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« Review of the week | Main | Are you going to rally against debt? »

Now WHO turns on drivers

Driving to Liverpool today, then back to Cambridgeshire via Manchester, a round trip of approximately 350 miles.

Yesterday the Telegraph reported that "Speeding motorists fines are set to rise by up to 40 per cent under plans being considered by ministers".

The Department for Transport is ready to raise the fixed penalty for motorists caught breaking the limit from £60, the level set in 2000, to as high as £100.

Similar increases are planned for other offences such as using a hand held mobile phone while driving and failing to wear a seat belt.

Other penalties are also set to soar under the road safety strategy announced by Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary.

I wouldn't mind if there was a bit of give and take - variable speed limits, for example, that go up as well as down.

This is well-worn argument but motorway speed limits were set in the 1960s when the average family saloon could barely do 70mph.

Fines and penalty points should be given for reckless or dangerous driving, and that is often dependent on road conditions (heavy traffic, bad weather etc).

There is nothing reckless or dangerous about travelling at 100mph in good conditions on a clear motorway.

Yesterday, the Today programme interviewed a spokesman for an organisation called Road Peace, "A national charity for road crash victims".

I have every sympathy for anyone who has lost someone in a car accident, but I took a dislike to the slick, almost messianic Road Peace spokesman.

I was half asleep, I admit, but I heard several references to 3,000 deaths on the road every day.

This is a global figure of course that is largely irrelevant when discussing road crash victims in Britain or indeed Western Europe where roads are, by and large, in a reasonable condition, and driving standards are relatively high.

I did a little investigation and it won't surprise you to learn that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has just launched a 'Decade of Action for Road Safety’ campaign "to raise awareness of dangers on the road".

Across the world each year, nearly 1.3 million people die as a result of a road traffic collision – that’s more than 3,000 deaths each day.

According to the WHO, unless immediate and effective action is taken, road traffic injuries are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death in the world.

I'll come back to this issue later. In the meantime, I've got a meeting to go to, and it's a three-hour drive to get there.

Must dash.

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Reader Comments (11)

It is very convenient how, whilst spouting these figures on road deaths (which I believe are around the 3,400 mark in the UK) they forget about the far greater numbers of elderly and disabled in this country who die each year from the cold! This actually breaks down to approximately between 6 and 8 times the annual road deaths, but during a 4 month period instead of a 12 month period.

Maybe we would all benefit more if governments got their priorities right instead of persecuting the easy targets all the while!

On the specific subject of on the spot fines for dangerous/careless driving, I hope that this will include those that drive too slowly as well, as these people can be as dangerous, if not more so, than those who drive a little above the speed limit. Of course, this scheme will only work if there are the police on the roads to police it, rather than relying on indescriminate speed cameras!

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 11:23 | Unregistered CommenterLyn

You can't reason with these road safety people. Don't waste your breath. They are completely bonkers. Anybody can get charitable status and set themselve up as some sort of authority. Twenty years ago they would have been wandering around wearing sandwich boards. Road deaths are going down everwhere and are now very low by any measure. If anything wasn't a crisis, it would be this. It's years since I've been overtaken by a crazy speeder and it used to happen often. People generally are driving better. Nothing needs doing. Here is a link to graphs of road deaths around the world. The WHO is a corrupt bunch of troughers, spending our money on crap. I'd line them up and shoot them .

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 15:24 | Unregistered CommenterJon

This was in "The Herald" on 10 May 2011.

What is the biggest global cause of death for children and young people?
Many answer that question with one simple word, malaria, but they are wrong. The correct answer is road accidents.

The scope of this worldwide scourge is illustrated by the fact that if present trends continue, more people will die this century as a result of road accidents than died last century as a result of warfare. Indeed the number of people killed on the world’s roads (currently approaching 4000 a day) is predicted to rise by 80% over the next 20 years.

The problem is so huge that surmounting it will require a unique and protracted global effort. Many of the child deaths are in the world’s poorest countries where the standards of both roads and driving are frequently horrendous. My wife travels in Africa a lot and she regularly tells me frightening tales of routinely reckless driving, often by people who are drunk or drugged, of appalling roads, and of what she thinks is maybe most dangerous of all, people driving at night with either no or wholly inadequate lights. In Africa more than a third of all hospital beds are occupied by people who have been injured, often terribly, in road accidents.

This is the world’s most pressing public health challenge. Something has to be done about this global scourge and the man who is rising to the challenge is an eminent Scot: Lord Robertson of Port Ellen. Senior Scottish Labour politicians are perhaps not the flavour of the moment but Lord Robertson deserves high praise for his dogged devotion to this cause. He made many useful connections in his time as a respected secretary-general of NATO, and he has been using them unashamedly in his campaign to get the problem of the biggest global killer taken seriously.

He told me yesterday: “As the survivor of a very serious road crash in 1976, I’m personally only too aware of the pain and agony that comes from it. We have a worldwide issue that has up till very recently gone almost unnoticed. It simply must be tackled, everywhere.”

