprising to see Frank McKenna dodging Anita’s question, “Do speed cameras really work?” His reply was in terms of compliance alone. The Cheshire East Council official (Rod Menlove? named but not captioned) blamed lack of money for his dangerous roads, and co-presenter, Justin Rowlatt, failed to challenge him. What has Menlove been doing with the public dosh sloshing around in the five decades prior to this recession? Cllr Michael Jones also blamed lack of money for road improvements. (How many traffic lights would they buy if they did get the £40m that Stephen Hammond, government minister for road safety, isn’t about to dish out?)

They told us the DfT values a road death at £1.7m and a serious injury at £190,000 (arguably, a serious injury involves greater expense, e.g. a lifetime on life support). They said the cost of accidents in 2011 was £15.6bn. If they had read further down the DfT report, they would have seen the £15.6bn figure didn’t allow for accidents not reported to the police. Including those, the total value of prevention of road accidents is £34.8 billion.

The trail for next week’s programme said “90% of accidents involve human error”. No mention of the priority rule which makes roads dangerous in the first place. I noticed the producer/director was Lisa Dunn. Is it a case of dumbing dunn? I also noticed the exec producer was Lucy Hetherington, who turned down my programme pitch eight or nine years ago. If I sound twitter and bisted, I probably am. My next pitch – for a series that will accuse the authorities of negligence, and show how roads can be made organically safe rather than inherently dangerous – will be at least the 12th in recent years.

About Martin Cassini

Campaign founder and video producer, pursuing traffic system reform to make roads safe, civilised and efficient
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