Conniving with Violence?: Part Two

Here are some additions to the previous post which should help you deal with the inevitable opposition. Any suggestion that idiot-proofing the car environment (as shown in the Horizon film) is anything less than positive will be met by one crucial argument.
This argument is this: Measures such as seat belts, roll bars, air bags, collapsible steering wheels are the main reason (along with highway engineering such as cutting down roadside trees, installing crash barriers, anti-skid treatments etc.) are the main reason why road traffic deaths per motor vehicle distance travelled have declined through the twentieth century in countries experiencing motorisation.
This argument is wrong: take a look here for a very brief explanation why.
Essentially, the point is this. Because of the “social learning” process, people adapt to the increased presence of motor traffic and their perception of risk whatever the “road safety” interventions. Sometimes the adaptation is positive: motorists taking more care when there are more motor vehicles around (the effect of increased congestion intensity) , and particularly with phenomenon like the “critical mass” for cyclists that has arisen in London since 2000. More often the adaptation is negative, such as with parents forbidding children to walk or cycle.
There are some crucial points to remember here:
A. “Road safety” professionals are highly unlikely to accept that the alleged benefits of their work would have occurred anyway. Such refusal is embedded in their lives – who, after all, would admit that much of their achievements are non-existent and/or negative? As important is the fact that the belief in the effectiveness of “road safety” interventions is embedded in everyday popular belief.

B. Some of these interventions (see the work on seat belts here and here ) are actually implicated in the deaths and injuries of the most vulnerable (and least dangerous to others) on the roads. This conflicts with the Hippocratic imperative supposedly supported by medical establishments responsible for supporting this intervention.

C. Some of the declines in casualties among the more vulnerable and benign road users have occurred because of the minimal amounts of use of these modes, to the detriment of public health and environmental sustainability.

D. Despite claims for overall “casualty reduction” it is simple to demonstrate a greater number of life years lost – from lack of exercise with the active travel modes, noxious and other emissions, finance directed to road building etc. – because of the current transport system, of which “road safety” is an integral part.

All this should prompt rethinking about “road safety”: not just what has actually happened, but what the aims of a civilised strategy on safer roads should actually mean. To take just one simple point, the target of reducing casualties, even among one road user group is inappropriate. At the very least casualties per distance or tripped travelled are a far better measure of the human experience. One could go even further to bring in indications of who or what has been at fault. For example; pedestrian casualties should be looked at in terms of rates per distance walked, and whether casualties occur because of the rule or law breaking of a third party or not.

When looking at casualty figures the big issue is not the casualty figures quoted by the “road safety” establishment, but what kind of danger we have on the roads.

Do we minimise danger at source for the benefit of all road users or not?

Do we note who is endangering whom?

Do we make those responsible for danger accountable or not?

Do we have superior indicators of safety than aggregated casualty numbers, even for specific road user groups? Can we move at least to casualty rates per distance or trip?

Casualty figures will go down, probably irrespective of “road safety” interventions, possibly because of changes in GDP (which has been shown to be related to casualty figures), possibly because of the quality of medical interventions.

So: do we have a civilised society with safer roads for all due to a programme of road danger reduction? Or not, as it is at the moment?