The United Kingdom finally abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 1998. Prior to that the death penalty for murder was abolished in 1969. I for one think this is a good thing. Perhaps one of the few good things done by the last Labour government..
So, you may wonder what the title of this blog post is about.
It is about the deaths on the road that the state seem to support and rarely punish and its going to get worse.
In 2010 there were 1857 people killed on the UK roads, 20.803 seriously injured and 185,995 people otherwise injured. A total of 208,655 casualties in a year in the UK. This figures is likely to be a gross underestimate in relation to the less seriously injured as it will not include people who do not seek medical treatment for their injuries. (The Department of Transport say the true figure for less serious injuries is likely to be 3 times the quoted figure.)
In 2010 there were 619 murders in the UK, a figure only 1/3 as high as road deaths. Figures from www.murderuk.com
If you murder someone, you can expect to get a life sentence (the only sentence available) and a tariff period (before which you cannot be considered for release) of at least 15 years, 25 if a weapon was used.
If you kill someone whilst driving, you would be regarded as unlucky to get convicted at all, let alone face a prison sentence.
We increase penalties and through resources at for example knife crime but we seem to do little about behaviour on the road.
Why am I writing this today? well yesterday, Michelle’s parents were involved in a nasty incident on the A1 which resulted in their car being written off, and them fortunately avoiding serious injury. How did this happen? Well, as I understand it a lorry decided on a dual carriageway to pull into the overtaking lane and did so into the rear of Michelle’s parents car.
Thankfully, and perhaps owing to somebody up there smiling on them, they were not seriously hurt or worse. The police and ambulance were called to the scene and a good Samaritan came to the victims aid. The cause of the incident was readily apparent to the police with the lorry driver saying:
1. He did not see the car he hit
2. The car was in his blind spot
The driver was not arrested. I suspect that there will either be no prosecution of the driver or he will be dealt with for a minor road traffic offence of careless driving which is non imprisonable and is unlikely even to carry a disqualification. Compare that to the situation if the drive had walked down the street being reckless as to public safety whilst carry/ throwing a knife. Would such a person be facing a non imprisonable offence? Would such a person be arrested? Well the lorry driver wasn’t.
I remember coming home all excited, having passed my driving test ( I think it was a model T ford I passed in!) and my father saying to me words to the effect that I had an awesome responsibility as a driver because I was in control of a weapon that could cause mass destruction. Sadly, most road users do not think this way.
Far too many of us treat driving as our right and do it with little thought to the consequences of our behaviour. I do not think there is anyone of us who can say that we always give 100% concentration when driving and are considerate of others. Why is that?
I think there are several reasons including the isolation being in your tin box gives you from your fellow human beings. More importantly is the lack of effective consequences to you if you cause harm to people or property in your vehicle.
If you cause an accident, in most cases the only thing that will happen is you lose your no claims bonus. The chances of a prosecution are virtually nil.
Cyclists refer to motorist claims they did not see them as SMIDSYs – Sorry Mate I Didn’t See You – Surely in 99.9% of cases an claim of SMIDSY is an admission that the driver have not taken proper observation and as a result is an admission of an offence of careless driving.
For some reason however, we turn our back on prosecuting motorists for this criminal offence. There is no criminal sanction in most cases, not even a formal caution. So what have you got to lose as a driver.
Even worse is the claim as in this case by the driver that he was driving a vehicle towing several tons of load and said vehicle has blind spots! Yes the driver can’t see what he is driving and can’t see if it is safe to proceed. However we allow them on the road. Would you allow someone to throw knives or fire guns whilst blindfolded in a public street? No, of course not, but drive 38 ton lorry whilst blind spots exist and its ok.
So we have the state effectively supporting homicide by vehicles as a result of its failure to prosecute errant motorists.
Now, I said it is going to get worse. Well, the Government and CPS are considering whether to remove criminal prosecutions in motoring cases with a system similar to that for parking tickets. No longer will you go to court, matters will be dealt with by administrators! Even less sanction then! Another option being considered is removing prosecutors from courts and dealing with the prosecution by means of written submissions. This is not going to be very effective or a deterrent.
So, how do we improve road safety? I would suggest we start by prosecuting more errant motorists and imposing substantial penalties on them rather than the nominal fines we use now.
People will start to pay more attention to their driving standards if they feared they were at serious risk of prosecution for driving crimes and had a substantial risk of prison for appropriate cases.
The savings to the NHS in reduced casualties, would pay for the building of prisons to hold the most dangerous drivers who kill or cause serious injury.