November 17, 2010

They know how to enjoy themselves over at the Institute of Advanced Motoring. Hot off the presses – in the way that only a chilling and morbid thing can be – is a new IAM report offering the very last word on “Deaths and Injuries on Britain’s Roads.”

Looking for some racy bedtime reading to stave off your latest nightly practice-run at full immersion in the waters of Lethe? This may not be it. But it’s no good pretending it’s safe out there. As 69 showed for Jack Kerouac, the words Death and On The Road have a way of coming together.

An eerily symmetrical 2222 people died on the UK’s roads in 2009. It’s certainly a sober statistic; but, then again, it could be a lot worse – and has been really quite recently.

Back in the 60s and 70s when cars were made like tin cans, seatbelts were for wimps, and 10 pints was a pre-driving sharpener, Brits routinely racked up 6,000 to 8,000 annual road fatalities.

Recent successes in “driving down casualties,” IAM reports, have shunted the UK up to number one in the world road-safety league table for safest roads in 2009, up from 6th in 2007. Believe it or not, our death rate is now half that of Belgium.

Calculating that the average fatal accident on our roads costs the UK economy £1.79 million in lost output, healthcare, pain and suffering, there’s clearly more than grief avoidance at stake.

Recognising that financial quantification is always the way to get people’s attention, IAM’s Neil Greig reckons that if we could halve road deaths again over the next 10 years, “we would save the economy over £4 billion.”

Not quite enough to clear the deficit – but a decent start.


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