NI road safety record a staggering achievement

It is difficult not to enter 2013 with a sense of foreboding – both in Northern Ireland and globally (the two being more interconnected than anyone here cares to admit). There are, nevertheless, reasons to be cheerful.

My own Christmas was somewhat overshadowed by news of cancer diagnoses from various quarters. However, NI has the highest cancer survival rate in the UK.

It was also overshadowed, as are many now, by my father not even knowing which day Christmas was on. However, NI has the highest dementia diagnosis rate in the UK.

It was further overshadowed by the tragic loss of a toddler, killed by a parked car in Dundonald. It will come as no solace to the tens of families involved, but he was nevertheless the 48th road fatality in Northern Ireland this year – a truly staggering decline.

At the beginning of the century, one person was killed every two days on Northern Ireland’s roads. In 2012, that was fewer than one a week. Having falled from 171 to just over 100 at the end of the last decade, the last three years have seen figures of 55, 59, and now 48. Some entire months now pass with no fatalities at all.

Figures are not yet in from across the world, but there is a fair chance that Northern Ireland’s road fatality rate per person is now the lowest in the world.

Vehicle safety is one of the main reasons for the reduction in fatalities, of course, but that does not explain why Northern Ireland’s particular reduction has been so marked.

So here’s a thought for 2013: we may actually just be quite good at some campaigns, at some policy initiatives, and at some aspects of basic common sense.

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5 thoughts on “NI road safety record a staggering achievement

  1. James McKerrow says:

    The improvement is UK wide. NI still has the highest fatality rate per capita amongst the member countries, although the gap has narrowed. The improvement is far more dramatic when normalised against veHicles on the road and compared to 65 years ago, where the fatality rate is now 5 percent of what it was then.
    Barbara Castle pioneered a package of life saving measures in the 1960s, against immense male pressure, including her own colleagues, when she introduced into law the MOT, maximum speed limits, the breathalyser and safety belts. Improvements in vehicle design and road engineering have made important contributions to reducing fatalities. But the deciding feature of the halving of fatalities 3 years ago is probably the recession and spiralling fuel costs, reducing journeys and cutting speed.
    However,a recent equality ruling by the EU has the potential to cost lives. Young men under 25 have a considerably higher propensity to be involved in crashes. Young men are demonstrably less risk averse, and dominate the fatality tables. It is in our make up. It makes young men good soldiers in the State’s eyes. Consequently car insurance for young men has been correspondingly higher, reflecting the higher risk. Now the EU has decreed illegal the practise of charging different rates for young men and young women, so that now responsible young women are subsidising irresponsible young women. As a result more irresponsible young men will be able to afford insurance and drive, and less responsible young women. This change has the potential to cost lives and undermines self correcting economic mechanisms. Equality and the EU it seems can be fatal.

    • That’s not quite accurate, in fact.

      The rate of decline is markedly faster in Northern Ireland, from around 170 to around 50. In Great Britain, the equivalent reduction is 3400 to 1800 – good, but not even close to NI.

      And at 48, as I wrote, Northern Ireland’s rate may be the lowest anywhere. The UK’s overall figure for 2011 was 1921 which compares to 55 in Northern Ireland – so it would require a dramatic reduction, to well below 1700, to match Northern Ireland’s. We’ll see, but that’d be some reduction.

    • James Campbell says:

      JMcK

      “now responsible young women are subsidising irresponsible young women”

      I assume you meant “irresponsible young men”, though actually the statement is true.

      The first part of you comment was eminently sensible. The unspoken assumptions in your last few sentences, however, are typical of debates about gender bias. For your argument to hold water, it would be necessary for the cost of accidents to be attributable to irresponsibility; for women drivers to be ipso facto responsible drivers; for insurance costs to reflect responsibility. Do you really think that all young men are irresponsible behind the wheel of a car; that all young women drive responsibly?

      The EU ruling says, in effect, you can charge on the basis of higher risk, but you mustn’t discriminate purely on the basis of gender. You mustn’t force low-risk males to subsidise the high-risk females purely on the basis of internal or external genitals. You must use a parameter of risk which is not based on gender. Plenty of such legal parameters already exist – annual mileage, car model, size of engine, age of driver, area of residence, safety record, tee-totalism, group membership.

      One of the corollaries of gender equality is that it cuts both ways – sometimes it would be better to be male; sometimes to be female. Many womwn drivers will have to pay more for their insurance; some men will have a lower annuity when they retire.

      Personally, had I the power, I’d allow anyone under the age of 25 to drive only
      when their grandparents are in the passenger seat and when they aren’t musing on sex. That would reduce accidents and allow the costs of insurance to come down.

  2. Personally, I think the road safety campaigns in NI are second to none (in the UK at least). Very hard hitting – yes, but everyone my age will still get a shiver when we hear “You don’t bring me flowers” and the effect of speeding and drink driving is felt in the bones, as well as known in the head. In England, I’ve never seen anything like the NI DOE campaign videos – but I have seen some English police forces link to the Youtube videos on Twitter! I think the best they’ve come up with in England is the one with the barman who goes on to impersonate the chap’s employer, a police officer etc. Seems to focus more on the effect of losing my licence on me, rather than the NI approach of the effect on others (innocents). Think “You don’t bring me flowers”, “There’s no-one I’d rather be” and “Three dead in this vehicle, the one without the seatbelt did all the damage”.

    I don’t know the fatality or accident figures for England or the trend, but these hard hitting, frankly scary campaign videos are perhaps something for Teresa May or Patrick McLoughlin to consider.

  3. Seymour Major says:

    I agree that the advertising on the TV is very hard hitting. There ought to be some research into its effect.

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