Monday, 5 December 2011

Monday Madness: Road Deaths - the reality behind the statistics

Today's Monday Madness story - a story which appears to dominate the news agenda for the next week - looks at a news report, issued by the BBC, which shows the locations of deaths from road accidents on our roads over the last decade.

Now when I first looked at the article, I was fascinated - and saddened - to see the number of road accidents in the UK, especially after you've typed in your postcode and noticed that some are on your doorstep. It's similar to how the government's Crime Statistics website works; it places a dot on the map to where the accident has occurred, and gives you a list of what caused the accident (i.e. a car, motorcycle). It has taken the BBC years to create, and it's certainly a reliable source if any for providing the locations and details of the road accidents in the UK.

Yet I was surprised and shocked to learn that the UK has one of the best records in the world for road accidents. According to the report, there were 36,371 deaths in Britain between 1999-2010, with 1,850 recorded last year. Yet still hundreds die, and with promises of new technology improving car safety, stricter police controls and better roads - it's still; horrifying to see so many accidents take place across the country.

Six months ago, I lost a friend to a road accident. It was a tragic shock to her friends, family, peers; a shocking accident, who we all miss everyday. Yet it provided a staunch reminder of just how scary driving on the road can be, and just how close the ties between life and death really are.

As someone who passed their driving test a few months ago, I was appalled at the lack of safety measures taught in the tests. In fact, there was very little regarding safety mentioned during the Theory test - my examiner, thankfully, taught me vital lessons in road safety. Our we a nation who takes it for granted? I mean, we all know what a seat belt is for, but what is its function?

Road safety is a big issue in the UK, and a death as witnessed by myself earlier this year ignited my fear of the road. I used to live in a village where the main road, a singe-lane carriageway, had a speed limit of 30mph. Over a mile of road stretched through the village, with only one set of traffic lights. And even then, did many of the cars, lorries and the like take notice of the speed limits?

Moving to a much larger area, the similarities in road safety are similar. The dual-carriageway that runs past my university accommodation has a maximum speed of 40mph, with a speed camera in place. Yet, beyond the speed camera, I have already witnessed two accidents in the last month. Quite frightening when you have to negotiate crossing the road everyday.

Besides precautions, the state of the roads have a lot to be desired. In the village, the road was forever being churned up by developers and made worse by the influx of pot holes they introduced. In the town, the road layout leaves a lot to be desired.

Not to mention the flashy cars and hybrids out on the market. Just passing my local car dealer, I happen to notice the new models and shiny exteriors of the latest cars on the market. Good for the environment, cheap to run - but safe for all to use? You don't see that one printed often.

Now I realise it takes a deep level of skill and maturity to be able to drive safely, and therefore some accidents are down to reckless driving; whether it be drinking under the influence or speeding. But you cannot blame the drivers entirely.

I hope, with the changes planned for the Theory Test, and new developments in the industry, that Britain can start tackling the massive problem of road accidents. Despite the statistics in other countries, and problems, there must be a solution. I would love to believe that roads across this country could be 100% for drivers, and that those behind the wheel were 100% confident to drive safely. Hopefully, the government, the road agencies, the car companies and the public will come up with a solution.

Because I would hate to lose another friend to a road accident.

Picture courtesy of BBC News website

In Memory of Erin Shee

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