American Express Annual Travel Insurance... multiple trips... covers high-risk sporting activities.


The U.K. - Country Assessment.
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Introduction.
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The following is a copy of the section "Country Profile: The United Kingdom", but in this version we have added our own comments in a red box.  Not every point they have mentioned requires a comment but where it does there is an appropriate reference number to show what we are talking about.  
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Road Safety Vision: Plans: and Targets. 
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Britain has a comparatively good road safety record.  The casualty reduction targets for deaths and serious injuries, set in 1987, have been achieved.  Road deaths have fallen by nearly 40% and serious injuries by 45% compared to the 1981-85 average.  However, there has not been such a steep decline in the numbers of road accidents, nor in the numbers of slight injuries.*1  Nor does the UK record for child pedestrian deaths compare well with other European countries.
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1. Which in large part is because the road environment... and particularly vehicles... are a lot more 'crash friendly'.  Bad accidents are now more survivable... which is obviously a good thing... but on the down side... the safer drivers feel in their vehicles... the more blasé they become about having an accident... so, the accident rate remains static, or may even increase... which is of no benefit to pedestrians... and new vehicles are easier to write off... and more expensive to replace... which means Insurance rates increase significantly.
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On 1st March 2000... The Department for the Environment, Transport and the Regions [now known as The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions] published the UK road safety strategy entitled: "Tomorrow's Roads - Safer for Everyone".  It comprises the UK government's road safety strategy and casualty reduction targets up to the year 2010.*2
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2. But if Governments are only elected for 4-5 years: what is the point in producing a 10-year plan?  Well, if you haven't achieved anything after 4-5 years: rather than admitting that you have been a failure, you can always claim that the 'ground work' needed to be implemented and the targeted reductions are still...'on target'.
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The UK road safety programme contains many specific recommendations, but is not intended to be a rigid blueprint.  The strategy and targets are to be reviewed every three years to take into account new ideas and new technologies.  A Road Safety Advisory Panel will be established to assist in that review process.  By 2010, the UK government wishes to achieve, compared with the average for 1994-98 [average = 3727]
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1. 40% reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents: [target = approx. 2235 killed]*3
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3. The figures were already down to 3564 by 1999: so why pick a bench mark figure of 3727 to measure your success against?  The latest figures for 2003 show that over 3500 were killed on Britain's roads.  If the Government had launched a 5-year plan in 2000, based on the 1999 figures, it would have shown their progress to date as virtually... Zero!!
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2. 50% reduction in the numbers of children killed or seriously injured: [target = approx. 95 killed]
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3. 10% reduction in the slight casualty rate, expressed as the number of people slightly injured per 100 million vehicle kilometres.*4
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4. Statistics designed to confuse! As there are more and more vehicles every year... this figure that goes up every year... can only be estimated... and can be presented as a success even when more people are being killed.
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Core Road Safety Statistics
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'91 '92 '93 '94 '95 '96 '97 '98 '99 2000
4753 4379 3957 3807 3765 3740 3743 3581 3564 3580

Persons killed / 109 person kilometres
8 7 7 6 6 6 6 5 5 5
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Road Safety Priorities
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The UK road safety strategy is very comprehensive, and it covers ten priority themes, with a host of specific measures, together with an implementation timetable.*5
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5. Read their entire publication and it is quite apparent that their plans are not specific... they are extremely vague... lots of waffle... no real substance!  All this group are non-specific education programmes.
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1. Safer for children.
Road traffic accidents are the leading cause of accidental injury amongst children and young people.  Every year, over 130 children die and more than 4,500 are seriously injured while walking and cycling, many of them close to their homes.*6  Another 60 die and over 1100 are seriously injured travelling in cars.  The overall rate of serious road injuries to children is better than the European average.  But, despite recent improvements, the UK child pedestrian record is still poor compared to other European countries.
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An action plan is proposed that identifies the four key stages in road safety education, targeting...
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1a. Babies and very young children... through advising their parents and teachers on protection in cars... and teaching safe behaviour on the road.
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1b. Primary age children... through child pedestrian training schemes... and later, cycle training... alerting parents to the risks of cycling in particular traffic conditions.
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1c. Older children... by providing road safety information as they change schools and go on longer journeys on their own.
