Thursday, May 19, 2011

London Road Safety Gets Worse

In actual fact, fewer people were killed on the roads last year than ever before, but that's arguably due to  less driving, which is due to the recession, and cars getting safer. For vulnerable road users, the picture is a lot less rosy. Nationally, child pedestrian casualties rose 2%, and for cyclists KSIs rose 5%. In London, the Standard reports, a total of 150 more youngsters were injured on the capital's roads last year - a 14 per cent jump.

That's appalling by any standards, and it's probably symptomatic both of road safety cuts and of the fact that there are more vulnerable road users in London than elsewhere: outside the city, car dependency protects most people from the danger they face were they to walk or cycle. In other words, lower casualty figures don't mean the roads are getting safer - it just means more people are avoiding the dangers, in the same way that tourists won't be getting murdered in Afghanistan this year because they're not going there. But if more people are using their cars less, due to high fuel and insurance costs, we can look forward to an upturn in casualties.

But back to those London children. TfL have pointed out that although total casualties have risen, those killed or 'seriously injured' have reduced by 5% year-on-year. Let's consider what that means. A 'serious injury' is one requiring in-patient hospital treatment. So a child getting hit by a car, going to hospital for stitches and a  brain scan doesn't count. Now imagine that child is 5 years old. That child may become withdrawn and fearful as a result of the experience and their relationships and schoolwork may suffer. Does any of that sound serious to you? I don't see much reason for TfL to celebrate.

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