Friday, 26 June 2009

British roads - apparently now safer than ever

The latest figures show that last year 2,538 people were killed on the Britain’s roads, the lowest total since records began in 1926. The figure for 2007 was 2,946, and for 2006 it was 3,172, so that represents a fall of 14% in the past year. The number of pedestrian deaths fell below 600 for the first time, reaching 572. It seems that the roads are getting safer all the time.

In March, it was announced that government ministers were drawing up plans to cut the speed limit on single-carriageway roads in the countryside from 60mph to 50mph as part of the government's campaign to cut the number of deaths on Britain's roads. As I pointed out at the time, this is basically because, in 2000, the Government set new targets for reducing casualties by 2010, wanting to see a 40% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents compared with the average for 1994-98.

I repeat what I said then: “the government is fixated with arbitrarily set targets and league tables, and will do anything, however unlikely it is to work, in order to try to meet them.”

The fact that casualty figures have been falling rapidly without any change in the national speed limits makes one wonder whether changing the NSL will actually have much effect at all. Mr. J. J. Leeming, who researched these matters in some depth, argued that lowering the NSL may actually make roads more dangerous. My fellow blogger Patently would agree.

It will be interesting to see whether the latest figures have any effect on government thinking.

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