Monday, January 11, 2010

Raynes Park Death Not Caused by Cyclist

You might be surprised to learn, after the recent media concern over pavement cycling and red-light jumping zombie cyclists, and the concern of some Raynes Park residents about sharing the pavement with cycles, that this latest tragedy was caused not by a cyclist but by a driver.

Yet I've not seen any clamour in the local or national press to clamp down on this kind of thing.

It's not even clear what happened, and because the wheels of justice turn slowly, and because there are far too many deaths on the road for one to make headlines, we may not find out for some time, if ever.

The victim, Miles McLean, was hit at the junction of Amity Grove and Coombe Lane, in the middle of the day. This is as simple a junction as you could imagine. Amity Grove is no-entry, so the jeep that killed him must presumably have been coming down Amity Grove towards Coombe Lane, in the full knowledge that there was likely to be pedestrians crossing the road, who would have had right of way. Now I'm not going to speculate any further, but what strikes me as doubly tragic is the frequency of road deaths like this one (there are around 7 every day, and about ten times that number of serious injuries), and how no-one other than a few low-profile charities like RoadPeace seem to regard this as anything other than an immutable fact of life.

Well I don't agree.

I think that the majority of those road deaths are caused by dangerous driving. I'm not talking about malicious killing sprees by crazed individuals, but about the low-level dangerous driving that you will see if you stand on a kerb for a few minutes. Using mobile phones whilst driving, speeding, general inattentiveness/being distracted, failure to give way at junctions, jumping red lights, not slowing down when rounding blind bends. Many drivers indulge in some or all of the above behaviours all their driving careers. They have quite a few near misses, and the odd 'accident', plus a few speeding tickets. In short, they get away with the kind of behaviour that sooner or later will kill someone. If the chances of getting caught and the consequences of getting caught were more severe, these drivers might think more carefully about their behaviour. But today, even if you kill someone, you can still walk free from court.

What needs to happen is the apparently minor infractions that amount to dangerous driving need to be prosecuted, and the penalties need to act as a deterrent. A £60 fine is not even a tank of petrol these days. Shall we say for example a £1000 fine and a month ban for a first offence, and a bigger fine and a year's ban for a second offence? This would have many beneficial effects: 1) it would make drivers think carefully about their driving (and the things they do whilst driving); 2) it would get dangerous drivers off the road; 3) less drivers = less CO2; 4) it could raise revenue; 5) safer roads would encourage cycling, and cyclists would be safer, with all-round health benefits. Sounds like a no-brainer.

So back to my headline. Why is it that the media get so hot and bothered about a problem (pavement cycling) that kills approximately 3 people every 10 years, but does not campaign about a problem (dangerous driving) that kills approximately ten THOUSAND times that number? I really, really, don't get it...

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