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1d. Older teenagers... providing advice as they contemplate much more independent mobility.
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6. Quote... 'Many children are knocked down close to their homes'.  Fact... young children on their bikes, playing near to home... will fall off: fall over: run out into a quiet road: make errors of judgement: etc. and no 'education programme' is going to change that.  The problem is that some adults drive too fast around residential streets when children are about.  Try going to the local Police and report someone who drives dangerously fast down your street every day... clearly putting children at risk and see what they do about it... absolutely nothing!  It is far easier for residents to identify a few high-risk individuals and take action against them... than it is to try and educate every young child not to make a mistake.
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2. Safer drivers...
training and testing.  Better driving skills and better driving behaviour would make an enormous difference to reducing the number of road casualties.*7  The following measures are to be introduced...
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2a. Instil in young people the right attitudes*7 towards road safety and safe driving.
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2b. Guide learner drivers*7 to take a more structured approach to learning... to prepare them for their driving career... not just to pass a test.
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2c. Raise the standard of tuition*7 offered by driving instructors.
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2d. Improve the driving test*7 in the light of better understanding about what needs to be examined and effective ways to do it.
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7. Of course this is true... but how are they going to achieve this?  You cannot just say that you are going to 'Instil' or 'Guide' young drivers.  Research has shown... once drivers pass their tests the dominant influences on their behaviour are their Peers... and the prevailing Road Culture.  Fact... many young drivers pass their tests after only 10... 15... 20 hours of formal training.  In the year following that they may do hundreds of hours of driving.  How is a few more hours of tuition going to produce a safer driver 6 or 12 months down the track?  Answer... it won't!!
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2e. Focus on the immediate post-test period for novice drivers.*8
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8. This is something that needs to be done but what are their plans?  Various kinds of 'Probationary' or 'Graduated' licence schemes have proved to be quite successful in places like Australia and the U.S. as has the compulsory use of 'P' plates for new drivers... but the British Government don't seem to have any strategies in this area... even their voluntary 'P' plate scheme has been a miserable failure.
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2f. Enhance the status of advanced motoring qualifications.
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2g. Address the needs of professional drivers.*9
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9. As professional drivers seem to be the most likely victims of their Speed Camera campaign... often due, solely to the fact they drive such high mileages... perhaps a good start would be to 'get of their backs'.
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2h. Bring safety benefits for all categories of motor vehicle.*10
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10. Meaningless waffle!
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3. Safer drivers... 
alcohol, drugs and drowsiness.  Over 16.000 casualties in 1998, including 460 deaths, were caused by accidents where at least one driver was over the legal alcohol limit [0.08% in the UK.]  Even a very small amount of alcohol affects driving.  Drugs too, both illegal and medicinal, can impair driving skills.  And according to the latest research, fatigue may be the principal factor in around 10% of all accidents.  The following measures are proposed...
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3a. Introduce new measures to reduce drink-driving further.*11
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11.  The introduction of Random Breath Testing in Australia bought about a significant reduction in drink-driving.  This Government's over-reliance on Speed Cameras and reduction of Police patrols has actually seen an increase in such offences in recent years.
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3b. Develop more effective ways to tackle drug-driving.*12
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12.  Police in the U.S. have used simple roadside tests to check for 'impaired' driving for many years.  If they work... why haven't they been introduced in Britain?
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3c. Carry out research to improve understanding of drug-driving.*13
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13.  Most 'research projects' like this are conducted over a 3-5 year period... after that, the results need to be studied... findings published... then finally, it gets filed away never to be seen again.  In many instances... all they do is make 'official' what anybody down the local pub could have told you in 5 minutes.  Don't hold your breath waiting for any breakthroughs here!
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3d. Strengthen and enforce laws on driving time for lorry, bus and coach drivers.
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3e. Make people aware how much tiredness contributes to road accidents and advise drivers and employers how to cut the risks... 
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4. Safer Infrastructure.
The emphasis is on making best use of the existing highway network, giving priority to treating the places with the worst safety [black spots,] congestion and environmental records.  In England there is a new role here for the Highways Agency as well as new responsibilities and funding for local authorities.*14  Key elements of the approach in England include...
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14.  The 'Road Environment' is a very large subject in its own right... so we won't dwell on it here.
