Shropshire Star comment: Back roads safety plan with money

By Toby Neal | Opinions | Published:

A small tidal wave of measures has been announced as part of an action plan to promote increased safety on Britain’s roads.

It marks a campaign being waged on a wide front, encompassing everything from the safe fitting of child seats, to a device which immobilises the vehicle if it detects the driver has been drinking.

Increased penalties are also in the pipeline for such things as not wearing a seatbelt. Buses and lorries won’t be able to use tyres more than 10 years old. And in a move which will please rural voters, there is going to be a rural road users advisory panel that will look at ways of improving safety out in the countryside, particularly through improving roads and traffic signs.

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This is all very well, and nobody is going to complain about reasonable measures to make our roads safer.

Calling it an action plan sounds good but substantial safety improvements can be, and have been, the result of passive measures such as improving car design.

Beefing up laws, enforcement and penalties makes for stirring headlines, but we have to remember responsibility for the detection of offenders falls on the police, and we all know how stretched they already are.

Even though there has been a big crackdown on using mobile phones at the wheel, you still see people doing it. They reckon the chances of getting caught are low, so the increased penalties do not deter them.


So Chris Grayling’s 'action plan' needs to do something other than promising action. It needs to change culture so motorists follow the safer path through design, preference and choice – or through no choice. The reality of road traffic laws is many motorists are getting away with offending every day. Human beings can be reckless, irresponsible and careless.

In contrast, roads and infrastructure don’t think at all.

Build them properly safe – that is, with hazards designed out of them and giving humans less opportunities to go wrong – and you automatically improve safety. It’s one of the reasons why motorways, our fastest roads, are mile-for-mile our safest roads.

There are, of course, restrictions on who can drive on motorways, but it’s hard to believe motorway drivers are some special breed of safer drivers.

It’s the road environment itself which makes all the difference. Mr Grayling can wave his roads action plan and will get support for his laudable aims. It will go a long way to achieving those aims if he follows it up with a roads investment plan.

Toby Neal

By Toby Neal
Feature Writer

A journalist in Shropshire for 40 years, mainly writes features and columns, especially about aspects of Shropshire history. Lives in Telford and is based at the Ketley headquarters.

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