Where were you 30 years ago? January 31st
1983 to be precise. Can’t remember? Think “clunk click, every trip”. Yes, 30 years ago the wearing of seatbelts became mandatory for drivers and front seat passengers in the UK. A move that is estimated to have saved some 60,000 lives.
But this was just a singular event in the history of road safety improvements. News from the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) last week suggests that government cutbacks are having a potentially significant and negative effect on road user and pedestrian safety.
The numbers, obtained after a freedom of information request from the IAM, make for alarming reading. In 2008/9 road safety publicity campaigns received £19 million of government funding. In 2011/12 that spend had dropped to just £4 million and in 2012/13 it will be down again, to just £3.6 million.
The majority of that expenditure will be on motorbike and drink-drive campaigns – and there is little doubt that efforts in recent years have done much to raise awareness of these issues and to improve road safety as a result. But that leaves little left to fund other campaigns. Just over £50,000 will be spent on cycle safety; and less than £80,000 on child and teenager road safety.
This latter figure is of particular concern given that today’s youth are tomorrow’s motorists. And basic safety messages are still not getting through. Research shows that, despite that 30 years of seat belt law enforcement, 17-34s have the lowest adherence to this law, as well as having the highest accident rates. It’s no mystery as to why young driver car insurance
is so expensive.
Here’s another interesting number. The IAM estimates that each road fatality costs the UK economy £1.7 million. This means that any improvement in our road fatality rate quickly delivers what the economists would term a “return on investment”. The IAM went on to describe the sum allocated to cycle safety as being “derisory”, whilst £78,000 for children’s safety campaigns is virtually insignificant”.
These publicity and education campaigns are not the only weapons in the road safety armoury. Making our road networks intrinsically safer would undoubtedly have a much greater effect, but at a much greater cost. In the short term, the IAM is calling for a re-think on the levels of investment being made into keeping children and cyclists safe.
We agree. What do you think?