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Recognition that good engineering reduces the risk of accidents.*15
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On national roads... a strategy focused on better maintenance and a targeted, seven-year programme of road improvements.
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On local roads... the introduction of longer-term, more co-ordinated local planning and improvements for walkers and cyclists.
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The devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are taking a similar approach.
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The following specific measures are proposed...
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4a. Ensure that safety continues to be a main objective in designing, building, operating and maintaining trunk and local roads.*15
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4b. Ensure that safety continues to be part of the planning framework for main and local routes.*15
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4c. Publish guidance about engineering for safer roads based on sound research and experiment.
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4d. Use local transport plans to promote safer neighbourhoods.*15
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4e. Monitor progress on local efforts to reduce casualties.
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15.  Building safer roads can only be a good thing... but there's a big difference between saying you'll do it and actually doing it.  Under the present Labour Government, congestion has just got worse and worse... and where it has improved, like in central London... it has been achieved by charging a fee to come into the centre... simply pricing people out of their vehicles... making one system worse, rather than creating a better alternative.  Local Roads... Identifying accident black spots... also a good idea.  But in practice?  We have personal experience of a T-junction nearby where there have been a number of accidents... and the congestion is really bad every morning: [drivers will take long detours just to avoid it] getting out onto the main road is difficult and dangerous.  This particular T-junction is between two villages so there is plenty of space on all sides where a roundabout could easily be put in place.  The Local Authorities have discussed this problem on numerous occasions... and recommendations have been made.  This problem has been going on for over thirty years... and still, absolutely nothing has been done about it!  The local people who know about the problem... and care about the problem... have no way of doing anything about the problem... that needs to be changed.
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5. Safer speeds.
Research has shown that speed is a major contributory factor in about one-third of all road accidents.  This means that each year excessive and inappropriate speed*16 helps kill around 1,200 people and to injure over 100,000 more.  This is far more than any other single contributor to casualties on roads.  The following measures are to be taken...
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16.  Yes that's right... "excessive and inappropriate speed" but that is not what they target... they target drivers who are exceeding speed limits... which is something very different.  Statistics usually show 'Deaths and serious injuries'... and as a guideline you can expect something in the region of 10 serious injuries for every Death.  1,200 death should produce approx. 12,000 serious injuries... if you're going to come up with a figure of 100,000 you need to explain exactly what that figure covers... this just looks like statistical abuse!
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5a. Publicise widely the risks of speed and reasons for limits.
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5b. Develop a national framework for determining appropriate vehicle speeds on all roads... and ensure that measures are available to achieve them.*17
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17. They already had a "national framework for determining appropriate vehicle speeds"... called... "the 85th percentile principal"... which set the speed limit as... "the speed that 85% of drivers would drive below... even if there was no speed limit"... and that was a very good guide.
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5c. Research a number of speed management problems to gain the necessary information to develop and test new policies.*18
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18.  More 'Research'...Great!
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5d. Take into account environmental, economic and social effects of policies when assessing their ability to reduce accidents.*19
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19.  Well with nigh on 6000 Speed Cameras... 3 millions Fines... and no reduction in Fatalities... I guess we can safely conclude that the wheels have fallen off this particular policy!
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6. Safer vehicles.
Improvements in vehicle safety have contributed significantly to reducing road deaths and injuries, and will continue to do so.  The strategy here is to improve vehicle safety further*20 by encouraging...
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20. As we have already said... there is a limit to what you can achieve here because... with passive safety features, like air-bags... 'the safer drivers feel in their vehicles... the more blasé they become about having an accident'.  And active safety features like better tyres, steering, ABS brakes, etc. do not translate into better safety... drivers simply adjust their perceived 'margins of error'.
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6a. Improvements which protect car occupants in the event of an accident.*21
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21.  Fine, but... safety comes at a price... so, if you can only afford a small, budget car and you are hit at speed by someone in their large, expensive Mercedes... you know who is going to come of worst.
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6b. Improvements which protect other road users.*22
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22.  They are talking about re-designing all vehicles so they are more 'pedestrian-friendly' when they get run over.  They will put everyone to an enormous expense to try and reduce a risk which is mainly caused by a small minority... and if drivers think pedestrians won't be hurt they are even less likely to show caution when they are in close proximity to them.
