Wednesday, July 7, 2010

7/7 bombings

Today we remember the victims of the 7/7 bombings. A shocking tragedy that killed 52 people.

One of the unexpected outcomes of that event was that people started to think differently about risk. My boss at the time started walking the 2 miles or so from the mainline station to the office instead of taking the tube. Statistically, this is a very dangerous thing to do. Even with the 7/7 deaths, taking the tube is one of the safest forms of travel and walking one of the most dangerous, although if you factor in the beneficial effects of excercise, the picture is different.

But we don't remember the victims of road crashes, even though there are vastly more of them. We also don't do much about them - nothing systemic at any rate. Most people are unaware that there are 2500+ deaths and 30,000-odd serious injuries on the roads every year. That's the equivalent of one 7/7 bombing every week! When it comes to terrorism, it seems the government has license to trample over civil liberties. Yet the rights of drivers are seemingly untouchable. We paint speed cameras yellow so that it's impossible for anyone who's alert and observant to get a speeding ticket. Walk down any busy street and you'll see drivers using mobile phones. Endorsable offences attract risible £60 penalties that deter no-one who can afford to put petrol in their car. The right to drive is not withheld for more than a year or two even from those who kill through dangerous driving. The sickening thing is many road deaths are preventable - if there were realistic deterrents to dangerous driving such as a significant fine or a driving ban, would drivers take the same kind of risks with their money and livelihoods as they do with other people's lives?

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