Wednesday 21 September 2016

Project Edward - today!

That is the TISPOL mission statement. Who they? The European Traffic Police Bund.  Like Interpol, I guess, with an emphasis on hi-viz jackets and breathalysers.  They have designated 21 Sep 2016 as European Day Without A Road Death. When I heard the name, I thought it must have been named for an unfortunate child named Edward who was swiped to oblivion on a road somewhere in Europe and was being commemorated in this way; like the Jimmy Fund raising money at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.  But it's not; it is an acronym E.D.W.A.R.D.  I've had a bit to say, over the years about road traffic accidents RTAs I - II - III - IV - V. So I'm interested in the aspiration to have NO deaths on the roads this day and I believe that traffic cops are putting in some extra hours enforcing correct practice,

For the day that's in it, RTE wheeled our Dr Gerry Lane, consultant in emergency medicine in Letterkenny hospital in remote Donegal. He gave Ireland credit for reducing the number of road deaths significantly over the last 10ish year. 280 people died on Irish roads in 2008 but only 162 in 2012 - it's crept up since then, regretably. This has been achieved a bit by effective enforcement; a bit by Presence and a bit by better engineering of cars and roads and intersections.  But it has ultimately been achieved by changes in people's behaviour. If you've been stopped once, with drink taken, and not been booked then you may embrace the designated driver idea. If you keep seeing the dreaded camera-vans, then you'll think twice about doing the ton on an 80km/h trunk road.  You'll get there 3 minutes later but you won't ever get a €80 fine and 3 penalty points which will affect your insurance.

Dr Lane commented on the fact that his patch, Co. Donegal, consistently leads the pack in the road death league table and was at a loss to explain it. It's partly because there is very little public transport in this remote and sparsely populated county, but it's partly cultural. For starters, he objects to road events being called accidents as if they are beyond people's control: the act of a malevolent deity. He witnesses insane behaviour on the roads every day: tail-gaters in his rear-view mirror; txters overtaking; no visible seat-belts; driving just too fast. So education which effects a change in behavious has had a role in significantly reducing the carnage. If you look at the European league table for fatal RTAs, Ireland is mid-range with 41 deaths per million each year.  This is the same as Germany at 43/million and much less than Poland at 103/million. But let's not get smug about it because we're median.  We're still 50% more effective at killing each other than the Brits 28/million next door.  This is surely one case where we'd like to participate in a race to the bottom.

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