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6c. Better information for consumers, helping them to choose safer vehicles.  [The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions is a partner in the European New Car Assessment Programme.]*23
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23.  Better Information is always a good thing... a lot of people seem to think they will be safer in a large 4wd, which isn't necessarily the case.  Some people will choose a vehicle even when they know it is not particularly safe... and for many it just comes down to price... they know Volvos and Mercedes are safe cars... but they can't afford one... end of story!
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6d. Better standards for vehicle maintenance.*24
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24.  Oh no! this is so pathetic!  They already have quite high standards for vehicles.  The problem is not with the 95% of vehicles which already go into their local garage to get tested... it is with the 5% who are driving around in death-traps who never go in for a test... how are 'better standards' going to solve that problem?  What they need is effective enforcement of the existing standards... on all vehicles!
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6e. Renewed emphasis on new vehicle safety inspections by manufacturers and dealers.*25
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25.  Hello!! not the problem! old wrecks are the problem!
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7. Safer motorcycling.
Motorcyclists represent a large proportion of road casualties in relation to their numbers.  They make up less than 1% of road traffic... but suffer 14% of deaths and serious injuries.  The aim is to influence the casualty figures through better training and testing for both riders and drivers and through better engineering construction and design, which will help to make motorcycling safer than it is now.  The strategy is...
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7a. To improve training and testing for all learner riders.*26
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7b. To publish advice for people returning to motorcycling after a break... and people riding as part of their work.*26
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7c. To ensure the quality of instruction.*26
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7d. Through training and testing... to help drivers become more aware of how vulnerable motorcyclists are.*26
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26.  The quality of training and testing is a big issue... of course, a high standard can only be a good thing, but... many young riders take risks... they do it for fun... for the thrill... 'education' won't stop thrill seekers.  The only person who can seriously affect the chances of any particular rider being involved in an accident... is the rider themselves... by the way they choose to ride.
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7e. To promote improvements in engineering and technical standards which could protect motorcyclists better... and to work with representatives of interested organisations, in an advisory group, to look at issues of concern.*27
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27.  A bit limited with what you can achieve here... the road environment isn't like a motorcycle race track where you can remove... or cover up... every object likely to cause an injury.  Coming off a motorbike at any speed is going to be a problem.
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8. Safety for pedestrians... 
cyclists and horse riders.  UK policy is to encourage walking and cycling.  Local authorities must set out how, in their traffic layouts and urban design they are to encourage more people to walk and cycle instead of drive, and what safety measures they propose in support.*28  There are around 3 million horse riders in the UK, constituting an especially vulnerable group to inconsiderate motorised road users.  The strategy is both to improve conditions for vulnerable road users and to encourage them to protect themselves.  The strategy here is to...
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28. Look at what Britain has done in this area over the years compared to a country like The Netherlands... there is no comparison! they cater for the needs of cyclists... we don't.  In many instances... we just paint a white line down the inside of a main road and call it a cycle lane.  In The Netherlands they frequently have a totally separate roadway... accessible to pedestrians: cyclists: and moped riders.  Even if you don't build special cycle-ways everywhere, you can still build them between significant points... ideal for Park-and-Ride schemes... especially around medium sized towns: i.e. build large car park a mile or so outside of town... from there drivers have the option of taking a frequent bus service using the main road... or a nice safe scenic route... specially built for walkers and cyclists... finally, some secure, undercover parking so bikes can be left all night if necessary without being stolen.
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8a. Help make drivers more aware of their responsibilities towards all vulnerable road users through better training and testing.*29
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29.  Yet more testing and training? you just can't... test: train: and educate: everyone... about every problem... all the time.  The problems develop in the post-testing period... when new drivers start to... build confidence very quickly... but gain experience very slowly.  This mis-match can be a fatal combination... and this is when any corrections need to take place.
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8b. Develop cycle training courses for adults.*30
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30.  It's not cycle 'training' they need!  There seems to be an attitude among a very significant percentage of cyclists that 'the rules of the road' simply do not apply to them... in any way, shape or form.  There needs to be a great deal more emphasis on 'enforcement'... cyclists know the rules... they should be made to obey them!
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8c. Develop schemes to promote the use of cycle helmets.*31
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31.  If cycle helmets save lives... just make them compulsory! 
