If this article makes you angry, you could be a danger to children and yourself
A few years ago I wrote an article about meningitis - the biggest single killer of kids under five. Afterwards a couple of people asked me what the biggest risk was for children in general. The answer, when I found out, was a bit of a shock.
There is something that kills dozens more under 16s than meningitis - fifty per cent more every year. It kills nearly twice as many as leukemia and nearly three times as many as heart disease. You probably imagine it must be something for which there's no cure but you'd be wrong. The biggest health risk for kids today is the motor car. Worth thinking about as the latest registrations hit the streets
If a jumbo jet comes down, it's front page news. But we kill a jumbo jet full every month on the roads. Most footie fans get a bit misty-eyed over Duncan Edwards and the Manchester United team that perished on a Munich runway in 1958. But traffic accidents kill a football squad every week. Despite these incredible death tolls our roads are, for most of us, still the safest in Europe but for one group, they are among the worst: kids and young people.
It's likely that pretty soon the most common cause of death among young men in the twentieth century is going to get the chance to reap its grim harvest once again in the twenty-first. I'm talking about war now but it's strange how there are certain causes of death - major causes - that we don't talk about. They're considered acceptable. A couple of years ago when Paul Manning, then of Association of Chief Police Officers Traffic Committee, campaigned to reduce the speed limit in urban areas which was where, he said, 96% of road traffic accident deaths occured, he was attacked even from within the police force. Police magazine suggested it was a 'spectacular own goal' and that the force should be out catching criminals. But what criminal is worse than a child killer? At 20mph nine out of ten people hit by a car will survive. At 40 mph just one will. Does it need to be any clearer?
What's this got to do with you and me?
Simply this: men cause 94% of road accidents, including nine out of 10 road deaths.
And it's not just kids dying. Accidents including traffic accidents are one of the major killers of young men too. In truth we probably shouldn't be allowed on the roads. Forget Ken Livingstone's congestion charging, we could solve our traffic problems - and keep more of us alive - at a stroke by banning all men from driving. More seriously, you could argue that because young men are the highest risk category for accidents the best thing to do is to get them off the roads: increase the male driving age to, say, 21 or 25.
As but the briefest glance at the statistics on this site will prove, men takes risks. We drink too much, smoke too much, eat too much junk and think melanoma is an island in Indian ocean. Trouble is that put us behind the wheel and our risk-taking begins to affect other people too. A child being killed by a stranger is plastered all over the newspapers because it’s so rare. The fact is if you speed or drink and drive, you’re a far, far bigger risk to most kids than any prowler or pervert. You’re the child-killer. And you could kill yourself too. All that just to get to your destination five minutes sooner. Well worth it.
The number of cars on the road will increases by a third over the next 20 years and with it their chance of hitting each other and other road users increases too. We have to deal with that. Congestion is not the half of it, traffic is a major health issue, a men’s health issue. We’re killing kids at the rate of about four a week on the roads at the moment and that - like my old car most mornings - is a non-starter.
What do you think? Is motoring a health issue? Are road accidents just accidents or could we be doing a lot more to prevent them?
Page created on March 1st, 2003
Page updated on January 18th, 2010