At the beginning of the month, the ONISR (National Interministerial Observatory for Road Safety) published its 2021 report. In the midst of the legislative (and Donbass) campaign, the media barely mentioned it.
Unsurprisingly, the number of deaths rose after the record of 2020, a year marked by the Covid. But the effect of the pandemic is still being felt and with 3,219 killed, mortality remains 8% lower than in 2019.
Proof of the Covid effect, it is the 15-24 year olds deprived of parties and nightclubs for part of the year and the over 75s, inclined to remain confined, who record the largest drops, respectively by 23%. and 16%.
In other words, we are no longer progressing. Even the 80 km/h, although it must have saved a few dozen lives, did not keep its great promises.
And for once, I can only approve of the Drivers’ Defense League which points to this stagnation: ” Road mortality amounted to 3,495 in 2013. It was in 2019, just before the Covid, 3,498.
Agree with them too to conclude that adding ever more ever more efficient and even on-board radars does not do much. The enormous and sudden impact they had from 2002 to 2006 is behind us, it is not an opinion, but an observation.
Admittedly, I don’t imagine that they will be withdrawn – it would be the assurance of a real butchery, and even the League, however radical it may be, does not ask for it – but it is time to ask questions on the policy to be pursued.
We are back to the balance sheet of 1926
At this point, we can take two sides.
1/ Either consider that since the peak in 1972 and its 18,000 deaths (at 30 days), we have divided the number of victims by almost six and even, taking into account the size of the vehicle fleet, by eighteen the probability to leave his skin on the asphalt. Road Safety found pre-war statistics in a drawer: we came back to the 1926 balance sheet, when there were 50 times fewer cars in circulation.
In short, to deduce that we can stop there, that the human drain is bearable given the social utility and the economic importance of the motor vehicle, much more bearable in the sense that the human tolls of skiing, paragliding, Downhill mountain biking, kite-surfing and other fun and dispensable occupations.
2/ Either consider that seeing the equivalent of the population of a large town perish every year is not tolerable and that each life saved counts. This has always been my point of view but I no longer know what conclusions to draw from it.
Do ADAS help?
Reduce the speed further? The 80 km/h on the road has not saved as many lives as promised for the simple reason that it is not respected. Respectable, I don’t know, but it’s clear that we won’t be able to cram the departmental roads of Mesta.
We can already bet that the AIV speed limiter (intelligent speed adaptation) which will be compulsory from next month on new models and in July 2024 on all new cars will not change much. And that it is first on these roads at 80 km / h that it will most often be disconnected by drivers.
Improve the cars further? I don’t believe it: between 1990 and 2002 the quasi-generalization of airbags, reinforced interiors and ABS had only a weak impact. In two years, from late 2002 to 2004, automatic radar saved more lives than these technologies in the previous decade.
Same observation today: the increasingly wide distribution of ADAS which, in our place, monitor the blind spot, correct our trajectories and brake in the event of an emergency does not inflect the curve of deaths one bit.
Again, this is not an opinion, but a statistical fact.
In short, we will have to find other solutions and for that to understand why with motorbikes, trucks and ever safer cars, ever more guarded roads and a society where the over 60s now outnumber the under 20 years, we still manage to crash into each other, crush and topple each other.
Obviously, it is in our noggins that this happens.
The stepladder theory
I could talk to you about the rise of individualism, the loss of civic sense and respect for others, the savagery of society, that’s what everyone around me emphasizes. But I do not believe it. Because I’m like Saint Thomas and don’t see it. In any case, not on the road.
People who behave like pigs, cheating on death, in a hurry, indifferent kids who drive organized crime, there have always been and there always will be. More than before ? Much less in my opinion.
What has changed is our perception of risk, at all.
We know, we can see that we die less on the road. We know, we can see that our cars are infinitely safer and “considerate” than ten or twenty years ago and also that, as a general rule, traffic has slowed down and calmed down.
And what do we do with this perception of less danger? The same thing as the handyman to whom we give a more stable stepladder: we break our necks for having leaned more, for having climbed higher, for having paid less attention or by descending or ascending it more quickly. This phenomenon, skilfully baptized risk homeostasis, is unfortunately verified in the slightest human action and helps to understand why a safer car is not less dangerous.
The solution will not be police
Especially since at the same time, our sources of distraction, from GPS to smartphone via multifunction screens have multiplied, it must be recognized that we have less eyes on the road, hands on the steering wheel and head to the driving.
This cocktail of ultra-distraction of our brains and cars that pamper and reassure us can only be deadly.
What response can the politician make to this observation, frankly, I do not see and as a bonus it is not my job.
I would still have a little advice to give to the new Minister of Transport: that he or she quickly recovers in his lap the Delegation for road safety, attached for fourteen years to the Ministry of the Interior.
Because it is not the police who will find another solution to the stagnation in the number of killed than ever more radars. We now know that it doesn’t work anymore.
These fourteen years of police road safety, where the curve of fatalities has flattened, will have been the perfect demonstration of this.
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