Road deaths at 60 year low

Despite the grim Christmas record of road deaths, the number of people who died in road accidents in Northern Ireland in 2007 dropped by 14 from the 2006 level to 112 deaths. This equals the previous low point recorded in 1947 (records began in 1931).

  • willowfield

    112 deaths is still a terrible total.

    I wonder how this compares per capita to England, Scotland and Wales.

  • fair_deal

    W

    The last UK figures I can find are 5.6 deaths per 100,000 in 2004 (lowest rate in europe).

    By my calculations NI figure 2007 figures work out at about 6.4 per 100,000. To be in line with UK level we should be looking at about 97/98 deaths a year.

  • slug

    Willowfield

    Road Deaths per million 2007:

    UK: 54 (2006 figure)
    NI: 64
    ROI: 82

  • slug

    FD and W

    There are problems of comparing GB and NI, e.g. different % driving on each class of road, different % in young age groups, etc.

  • jaffa

    Crikey,

    NI: 64 deaths per million
    ROI: 82 deaths per million

    Another reason to oppose a united Ireland. 30 Northern Irish people are currently saved every year by the power of dodgy statistics.

  • joeCanuck

    Dodgy statistics indeed.
    There are more meaningful comparisons for which no numbers are likely available; for example, number of deaths per miles driven.

  • iluvni

    Hope the PSNI dont start using these figures as justification for hiding in hedges or behind walls with speed cameras as they like to do on Station Road, Whiteabbey. Hoors ghosts.

  • UK: 54 (2006 figure)
    NI: 64
    ROI: 82

    All these figures are low by both European and international standards. I wonder how much of the difference between the GB and NI figures is a result of the relatively lower proportion of miles driven on (safer) motorways here?

  • slug

    Sammy – there are some European countries such as Netherlands and Sweden that are better.

  • Turgon

    Clearly an accident causing death is a disaster. It is extremely pleasing that the numbers are falling; though without wishing to sound trite one is still one too many for that family.

    The very pleasing reductions can, I suspect, be put down to a number factors.

    Firstly the social unacceptability of drinking and driving must help. I am always a little cautious that we demonise people but clearly this must be condemned.

    Secondly education. Trying to get people (especially young people) to take care and drive slowly is very difficult. The reality is there is a car culture here in Northern Ireland especially in rural areas. It is, I believe, not dissimilar to that in parts of rural Wales. I suspect this is in part due to the inability to travel about easily in rural areas. I well remember how we all could not wait to drive; and yes young men drive too fast, show off etc. Thanks be to God they largely grow up. I am unsure whether those terrifying adverts do help but maybe they do.

    The next two factors are, however, I suspect the most important.

    Firstly cars are vastly safer than they used to be. I learned to drive in a Metro, it had no anti lock brakes, no air bags etc. Cars now have vastly better brakes and road holding (active safety I believe in the jargon) to stop you hitting things; and vastly better passive safety (air bags, crumple zones etc.) for when you hit things. A modern small car is I suspect (I have no proof) just as safe as a fifteen year old BMW or Mercedes.

    The next issue is road design. Road design is critically important. Removing bad bends, junctions etc. is extremely effective. There was a recent article on Radio 4’s Today saying that Sweden is trying to reduce deaths to zero, blog link here. We clearly have an enormous way to go on this.

  • The Raven

    Just read that blog about the Swedes.

    “Separate pedestrians from the roadway. Sidewalks shouldn’t be next to the pavement. Separate them with fences or bushes or other barriers.”

    Reasons why this won’t happen: Roads Service. Local Councillors. Planning. Lack of imagination about our town spaces. Lack of imagination, full stop.

    “Get rid of traffic lights wherever possible.”

    Haven’t there been some experiments across the UK removing road markings, signs, lights etc? How have these been going? Reasons why it won’t happen here: Roads Service. Lack of imagination. Lack of road politeness (I can’t believe I am going to write this next bit) outside of Belfast. (Yeah folks – ever tried getting out of a side road in Derry or Coleraine at rush hour?)

    “Slow the traffic in urban and suburban areas. Use traffic-calming techniques, such as narrow, gently curving roads separated by median strips.”

