Friday, January 04, 2013

Saving Money, Saving Lives

The Dft recently announced initiatives aimed at reducing delays caused by accidents. They include screens to surround accident scenes, 3D lasers to map the scene and, somewhat oddly, smartphone apps to alert drivers.

Accidents on the strategic road network alone apparently cost the economy some £750m per year. Worse, there are some 1,900 road deaths per year (2011 data).

Improving the time it takes to document and clear an accident scene is plainly a good thing but I can't help think "Door. Bolted. Horse. Shut. Stable".

As I sit in the passenger seat in a car travelling along the M4, I marvel at the vast ineptitude, outright incompetence and sheer idiocy of drivers in other cars. Not for the first time, I think that many drivers should not be allowed on roads.

Rather than clear up accident scenes faster, we need to do something to improve driving skills.

My proposal is that we:

- Introduce a requirement to take a new driving test every 5 years, including a specific test on motorway driving. We'd start with both the oldest drivers and the most recently qualified.

- Develop driving simulators that put drivers under increasingly stressful road situations (that are difficult or impossible to replicate on the roads) and assess their performance under such conditions. Simulators would be used ahead of road tests wherever possible. I don't see these as being much more complicated than Xbox solutions with steering wheel controllers initially

- Drivers would need to take lessons ahead of each test, including simulator time. Drivers who failed the test would be banned from driving until they passed the test

To my mind, this would have several benefits:

- Improved skills leading to reduced accidents

- Reduced loss of life on the roads

- Lower cost to the economy as a result of lost productivity from delays caused by accidents

- Increased jobs in the driving instruction sector as well as in developing accredited driving simulators

I'll volunteer to go first. Because something needs to change.



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