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8d. Support training schemes for horse riders.*32
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32. Which may be fine, but... if a driver comes down a country lane and they're going way to fast... the situation is out of the riders hands.  You need to create a situation where the horse rider can take down the vehicle details... report them... and the Authorities take some action so they don't do it again in future.
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8e. Improve victim support systems.*33
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33.  Could cover anything from... Emergency Services... to Social Services... to Legal Services??
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9. Better enforcement.
Law enforcement is an essential part of reducing road casualties and the police have a central role in improving road safety.*34  The UK's aim is to maximise the contribution that road traffic law can make to reducing road casualties.  This comprises...
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9a. A more effective road traffic law enforcement.*34
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34.  As do the Authorities as a whole... but the performance over recent years by Politicians... the Police... and the Courts... has been absolutely woeful!  Their effective enforcement involves handing out millions of fines to law-abiding citizens... while reducing police patrols with means law-breakers can do as they like.
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9b. Better public understanding of and respect for road traffic law.*35
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35.  The vast majority or people already 'understand and respect traffic laws' but they are rapidly losing respect for petty rules and the law enforcers.  Trying to codify every little offence from exceeding parking, speed limits, using mobile phones, eating, drinking, smoking, etc. etc. while at the same time stripping police officers of the ability to use a bit of common sense... means you just end up fining millions of perfectly sensible people for doing perfectly reasonable things... rather than creating a safer environment by targeting genuinely, dangerous behaviour.
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9c. Penalties more appropriate and proportionate to the seriousness of offences.*36
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36.  This can only be described as a sick joke!!  Barely a day goes by without some outrageous example of a persistent offender... who has committed yet another horrendous crime... and walked away with some pitifully inadequate sentence.  The Courts give out some lame excuse like... "he's already been Fined a dozen times and hasn't paid them, so there's no point giving out a bigger Fine".  The present Labour Government has presided over a 62% increase in hit-and-run incidents over the last five years.  While dangerous... or drink-driving... resulting in death or serious injury... could get you 10 years or more... fleeing the scene of an accident will only get you 6 months.  6 months for running someone over and leaving them for dead... no way is that "appropriate or proportionate to the seriousness of the offence".  Fleeing the scene of an accident where people have been injured should be considered a very serious offence in its own right!!
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9d. More emphasis on education and retraining.*37
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37. A complete waste of time and money!  By far the biggest problem is with persistent and serious offenders who are not going to change their ways through 'education'.
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9e. Maximum use of new technology.*38
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38.  Something else you just know is going to be very expensive and totally ineffective.  What is required above anything else is some Political willpower... but as it says on the box... "New Technology... Political Willpower... Not Included".

Example... the Government are talking about bringing in cameras which can read number plates as a way of catching drivers who have broken the law for some reason... but having identified them you still need to intercept them and then take some action.  Earlier this year [2004] Police near Birmingham were stopping drivers... they estimated that they were stopping about six illegal immigrants every hour... driving... unroadworthy vehicles: which were registered at bogus addresses: had no Tax: no Insurance: and often no driving licence.  The Police... would simply give them a ticket... knowing that they would never turn up for any Court appearance.
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So again... these kind of problems can be fairly laid at the door of the Government... simply because they make it very expensive or impossible to do the right thing... very easy to do the wrong thing... then don't enforce their own laws... or use any effective punishment.  Even if they seize the vehicle the driver just walks away and gets a replacement for 'peanuts'... so the general situation has not been improved one iota!

Example... expensive... young drivers may pass their test... buy a car for £200... then find the Insurance will cost them £1000+.  And, if they decide to drive with no Insurance?  Well, the chances are they won't get caught... if they are in an accident they can always try 'doing a runner'... and if they get caught they will probably only get Fined a fraction of the cost of getting insured in the first place... so why bother?

Example... impossible... they do virtually nothing to stop thousands of illegal immigrants coming in... inevitably, many will buy a vehicle... but there is no way for them to get Insurance even if they wanted to... therefore, they cannot get it Taxed... therefore, they go for the cheap, unroadworthy vehicles and Register it at a false address... and consequently will try to run away from any accidents because they don't have the proper documentation.