    Reasons why this won’t work: Local to where I live, a group were trying to get traffic calming measures in place. The Roads Service response? “But there haven’t been any fatalities on that road….” I swear, I heard the man say it himself.

    “Rate roadways on a four-star scale for the inherent safety of their design.”

    Oh COME ON! This common sense approach borders on the nonsensical…

    “Ultimate responsibility rests with system designers.”

    Don’t we employ Stephen Nolan to lay blame at civil servants’ doors…? Actually, this one works quite well, cos, God KNOWS everyone of us could do Roads Service job better than Roads Service. Couldn’t we…? I mean it’s only “25,000 kilometres of public roads together with about 9,000 kilometres of footways, 5,800 bridges, 261,000 street lights and 370 public car parks.” And it’s MUCH easier to apportion blame than take a constructive view in Northern Ireland…

    “It is up to parents and society to provide a safe environment, such as bicycle lanes, bike helmets, and child seats in cars.”

    Incredibly, I thought government had washed its hands regarding bicycle lanes and established a charidee called Sustrans for that sort of thing, cos there’s no way anyone would want to use those ridiculous bicycle things with all those hard working, speeding, veering, drunk, texting, iPod wearing, leering-at-the-blonde-on-the-street car drivers around…..

    Yours, victim to the drunk person who walked out in front of my car…on an unlit country road…wearing only dark clothing…and not bothering to use the path provided by Roads Service,

    etc etc.

  • joeCanuck

    Interestingly, Raven, a few countries (Central or Southern America?) have experimented with removing sidewalks. That has resulted in significantly fewer accidents to pedestrians. The theory is that when there are no sidewalks, drivers are much more careful not to hit pedestrians. Strangely, it seems to work.

  • Turgon

    The Raven,
    I am glad you liked the link; it is amazingly sensible stuff. On radio 4 they also discussed the cost. I know this is highly emotive but there is an average cost for saving a serious injury or life from these things and an average cost of a death or serious injury. Actually from what I remember the cost benefit currently highly favours doing something and not nothing though; I am willing to be wrong on that economic analysis.

    One thing we must remember, however, is the “law of unintended consequences”.

    I always wonder if larger cars producing more pollution (especially 4x4s) are an example of this. This is because if you have three or more children there are often occasions when you need to transport four people in the back of the car. Once upon a time we all got squashed in. Now all children need to be strapped in. Hence, parents need larger cars, often people carriers or 4x4s if they think people carriers are a bit too naff. Hence, more big cars. As such maybe we should not blame the mums with huge cars, though why can the children not take the bus like we all did (oh yes fear of paedophiles and RTAs). Incidentally we own a small elderly estate car and as such this was not a plea for tolerance for myself.

    Another problem is with the suggestion of some that we all drive around town in third gear not fourth. Most modern cars will sit in fourth at 30mph. However, the argument goes that in third you have greater engine braking and tend to go just below 30. I must admit I do not buy into this entirely. In third you use significantly more petrol producing more pollution.

    It is all very complicated and some problems could emerge from attempts to reduce serious / fatal accidents. However, at the moment the benefit in my (non professional) view is that there is a lot we could do with roads. The car designers have done a great deal, we have done a lot of education, now I think it is over to the roads designers.

  • Comrade Stalin

    Hope the PSNI dont start using these figures as justification for hiding in hedges or behind walls with speed cameras as they like to do on Station Road, Whiteabbey. Hoors ghosts.

    On the contrary, I hope the PSNI continue to use every effort to catch law-breaking speeding motorists, raising revenue which avoids the need to increase taxes or rates. People have a choice – if they don’t break the law then there will be no need for the PSNI to try to catch them.

  • Dewi

    Speed Cameras work. Hate them, as do we all I’m sure but getting two £60 fines in four months for doing 35mph in a 30mph zone (once at 5am) got me OK. Now I don’t speed and am a fan.

  • willis

    Spot on Comrade

    If the Lottery is a tax on stupidity then Speed Fines are a tax on carelessness.

