A road safety campaigner is calling on young people to demonstrate at next week’s World Safety Conference in London to protest about the organisers blaming ‘youth, music and poverty’ for road traffic crashes.
Dr Ian Roberts is a trustee of RoadPeace, a UK charity for the victims of road traffic crashes. He says conference organisers are wrong to point the finger of blame at the victims of crashes.
On the conference agenda is a slot setting out music, youth and poverty as the biggest causes of death on Britain’s roads, and calling for better education for young people about the dangers of using portable music players when moving around in urban areas.
But Dr Roberts, professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, says that at the root of the problem of road death and injury is dangerous road traffic. And he believes this is being covered up because the car lobby, which has a vested interest in maintaining the status quo, has such a huge influence on the road safety community.
He said, “We must reclaim our streets and neighbourhoods from the lethal motor vehicle traffic that currently blights them so that we can begin to move our bodies again, in the way that they were designed to be moved. Youth and music are not the causes of road death – wealthy middle aged men who refuse to surrender their cars, or even consider alternative forms of transport, are the problem.”
Dr Roberts got involved in RoadPeace after working as a trauma doctor and seeing the victims of countless traffic accidents. He believes that the de-motorisation of towns and cities will require the greatest human mobilisation in history but that it will usher in a safer and more sustainable society.
He said, “Our dependence on motorised transport has made us fatter and less fit. It has made the roads more dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists, and driven many them off the streets and back into their cars, further increasing the demand for transport. It has made controlling oil supplies the primary strategic objective of nation states so that scarce resources that should be devoted to building a sustainable economy are instead spent on war and destruction.
“We should look to a future where there will be fewer road deaths and injuries, cleaner air and much less traffic noise. Urban infrastructure must show a new respect for humanity. The torrent of lies that has been used to justify the ‘accidental’ deaths of 3,000 people each day on the world’s roads and the daily disabling of 30,000 more, will take its place in history alongside the justifications for slavery, racism and imperial war.”
Dr Roberts is calling on London’s youth to picket the safety conference and to demand a future where real road safety is prioritised above wars over oil. He said, “Young people and music are the future – not causes of road traffic crashes. This is an issue of public space – who owns our roads? The idea that people have to be really careful when walking or cycling around our cities not to be killed by speeding cars is a hideous distortion.”