Road Safety – Somebody Else’s Problem?
Figures from the Department for Transport show that motor vehicle traffic in Great Britain has reached a record high, with 320.5 billion vehicle miles travelled on Britain’s roads in the year ending December 2016. According to the national road safety charity Brake, the research should “give cause for alarm”.
More traffic means less safer roads. It’s a situation that requires action to protect all road users including pedestrians and drivers. But it’s just someone else’s problem, isn’t it? Well, to be honest – no. It’s a problem for all of us.
Mobile Phones Usage – Still Growing
One example of the majority leaving road safety to the other driver is the use of mobile phones. It has been illegal to use a hand-held device while driving or even while stopped with the engine on since December 2013. According to the AA, you are twice as likely to crash when texting and driving, then you are drink driving.
But, public attitudes seem slow to change. It’s accepted that drink driving is wrong, but using a mobile whilst driving barely raises an eyebrow.
Neil Worth, the road safety officer of GEM Motoring Assist, the road safety charity, feels strongly about it. “We absolutely must create an environment where drivers take more responsibility for their actions. Research has made clear that talking on a hand-held mobile phone greatly increases someone’s risk of being involved in a crash.”
The fixed penalty notice and penalty points for using a handheld mobile phone while driving have recently been changed by the Government. The fine doubled from £100 to £200 and the penalty points on your licence rose from 3 points to 6. The hope is that this will cut down on drivers using their mobile at the wheel.
A study of 1,000 UK motorists for Continental Tyres’ Vision Zero showed that two-thirds of motorists believe the Government should introduce technology to disable certain phone functions while people are driving.
But this isn’t the answer, as Neil Worth points out: “We absolutely must create an environment where drivers take more responsibility for their actions.”
Safer Cars – But Not Safer Driving
Of course, huge strides have been made in recent years in making the actual car we drive safer. Today's vehicles are rigorously tested and manufacturers are forced to comply with stringent standards in a bid to make them as safe as possible.
There is a veritable shopping list of safety features from the tradition seat belt through airbags, anti-submarine seats, active head restraints and crumple zones, all now comparatively commonplace as protection measures in new cars. In addition, there are active safety features like ABS and traction control that help keep us safe, even when, if we’re honest, these are often only needed because of our own poor driving.
But though the cars may be safer, at times all it has done is fuel a complacent attitude amongst drivers. So much so, that many basic checks and routine maintenance is left undone. Having good quality tyres is one example.
A recent survey by TyreSafe, focussed on the safety of our children in vehicles. The survey showed that they can easily clock up around three hours a week in the car with their parents and around 96 hours per year with grandparents at the wheel. And what about childminders, babysitters and family friends?
TyreSafe undertook their ‘Home Safely on Safe Tyres’ campaign to highlight the importance of good quality tyres in keeping drivers and their young passengers safe while on the roads.
“Car tyres are the only part of the car in contact with the road,” said Stuart Jackson, Chairman of TyreSafe, “which makes their maintenance essential for road safety.” They recommend checking your tyres once a month and to bear in mind exactly who maybe transporting your children around.
“With child care responsibilities spread among different people,” continues Jackson, “it’s important that everyone in that care network regularly makes sure their car’s tyres are safe.” And not just the tyres. Mum and Dad, have you thought of checking the safety of the vehicle your child travels in regularly?
Road Safety Initiatives Help
There are initiatives in place to try and improve safety on our roads, such as the 'European Day Without a Road Death' or EDWARD. This is organised by TISPOL with financial backing from GEM. It gives a focus by setting targets to improve road safety.
It was something that Neil Worth was pleased with. “Targets give meaning and direction to road safety work. We have something to aim for, and we can consolidate and combine our efforts much more effectively when we have something to work towards,” he said.
There has also been a drive for greater pedestrian safety too. So, we have seen de-formable bumpers, collapsible wing-mirrors, softer bonnets, recessed windscreen wipers and sloping front ends being introduced with the foot-bound road user in mind.
Responsible Drivers Mean Safer Roads
Perhaps though, while the number of vehicles on our roads grows and car manufacturers continue to do more in making their cars safer, more is needed when it comes down to the most important factor in the movement of any car, the driver behind the wheel. And, it’s a sobering thought that motorists look to the government to take the lead with more tighter legislation, than to take responsibility themselves.
“We want to see publicity campaigns setting out the dangers,” says Worth. “Let’s also call for a more responsible attitude from drivers.” Really, drivers shouldn’t be looking to others to make the roads safer, it’s down to all of us as individuals. Enforcement isn’t the answer.
Many would agree that with the increase in traffic there is a need for further action to make our roads safer and to protect pedestrians. It is something that charities and consumer bodies like Brake, TyreSafe and GEM continue to monitor. The government will look to improve matters, but really, safer roads are down to the man or women behind the wheel. In other words, ourselves.