    Anyhow the ever perceptive Gail Walker in the Tele may have accidentally stumbled on the reason why more families have their loved ones with them this Christmas.

    http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/columnists/gail-walker/article3298844.ece

    “Can someone please solve Belfast’s traffic crisis? Tens of thousands of people live just a few miles from their work yet face a one-hour commute to and from their offices.”

    Do I get a reward for solving it?

    Get out of your cars and walk or cycle. I’m sorry but traffic congestion is just there. It’s not the fault of the Green Lobby.

  • willis

    Well said Dewi

    We had this same Nanny state Civil liberty nonsense over Seat belts and Drink driving.

    Has Harry Flashman woken up yet?

  • Turgon

    Comrade Stalin,

    It is actually quite complicated. Many of the fatal accidents which involve speeding or speed too high for the road conditions are single vehicle accidents involving young people especially at night. Hence, the probably excessive but possibly useful idea of banning people young people from driving cars at night.

    The problem with speed cameras and the like is that when people see them they often brake which can be a problem. Also cameras may apparently reduce deaths when it is actually regression towards the mean.

    This is best explained by the example of a six sided die. Now imagine that throwing a six is equivalent to a serious RTA.

    Remember that and we will move on. Now the way fixed speed cameras have been decided on in GB is that if there are a certain number of serious road traffic accidents (RTAs) in a given period then a camera is placed.

    Now back to my die.

    If you throw the die often enough you will get two successive sixes. This will occur on 1 in 36 occasions. Now suppose that two successive sixes mean enough serious RTAs to justify a camera.

    Okay so far.

    Next suppose you throw the die again. The chances are 5 in 6 you will not get another 6, as such no further serious RTA in my example.

    Hence, apparently the camera is reducing serious RTAs on a dangerous road. In reality it is regression towards the mean.

    Enforcement is not terrible effective as a mean of preventing RTAs. Changing attitudes has some effect and enforcement is part of that. Do not worry I am a tediously law abiding driver. I drive on GB roads almost every day and have not yet got a ticket (hostage to fortune there).

    Also enforcement makes law abiding people dislike the police especially if the perception is that cameras are placed in positions to maximise revenue and not prevent death. Indeed there is some evidence (I have no link) that those flashing light slow down signs which do not photograph you are more effective than cameras.

    Mobile traffic patrols may be more effective than cameras because they spot dangerous driving and not just speeding and sometimes education and telling off are more effective than a fine and points and also if let off with a telling off people are less likely to hate the police, cameras, safety etc.

    By far the best strategy, however, is to make roads safer using strategies such as suggested. Also putting dual carriageways (with central reservations) on major roads is useful. The A4 and A5 would be excellent examples of where this would help as would the Glenshane road which already has some dual carriageway though not having been on it for a while I do not know if there is a central divide.

    Some have suggested lower speed limits but that is probably not likely to be effective. It is likely to increase law breaking and mean people do not take the laws seriously. Indeed there is an argument for increasing motorway speed limits to 80mph and enforcing that rule rigorously rather than the current 70mph which is ignored. Remember that modern cars are vastly better at road holding and braking than previously. Some will say that reaction times have not got better over the last 30 years which is a true but a specious argument. The vast majority of stopping time is actually braking time and the better the brakes the faster you stop especially if you have anti lock brakes. The stopping times for a modern car are vastly shorter than the ones in the Highway Code. Some manufacturers such as Mercedes now have a brake asssist which puts the brakes on as hard as possible if the computer things you are emergency braking. Of course the car behind may hit you but that will be a lower energy impact than a head on one (also the person behind should not be tail gating which brings us back to traffic patrols rather than speed cameras).

    Personally I would make anti lock brakes a legal requirement on all new cars.

    Sorry for the rant but a hobby horse of mine.

    Dewi,
    Yes you have been converted but I suggest a lot of people have not. Cameras are a very blunt instrument. Take the one on the M4 at Port Talbot. During rush hour it never catches anyone because the traffic is slow, At night more than 50mph is probably not unreasonable. Indeed the camera has gone from the west bound lane which may imply it was not really that necessary. Finally when it is quiet everyone who knows that road drives up to it at 60 plus and then slows down just before it. Do not worry when I go that way I do 50mph through the whole thing (and get funny looks).

