Tuesday, June 8, 2010

How to cut the deficit

So here's an idea. I wonder if the Coalition will be interested in it, seeing as they are so keen to cut the deficit?

A huge amount of money is spent policing bad driving and paying for the consequences of it.
There's the huge amount of money spent on road humps and other traffic calming measures. There's the huge cost of police effort enforcing traffic law and dealing with crashes. There's the cost of the judicial process. And last but not least, there's the cost of the victims. 30,000 people are killed or seriously injured on roads each year. Deaths in particular are extremely expensive, what with half a lifetime of lost taxes and and the ongoing cost of benefits that may be paid to the deceased's dependents. Injuries also cost the NHS many millions to treat, plus the cost of time off work and/or disability benefits and of course lost taxes. And of course there's the cost of the delay that crashes cause while the police clean up the scene.

And yet the fines collected and penalties dealt out to dangerous drivers clearly don't pay for even a tiny fraction of this cost. The fines also fail to deter speeding or dangerous driving. A £60 fine is barely the cost of a tank of fuel these days.
If the fines for dangerous driving were actually a deterrent, we'd both raise more money to pay for the consequences of it, and we'd reduce the incidence of it. People drive dangerously because they know they can; they know even in the unlikely event of their being caught the consequences to them are insignificant. Society tolerates it because we always have done. Maybe it's time to tot up the cost and ask the question: "should we cut hospitals and schools, or should we instead stop subsidizing bad driving?"

I know it sounds a radical idea to make criminals pay for the consequences of their actions, and to deter crime, but it's got to be better than the alternative. Transport is definitely in the cross-hairs for spending cuts, and taxing the motorist is easy to do. The motor lobby are forever complaining about the state of our roads and the amount of tax we have to pay.

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