Alun Fosta: Roads Don’t Kill, People Kill People

Published: Thu 13 Nov 2003 12:11 AM
Roads (And Guns) Don’t Kill People, People Kill People
The Other Side From Alun Fosta
"They are very good at telling you their rights, but not their responsibilities" is a phrase which appeared in a recent New Zealand Herald article entitled "Teachers face increase in class violence." The same phrase could be used in respect of those who, in New Zealand, blame roads for traffic accidents and in America, blame guns for murders.
Roads and guns are inanimate objects, both are incapable of doing anything without human assistance, unless, of course, a tyre blows unexpectedly or a gun falls and discharges accidentally. Since guns are a virtual non entity in New Zealand, road accidents will naturally receive more attention.
Road “accidents” occur, more often than not, as a result of bad choices by drivers, e.g. drunk driving, speeding, overtaking on double yellow lines, to name but a few. An annoying aspect of road accidents, especially when drunks are involved, is that the drunken driver will kill or injure innocent parties while they themselves, escape unscathed, or at least, relatively so.
It is generally accepted that the USA has a marvellous road system in general and a wonderful Interstate Highway (Motorway) system in particular. If better roads make better drivers, the USA should have good driving statistics.
The approximate population of the USA is 292 Million and, in 2002, 42815 people were killed in road accidents, which works out at 1 person in 6790 being a traffic fatality.
In New Zealand, from Jan.-June 2003, 231 people were killed, which means that, if the average is maintained, 462 people will die by the end of the year. The population of New Zealand is considered to be 4 Million, and so 462 out of 4 Million means that 1 person in 8658 will be a traffic fatality.
The UK, with a population of some 60 Million, and with some roads every bit as bad as New Zealand roads, had 3443 road deaths in 2001, which meant that 1 person in 17,426 was a fatality. Better roads make better drivers-yeah, right!!!!!!!!!!
Today’s society is becoming, rapidly and increasingly, one where people are very quick to demand their rights and very slow to accept/face up to, their responsibilities, and there is no better example of this than the USA. The accepted “norm” there is to blame somebody, anybody for your own stupidity and bad choices. A classic example is the woman who went to the McDonalds drive through, got a “coffee to go,” spilled it, scalded herself, sued Mc Donalds for not warning her that it was hot, and won her case!!! There was recently a “class action” lawsuit instituted by a “wanna-be-rich lawyer” on behalf of fat people, against fast food outlets such as McDonalds, Burger King etc. The suit blamed the restaurants for selling hamburgers, fries etc., that made people fat, fortunately a sensible judge tried the case and it was thrown out.
New Zealand, sadly, seems to be heading in the same direction. Violent students not accepting responsibility for their actions, a drunk arrested for his 3rd. or 4th. drunk driving offence, blaming the fact that there was no taxi available to take him home and totally ignoring the fact that he could have gone home earlier and probably had no problem getting a cab. Another drunk, irate at being caught driving drunk by the police, said it was all their (the police’s) fault for arresting him and making him lose his licence, no responsibility (according to him) attached to him for driving in the state that he was and being a danger to innocent people as well as himself.
It is always very sad when anyone dies prematurely, and especially when it is in a traffic accident, which could so often have been avoided, as opposed to an illness. It is, however, no good blaming roads for traffic accidents, only a more responsible attitude by drivers will do anything to reduce the number of deaths on the roads.
Better roads most certainly do not make better drivers, only better driving will do that!
- Alun Fosta is a New Zealand writer

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