Thursday, 11 November 2010

"It could lead to more crashes as motorists fail to detect an unlit boulder"?!

Yesterday's Daily Mail quoted Andrew Howard here (if you search the site, the man is quoted fairly regularly in fact), head of road safety at the AA on the subject of local councils turning off or dimming some streetlights, which is fairly standard practice all over Europe but seems to be triggered alarm here. I don't really understand why everywhere needs to be floodlight at night.

That aside, I have to say that once upon a time, I actually took the Daily Mail semi-seriously. But this quote, I'm afraid, feels to me like sheer delusion:

‘Local authorities have to get the right balance between plunging people into darkness and saving money. It is not just road safety but a question of security in residential areas.



‘There is a fear that it could lead to more crashes as motorists fail to detect an unlit boulder or a drunk pedestrian dressed in dark clothes. Lighting can improve safety for drivers, riders, and pedestrians as well as deterring street crime.’
 
A drunk pedestrian dressed in dark clothes? It's bad enough that children are being forced to wear bright clothes to make sure drivers can see them. We couldn't make it government policy that drivers ought to slow down or that recognises that drivers are the hazard, could we perhaps? Nope, the DfT would have you believe that small children that are the hazard and are now told here they must be wearing brightly coloured or fluorescent clothing in the dusk. But if it's dark, oh little five-year olds, you need to dress up like traffic lights so that the nasty drivers don't squash you:
 
"If you're out and about when it's dark, wear reflective gear to make sure you can be seen in car headlights. Reflective vests, sashes or wristbands work well. Remember, fluorescent clothing doesn't work after dark!"
 
It feels like the same mentality as the cyclist and lorry-driver posters in London that I previewed here. The mentality is all about making anyone not in a car feel like they are responsible for what the people in cars are doing. It's almost as if the government is saying this: five-year squashed by speeding driver? It's the kid's fault. They weren't wearing hi-viz. 
 
I sometimes cycle without a helmet. I love it. And think more people should do the same. But the political establishment seems to havehijacked the cycling debate as a helmet debate. Witness this debacle here.
 
If the Department for Transport is happy to put out press releases about five-year old pedestrians needing to wear hi-viz, you do start to wonder if it won't be long before anyone not inside a motor vehicle cage will be reprimanded for not wearing safety gear to walk about the streets. Hence, the AA chap's fear of 'drunk pedestrians in dark clothing' perhaps?
 
And don't even get me started on unlit boulders. I'm not sure when you last saw one sauntering over the A25?