Europe shows the way


The European Union (EU) now includes 28 member states and, as of 2012, it has an estimated population of 507,890,000. The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) has just published a report showing that, in 2012, 12,345 people were killed on the roads. Just so we keep this in proportion, as of 2014, the USA has an estimated population of 317,996,000. In 2012, the last year for which statistics are available, 34,080 were killed on the roads. So America has a significantly smaller population and kills getting on for three times the number of people on the roads. That’s not something we should be proud of.

European lobby groups and politicians from the member states have been shocked by the latest numbers because, for the most part, these deaths are avoidable. There’s growing pressure on the EU to do more to reduce the umber of people killed. For example, it’s estimated that forcing motor manufacturers to instal seat-belt reminder devices in all car seats could save up to 900 lives per year. Even though wearing seat-belts is mandatory in most states, enforcement is not always effective. The EU is now considering a new set of car safety rules. The campaigners want sensors in all seats as a test run. If drivers and their passengers still do not buckle up, it’s suggested an ignition kill-switch operate to prevent the car from being driven away. Of course, in libertarian America, such a law would be impossible. No one gets to tell us when to buckle up!

The major causes of death remain drunk driving and excessive speed. The ETSC estimates that about 5,600 deaths per year would be eliminated if people could be persuaded to stop drinking and driving. Similarly, if the average speed on the roads was reduced by 1 mph, some 1,300 deaths might be avoided. Member states are therefore being encouraged to increase enforcement. What is the model for success? Britain (see graphic below) and The Netherlands lead the way with only two deaths per 1 billion kilometers traveled. At the other extreme, Poland has eleven deaths per 1 billion km. Again to keep things in perspective, America kills 3 people per 1 billion miles traveled.


So here’s the question. With the EU proposing to force motor manufacturers to make their vehicles safer, and greater emphasis on law enforcement for speeding and drunk driving, would you accept the same laws here? It’s an interesting question. The population of the EU is not quite double our own, yet they are happy to accept some limits on their freedom, or an increase in the cost of driving if it makes driving safer. Which do you think is the better political system? One which places the safety of road users as a high priority and is not afraid to use laws to get results. Or one which caves into well-funded lobbies whenever laws are suggested which might reduce profits in businesses or interfere with our right to kill ourselves (and others) if we feel like it.

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