/ Motoring

Are spending cuts making driving a car more dangerous?

Austerity measures mean stricter spending by local councils. And a new report has revealed road safety has been the victim of tightening purse strings. So is driving a car now less safe?

According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM), local councils slashed road safety budgets by 15% on average last year, the equivalent of £23m.

With local services as a whole cut by 6%, it’s clear road safety has been one area of sacrifice.

But what constitutes road safety? Included under the banner are rehabilitation courses for motoring offenders, training and information for young drivers, safe routes to school schemes and school crossing patrols.

So how widespread is this cull of the much-loved lollipop lady or man? Well, the IAM contacted 152 councils and 81 responded. Of those, more than half cut their spending on road safety and traffic management by more than 10%.

The worst offender was London’s Camden Council, reducing its road safety spending by more than 70% (£4m). This is despite road casualties being up by 10% since 2006 and more than 100 people were killed or seriously injured on Camden roads in 2010.

Are roads less safe?

So does this ultimately mean our cars are a less safe place to be? Not necessarily.

According to Department for Transport statistics, the number of people killed annually on Britain’s roads in 2010 was 1,857 – a 16% drop against 2009 numbers and the seventh consecutive annual fall (2011 figures due in June 2012).

But to what extent are these numbers affected by the improvements in car technology? I think more readily-available electronic stability control and anti-lock brakes, more standard airbags than ever, and new tech like auto-braking systems are all advances that are contributing to reducing road deaths globally.

How much do you think safety technology is having an impact on road casualty numbers and are you concerned about local councils’ road safety cuts?


Very concerned. And no amount of technology is a match for some of the poor/dangerous driving you see on the roads. I’m still waiting for the mobile phone that automatically switches itself off when a driver tries to use it or better still texts the nearest police man.

I for one hate all the potholes we still have here there and everywhere causing cyclists to swerve w/o indicating or a car/van/lorry to lose control when they burst a tyre..

I cannot believe how you have phrased this, surely you should be asking how are spending cuts making our roads less safe!

If the councils believe they can cut spending on road safety projects without any effect, then they lied about the campaigns necessity in the first place!

I will rejoice when councils start making cuts in obscene wages for senior staff, out of control expense accounts, pet projects that benefit no one apart from family & cronies, and start using the money squeezed out of us for the purposes we give it to them for.
We have already had our street lights dimmed, many older people cannot now drive at night, as they cannot see the street. In some areas they are actually turning off street lights for part of the night!
Potholes are left to deteriorate further, unless one causes an accident, then the council fill it in ASAP, deny it was ever there in an effort to avoid paying damages.

Conversely there seem to be more and more schemes aimed at fleecing drivers, I notice that in London many roads now have spouted width restrictions, 2 lanes 6′ 6″ wide with a large gap in the middle and a cctv monitoring the gap; drive through the middle and get a fine, yet in one location on the road behind the camera there have been 3 rapes, a murder and about 20 muggings, do they turn the camera around, no it stays watching the ‘honey trap’ gathering revenue, and to hell with the safety of the residents.
This cut in road safety spending is just another stab in the guts for all of we council tax payers, and of course the council will probably spend all the savings on a shiny full colour news letter telling us that by cutting spending on road safety it has made our roads safer, we should be all familiar with this newspeak by now.

The tech in modern cars makes them safer, unfortunately they are still driven by us, with all our frailties.
A cars safety features such as airbags, auto braking, stability control, impact absorbing crumple zones etc….are completely negated when driven by an idiot texting as he drives at 50mph through town. Paradoxically the safest person would be the driver, cocooned in life saving tech whilst the bits of his victims lay scattered around.
Do we have a breakdown of figures thus
Drivers & passengers killed.
Pedestrians killed
Cyclists killed
Motor cyclists killed.
We could then make year on year comparisons to determine who the roads are safer for.

I am far more concerned with the cuts to OAP facilities and child care – than road safety. It is blindingly obvious that if the council has it’s funding cut – my London council had £35 Million cut whereas a London Tory council had just £3 Million cut – then ALL facilities suffer..

As income decreases so does the ability to pay for insurance MOTs repairs etc etc for cars. There are over 1 MILLION uninsured drivers which will increase – so that will decrease safety. As for Road maintenance it is obvious this will decrease.if there is no money – and there is no money.

The rich will be able to afford the new high tech cars – the poor won’t. – I agree with m – High tech cars are safer for the driver – but those drivers take more risks reducing safety for the rest of us. Yet another con-dem disaster.

Barry Williams says:
11 May 2012

Inadequate roads, poor maintenance, bad highway policies, poor parking restrictions only aimed at making money, to name but a few. Most Councils know what is required but are restricted by Central Government’s dangerous cuts in finance or have other agenders, after all the highway system is the lifeblood of the UK but, this is not a consideration to say nothing of the safety and wellbeing of the people who use the roads.

I’m sure we can all provide examples of how more expenditure could make our roads safer but my biggest concern is the high performance of modern cars and other vehicles. A huge amount of effort has been made to equip cars with an array of safety features but – as far as I know – none are restricted to 70 mph or whatever the maximum speed allowed in the country of sale. That is not difficult to achieve in a modern car with a computer-controlled engine. Engine power is far more than it was a few decades ago. We are rightly obsessed with safety on the roads but are unable to see the elephant in the room.