As chairman of the Commission for Global Road Safety, Mr Robertson has taken his passionate campaign to the floor of the UN General Assembly. He not only addressed the assembly, he also canvassed many prominent world figures – he still has an impressive contacts book. Partly as a result of his untiring efforts, this week, all over the world, the UN Decade of Action on Road Safety will be launched in a series of local events.

Dealing with the problem is complex. As Mr Robertson says, better roads are a crucial part of the drive for economic development in the world’s poorest countries, “but if you don’t have a parallel drive to better road safety you’ll just kill more people”. Similarly with vehicles, the cars and buses and trucks: it is all very well, and necessary, to improve vehicle safety standards and roadworthiness, but a dangerous driver is a dangerous driver, whether in a safe or an unsafe vehicle. Better roads and enhanced vehicle safety will not in themselves necessarily make the world’s pedestrians, passengers and cyclists any safer.

So the UN campaign will deal with more than improving roads and making vehicles safer. Much better driver training, proper enforcement of the law and above all, educating and protecting the most vulnerable humans – young pedestrians – will be at the forefront of the campaign. There will be a concerted effort to get schools involved.

Our UK Coalition Government has, controversially and bravely, committed to increasing, not cutting, our spending on overseas aid. Enhanced road safety should be a priority in this expenditure. Meanwhile we must not neglect our own safety here in Britain: far too many people are still killed and injured on our own roads each year.
In the time you have been reading this column, several children will have been killed on roads across our planet. As Mr Robertson says: “This is no less than a worldwide epidemic.”

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 16:32 | Unregistered CommenterVlad the Impaler

Oh God, there is always one isn't there!

He sums up what the average poster is saying, and then goes off the handle with an anti-rant against them, no matter what they say, he will disagree with it, and to prove his point, he will give us all a link to show he read it in the paper. must be true then if it was in the paper mustn't it???

Give us a break. If those who decree what we should and should not be doing in order to cut speed and save lives, they have a simple answer staring them in the face. Make it compulsory to fit speed limiters in all vehicles.

A speed limiter could even be linked up to computerised road signs, which could automatically slow any speeding driver down. So why don't they use such things? Simple, it wouldn't earn them money, and that Mr Anti-everyone, is what this whole thing is about!

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 17:28 | Unregistered CommenterPeter Thurgood

The article in "The Herald" and the link provided by Jon make an interesting juxtaposition, no?

It's almost funny how "Antis" are all cut from the same cloth. Whatever it is that they are "anti" seems to have no bearing on the fact that they all come across in the same way; hyperbole flows freely, numbers and statistics are cherry picked, there is a zealotry in their approach and of course it's all for our own good...

Ah, the righteously pious. So busy congratulating themselves for selflessly saving souls, they are totally oblivious to the misery they cause.

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 18:43 | Unregistered Commenternisakiman

Speaking about Vlad's comment, there is nearly always a logical slip in the argument. In this case, it is the association of children and the total deaths. Again we see the emotional aspect pushed for all its worth.

In the simplest way, ask yourself how a child is killed or injured on a road. Is it likely that it is because the vehicle is travelling too fast or being driven badly? Possibly, but is it not rather more likely that the child has run out into the road without looking?

It seems to me that the answer is not to do with vehicles and traffic but to do with education. Even then, accidents will occur. Sheer numbers are meaningless. Every accident has a specific cause, and generalisations are worthless. The only generalisation which might have some effect as regards children is to separate them totally from vehicles, and I mean totally - no access at all, no travelling in cars or busses, no flying on aircraft, no train journeys. All children must walk. Rather impractical, I think.

But what is the WHO doing being involved? Road accidents are not about health.

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 19:32 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

"The 70 mph National Speed Limit was introduced as a temporary measure in December 1965."
haha I like the word 'temporary'

Friday, May 13, 2011 at 23:27 | Unregistered Commentertimbone


How did Vlad get to post a comment well over 300 words?

Saturday, May 14, 2011 at 1:46 | Unregistered CommenterJunican

Peter - surprised to see you advocating speed limiters. Surely that's an infringement of personal freedom and a nanny-state-ism? Aren't we all adult enough to know how to drive safely at whatever speed?

Goodness me, if you start suggesting things like that they'll be wanting to introduce smoking inhibitors. And then where would we be?

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 0:45 | Unregistered Commentersimon (nsc)

"According to the WHO, unless immediate and effective action is taken, road traffic injuries are predicted to become the fifth leading cause of death in the world."

So what ? Something has to be.

Since the WHO is an agency of the saintly United Nations (much-beloved of Socialists and pseudo-liberal sap-heads everywhere) - the same United Nations that has recently sanctioned the humanitarian bombing of Libya, and consistently agitates for a massive reduction in the world's population - and itself actively obstructs the one simple measure that would save millions of Africans from the scourge of Malaria, I find its stance here (ie its public rhetoric) just a teency-weency bit inconsistent.

Or maybe I'm just to stupid to understand it (unless, of course, it's not really about 'saving lives' at all).

Monday, May 16, 2011 at 15:58 | Unregistered CommenterMartin V

I wish to make it clear that Vlad the Impaler has nothing to do with me. He is, I believe, from Meercovo, and works for, whereas I am from Bratislava. Simples!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011 at 0:55 | Unregistered CommenterBladimir Tolstoy

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