Solutions?  There are always alternatives to the present system... in Australia they pay an annual fee for 'Vehicle Registration' which is like our Road Tax and the basic... compulsory... third-party Insurance all rolled into one.  The fee varies depending on the value: size: power: of the vehicle... the Authorities inspect the vehicle before issuing a 'Registration Sticker' for the windscreen... and the Police are vigilant about pulling over unregistered vehicles.  So, each individual vehicle carries its own Insurance covering any driver... if individual drivers want Fully Comprehensive Insurance then they do it through private companies.

Solutions?  The Government already charges a premium of about £40 a year from every insured driver to cover damage caused by uninsured drivers... so, why not consider some kind of 'subsidy' whereby anyone... of any age... or circumstance... can take out a basic third-party Insurance Policy on a small vehicle... say those in Insurance Group 1-4... for a fixed fee.  It would make it possible for anyone to get themselves onto the road legally, and at a reasonable cost.  And, as with the existing system... the money would be used to pay for damage done to innocent parties.
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10. Promoting safer road use.
Based on achievements of publicity campaigns in the past,*39 the strategy is to target those areas where there is a need to change attitudes and behaviour.  The motor manufacturing and retail industry should be a natural and powerful ally in promoting road safety generally.
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39.  'publicity campaigns' are generally short lived and ineffective.  Politicians always claim that what they are doing cuts the death toll... publicity campaigns: traffic calming: speed cameras: etc. etc. and yet the annual death toll is published and it is no different.  In recent decades most of the improvements are down to Motor Manufacturers... not Politicians.
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Road Safety Management Organisation.
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The national road safety policy is the responsibility of the Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions [DTLR.]  The Road Safety Strategy sets the national framework for policy up to 2010.  Local authorities have a statutory duty to ensure safety on the roads for which they have responsibility.  Targets are set at the national level, and local authorities set their own targets in their Local Transport Plans, in consistency with the national targets.  Programmes are funded by national and local taxation.  For infrastructure programmes on motorways and trunk roads, the Highways Agency – part of DTLR – is responsible and has a three-year centrally funded budget.  Policy on such issues as drink-driving, speed limits, driver training and testing is set nationally.  Local authorities are responsible for local safety engineering schemes and road safety education, in accordance with national regulations and best practice guidance.*40
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Road Safety Programme - Monitoring and Evaluation.
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The Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions is responsible for the evaluation of the road safety programme.  Routine monitoring is carried out annually, and formal programme reviews are planned to be carried out every three years.*40
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General monitoring indicators are the number of crashes and casualties by severity: and by road user group: drink-driving: use of seatbelts: use of cycle helmets: speeds: road user attitudes: by means of surveys: plus some other ad hoc surveys.  Other indicators that are monitored are traffic volume by vehicle type: travel patterns: modal split: vehicle registrations: driving test volumes: and pass rates.*40
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Cost/benefit studies of the various measures are an integral part of programme evaluation.*40
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40.  Like most modern Industrialised Countries... Britain seems to have a never ending supply of... Politicians: Government Departments: Local Authorities: Strategy Planners: Focus Groups: Budget Committees: etc. etc. plus the Courts: Prosecutors and the Police... all devoted to making our lives safer and better... and yet... the end result is that they dish out Fines by the million and the Death Toll remains the same... life for the general law-abiding citizen is neither safer or better... just a damn site more expensive!

Everyone has some responsibility in making the roads safer... if an individual has just driven 10... 20... 30 years without causing any accidents then they are fulfilling their responsibilities.  But that will not stop them becoming one of the millions being Fined by the Authorities... who are effectively saying... "your behaviour is unacceptable and we think you deserve to be punished"!  Bottom Line is... the people who are really failing in their role are the Authorities... they are the ones who are not fulfilling their responsibilities to the General Public... they are the ones who deserve to be punished... rather than being richly rewarded.

Our assessment?  This little package of measures they've laid out will achieve little or nothing... "Tough on Crime: tough on the causes of Crime"... they must be joking!  This lot are good at slogans... and that's about it!  We'd give it no more than 4/10... and that's being generous!
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Information sourced from...
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Department for Transport, Local Government and the Regions [DTLR.]
Highways Agency.
Transport Research Laboratory [TRL.]
European Commission - Transport website.
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