  • Moochin Photoman

    DOE
    Dander On Easy

  • The Raven

    Folks, I know it read as me being glib, but I honestly wasn’t.

    There’s a lot of common sense mixed with a touch of imagination in a lot of the points above.

    Gail had twenty wishes on her New Year list, as noted by Willis.

    If I may add mine to the list it would be to see the same commonsense and the same spark of imagination from official and elected Government this year.

    And a bit less crying from us, when if they DO try something new and it doesn’t quite work. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

  • Harry Flashman

    Yawn, hi willis what did I miss? Oh speed cameras, no objection to them on principle but in practice they are often used as revenue collectors by lazy coppers who really could be doing something more useful with their time.

    The only occasion I was caught was 10am on a Sunday morning, just outside Dungiven on the way to Aldergrove, I was speeding up as I was leaving the town, except I hadn’t left the town yet so was still within the 30 mph area, they were plonked at the school car park, and the plonkers got me doing 42 mph. A quiet Sunday morning accelerating out of a built up area on a trunk road, yeah a real killer on the loose I was.

    No surprise to see the statists on the board love the speed cameras, just like they love all aspects of state control over their lives.

    By the way the reason that the road death figures are so low in Great Britain is because as anyone who has driven there will know, the English are on the whole very good, polite drivers.

  • Sammy – there are some European countries such as Netherlands and Sweden that are better.

    Evidence Slug? Figures I’ve seen are in terms of deaths per billion vehicle km:

    Sweden – 2.5 motorway, 9.9 non-motorway
    UK – 2.0 motorway, 9.3 non-motorway

    These may be outdated, happy to stand correction.

    a few countries (Central or Southern America?) have experimented with removing sidewalks

    Some municipalities in the Netherlands and the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea (may be others in Latin America, I don’t know). I am very sceptical about segregation of both pedestrians and cyclists. Why did the pedestrian subways under Oxford Street and Victoria Street fall into disuse (I remember finding them a great adventure as a child)? Because they because intimidating nasty, piss-soaked, unpoliced alleys full of winos. And that’s what happens to nearly every segregated pedestrian route in urban areas.

    As for segregated cycle lanes, as a committed urban cyclist… yuck! Unnecessary and actually dangerous, but give a thrill of goodness to politicians who propose them and functionaries who design them without any intention of using them. Dangerous? Yes, you did hear that right. Think about it. Segregated cycle lanes in urban areas expose cyclists to danger at every single corner.

    Segregation is about letting motorists forget they have to share the road with other users. It makes cyclists and pedestrians second-class road users. There is a place – a large one in my view – for fast inter-urban motorways, and also for some segregated cycle facilties especially as an alternative to busy rural roads. But a lot of this stuff is well intentioned but counterproductive.

    “Can someone please solve Belfast’s traffic crisis? Tens of thousands of people live just a few miles from their work yet face a one-hour commute to and from their offices.

    Really? How many people live a “few miles” from their office but take a whole hour to commute there? Gail Walker in shit-talk shocka.

    8 miles from Fortwilliam to Stormont takes at best 55 minutes by bus in the rush hour, worse if the Stormont bus is late (as it often is). By car, the same journey would take no more than 20 minutes and would not involve standing on the Antrim Road in the snow.

    I use public transport and I agree that congestion is serious and worsening in Belfast, but most people don’t use public transport because in Belfast, for journeys other than ones direct to-and-from the City Centre it is slow and uncomfortable.

  • slug

    Sammy

    I was going on this article:

    here

    Scroll down.

    The difference between UK and the safer countries like Sweden may be thought minor.

  • Harry Flashman

    There was a case in a town in Holland I think, where all the signage and road markings approaching a particularly accident prone roundabout were removed. Faced with the removal of all that clutter drivers instinctively slowed down and were much more careful. The accident rate plummetted.

    A worthy analogy for those of us who believe if the bloody state would leave us the hell alone more often the vast majority of us would get on with living our own lives perfectly well and society would be much safer and better ordered.

    Think about when there’s a power cut and all the traffic lights stop working, what happens? Do we all descend into anarchic Thunderdome style driving? No, everyone drives perfectly calmly, giving way to fellow motorists and allowing them enough space and consideration; the traffic flows perfectly safely and smoothly.