For more years than I care to remember I have asked the same question: In a country which has a maximum speed limit of 70mph, why do we need cars that can do more than twice that speed?
All cars should be limited to 80mph, the extra oomph is for overtaking.
When entering a built up area a signal is read by the engine which reduces the speed limit to 35mph in town, maybe not a solution but a start.

Not only could this save lives but it would save a lot of fuel. I cannot see government implementing this change, but perhaps if lower insurance premiums were available to those with restricted cars then many would be prepared to switch.

Hi Wavechange, I agree some kind of automatic speed regulator would be a great idea. But I don’t see how lower insurance premiums for a voluntary opt-in will target the right groups of motorists. For instance:

1) The “money-no-object” group who seem to think that owning a high-performance car already gives them rights to ignore the laws that apply to the rest of us.

2) The “go-faster” group that tune-up their cars to show off to their mates/girlfriends/etc. They have already spent money to do this, so making savings on an insurance policy (they have just invalidated by modifying the car’s specification) is not going to be of major concern.

3) The purposefully uninsured.

4) Other criminals.

Maybe the incentive for driving a speed-restricted car should be a higher permitted limit. So – to use m’s example – driving at up to 35mph in a built up area with a regulator fitted would be allowed, as would say 80mph on a motorway.

The police would still have the usual remedies of careless/dangerous driving at their disposal if the road conditions are not appropriate, but there would be an automatic defence to being caught out by a speed trap.

Em – I’m not sure how this would best be implemented but if those driving restricted cars cost insurance companies less then they are likely to offer lower premiums anyway. If restricted speed results in less attention to driving, speed restriction might result in more accidents – albeit less serious ones.

I cannot see our government taking action and it would be difficult for the EU, with different rules applying in different countries.

Though I have developed considerable tolerance to other drivers’ mistakes I have always struggled to keep to speed limits. It’s not a weakness I’m proud of. Fortunately this has resulted in only two incidents of exceeding the 30mph limit on dual carriageways, many years ago, but that is more down to good luck rather than good management. I would be very happy to buy a speed-restricted car.

Individual governments could adopt a very simple, self-regulating policy. Any vehicle caught exceeding the national speed limit in practice (regardless of capability on paper) goes straight in the crusher. Through this simple process of natural selection there would eventually be no cars left capable of exceeding the speed limit.

Crushing cars would be rather environmentally unfriendly, Em. A better option would be get the owner to pay the cost of having their car modified to regulate the speed, on top of the usual fine and points on the driver’s licence.

Not unfriendly at all, unless these cars would need to be replaced. All cars on the road today will eventually end up in the crusher. But a car run to the end of their natual lifetime will also have burnt at least 10,000 litres of fuel. Maybe I should have explained that the offending driver would need to remain in the vehicle, so there would be no need to replace it!

But I do like your option of having someone convicted of a speeding offence being limited to driving regulated vehicles, if only because there is more chance of it being implemented than mine.

In the meantime I will carry on using the satnav to remind me if I am exceeding the speed limit. 🙁

The best way I believe to reduce speed, is simply to take the car + everything thats not living in from the offending motorist at the place their caught/stopped. Anyone with a high performance car + all mod cons would soon learn to restrict their speed for fear of losing “everything”. And then let the police auction off the car + stuff to help raise funds for the police force.

An unregulated car cannot be insured for driving on the public roads, end of.
We know what happens to uninsured vehicles, usually the crusher so we are already seizing and crushing ‘illegal’ vehicles as a policy.

Unregulated high end cars, modified cars etc…. this is what trackdays are for, enjoy the thrills of speed and boy racing in a safer more controlled environment than steaming through Epping forest at 3am.
Unfortunately the deliberately uninsured and criminals will always be a problem, until we have a nationwide ANPR which automatically flags up an uninsured / illegal vehicle to the nearest patrol car. Slowley we will get diminish this group until the uninsured driver becomes the glaring exception rather than the near norm we have today.

I’m not all together sure advancing “safety technology” is as good as many think.
I’m not sure gizmos like electronic stability control, anti-lock brakes, airbags, and auto-braking systems in themselves really make drivers, or anyone else necessarily more safe.
No amount of technology can fully compensate for lack of driving ability and there is also the tendancy that the safer a driver feels (with all the gizmos) the more recklessly some tend to drive.
Just think if you were driving an old classic with no seat belts how much more exposed would you feel and how much more careful your driving would be?

As for local authority road safety spending well I think festooning every junction with traffic lights which seems standard procedure nowadays causes as many problems as it’s designed to remedy. Near where I live traffic lights have gone up at several junctions where traffic lights never existed before, don’t know why, they wern’t dangerous junctions, traffic conditions have not fundamentally changed. My therory is that highways departments need to exhaust their budgets each year to ensure that budget does not automatically reduce the following year.
Too many lights, especially badly timed lights, cause frustration which can easily manifest itself with accidents further up the road. so they put traffic lights or “traffic calming” there completly unnecessarily.
I think what I’m saying is it’s not necessarily how much you spend but how you spend it.
“Less is often more” and thought should be given to curing the desease of bad driving rather than attempting to treat the symtoms.