    We don’t need Nanny as much as we think we do.

  • willis

    That felt better didn’t it.

  • Harry Flashman

    Yes, thanks.

  • willowfield

    I guess the higher death toll in NI is due to the fact that we are less urbanised than GB. Most deaths seem to happen on country roads (usually in the early hours of the morning at the weekend – I suspect it is often young rustic-types driving too fast on their way home from a night out). Turgon’s point about the “car culture” is also valid – do other parts of the UK experience the phenomenon of young people “souping up” their cars, doing “handbrake turns” and unnecessarily revving their engines in public?

    Re. the figures for Southern Ireland, I wonder do they still have a more casual attitude to drink-driving down there than we do in NI? Or have they tightened up in recent years? Also are the police in the South as strict as they are here? Anecdotally my impression was that, in the country areas especially, the police in the South were as likely to give a “friendly ticking off” than actually book someone. These impressions, however, are probably out of date.

  • Turgon

    willowfield,
    Regarding “car culture”, when we lived in the South of England for a year there seemed to be less of it. I work a lot in GB and as far as I can see (purely ancedotal) there seems a simliar attitude in rural Wales with similar biazzare addenda on cars.

    I suspect this becomes more of a phenomeon in rural areas where until you have a car your mobility is very restricted. Then get the test and suddenly freedom, social status etc. and indeed I guess the more “souped up” the car the higher status.

  • do other parts of the UK experience the phenomenon of young people “souping up” their cars, doing “handbrake turns” and unnecessarily revving their engines in public?

    South East London and North Kent are full of chavs in souped up cars throbbing their engines manfully!

  • eranu

    lot of safety talk here, but in the real world no one drives at 30mph (or lower). when you see someone doing that speed you will also see a long line of cars behind them, and pissed off drivers.
    every single person reading this thread speeds (to some degree) – truth ! we all want to get to where we’re going reasonably quickly and safely. to read this thread you would think people thought it a good idea to drive in 1st everywhere with your nose pressed against the windscreen so you dont miss anything.

    yes its terrible when someone dies in a car accident, but at the end of the day its more important to people to get to where they want to go quickly. theres never going to be 0 deaths on the road. the cost in terms of inconvience would be too great. 15 mph everywhere, dont think so.

    i think its about time we raised the speed limit on motorways to 100mph. any modern car can comfortably do this speed, and if you drive down to dublin alot at night you will already know the average speed is about 85-90mph.

    as far as i know the 70mph limit has been the same since the 60s. now compare a modern car to one of those funny cars from the 60s. the handling, brakes, safety features (air bags and bumpers) are all miles better. if a 60s car was ok to do 70mph, then surely a 2000s car should be allowed to do 100mph ?

  • joeCanuck

    Well into the 70s there was no upper speed limit on any roads outside towns.

  • Turgon

    eranu,

    I am sorry I am that annoying person who obeys the speed limits. I do not have a hat though so I am not the most evil sort of motorist alive.

    Your points about speed are pretty well made. Reaction times have not changed and at very high speeds there is an issue about just how far people will have travelled before they can react. There is also a problem especially on motorways of differential speed. Apparently this is a significant issue on German autobhans some (few actually in practice) have no speed limits. This means that a car may pull into an overtaking lane at say 60mph and a car behind is approaching at potentially 120mph plus.

    However, realistically there is little good reason not to increase the motorway speed limit (not dual carriageway as there are short roads on to them) to 80mph, possibly 90mph though that is pushing it a bit.

    As an aside my father (an engineer) always maintains that one (only one) of the reasons for the success of the German car industry is that there are areas without speed limits. Hence, the companies have to make cars capable of sustained high speeds. This means they tend to be over engineered and ultra reliable. Probably not relevant but a thought.

    joe,
    The reasons for the reductions in the speed limits are as far as I know fairly unclear. Some people say it was the oil crisis in the early 1970s others it was a panic reaction to a spate of motorway accidents, not helped by the penchant a number of sports cars makers had for testing their vehicle at extremely high speeds on public roads.