Monday, 3 November 2008

Does the RSA really want to save lives?

This may sound a bit extreme, in the style of the most paranoid conspiracy theories doing the rounds on the blogosphere. So I'm not saying I genuinely believe the following to be true, but it's an interesting thought nonetheless. Namely: does the Irish Road Safety Authority want people to die on the roads in order to remain in business?

Would it not be self-defeating for the RSA to achieve its stated goals? In such an event, it could not make a career out of “road safety” any more, could it? Let’s face it, such an organisation is effectively a business (albeit funded by the taxpayer) – even employing the language of business in its remit to:

“reduce death and injury resulting from road collisions” through “cooperation with many stakeholders working in the area of road safety, including the Gardai, education sector, health sector, local authorities, National Roads Authority, the media and of course the general public”.

Gombeen Man loves the “and of course the general public” bit.

As with any State-funded industry, the interest of the RSA is to build a whole self-perpetuating bureaucracy around itself, providing a purpose - and employment - for self-appointed “experts” in that field. So, what would these people do with themselves if road deaths ceased altogether?

In Britain, for instance, the whole road safety industry has taken on a momentum of its own, with thousands of quangos promoting and expanding the use of speed cameras – which do not reduce road deaths. (See Daily Telegraph article: Failure of speed cameras and Safespeed.)

It has been said before on this blog - and will probably be said again and again - that if Gay Byrne and the RSA are serious about reducing road deaths, they can do so at a single stroke. They can get our high-tax Government to abolish VRT (vehicle registration tax) on electronic stability control systems (ESC).

According to Thatcham, the British insurance industry research group, ESC systems (also known as ESP, DSC, VSC, PSM, depending on maker) can reduce road deaths by 40%. That’s right – FORTY PER CENT. So why does the Government insist on taxing this crucial safety feature, which can prevent drivers losing control of their cars in adverse road situations?

Because the tax is applied to ESC, it makes it more than twice as expensive to install on some cars. As a result, many manufacturers do not fit it as standard on vehicles sold here, but leave it as an option (to keep base prices down in a market where some cars are over already 40% more expensive than in other EU states, due to VRT).

On a Nissan Qashqai, for instance, ESC costs an extra EUR 800 in Ireland, but it is fitted as standard in Germany. According to a salesman in a Nissan showroom contacted by Gombeen Man, only about 2% of people ordered ESC on Qashqai bought there.

Taxing ESC, is akin to taxing seatbelts. It is akin to taxing Airbags. So, this Government is actively killing people - and Gay Byrne and the RSA has nothing to say about it, preferring to bleat on about the failed technology of speed cameras.

Once again, we must wait for Brussels to rescue us from our own Government. The European Commission hopes to make ESC mandatory on all new cars by 2011. Until then, hundreds of Irish people will die needlessly on our roads.

The Irish Government - helped by the silence of the RSA - is responsible for this carnage.

See also: Gay Byrne calls for speed cameras - again

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Anonymous said...

Interesting post, Gombeenman, but you miss the key point. The RSA is another example of Government spending which cannot be questioned because it has control of an issue which is so serious. Some of its work is essential (testing and licensing) but there will always be deaths on the road and no one will ever know whether the RSA advertising has any effect.

The Gombeen Man said...

Sure Anon, we'll never know exactly - for 100% certain - what input groups like the RSA make in terms of reducing fatalities. Clarkson had something similar in his column yesterday regarding speed cameras in Britain.

Thing is, stability control systems have been proven to reduce road deaths... Euro NCAP see them as the greatest safety advance since seat belts.

Are those in the RSA not aware of this? If not, they should be sacked. If they do know about the research (and I'm sure they do), why aren't they telling the Goverment to reduce VRT on cars with this safety feature?

The Government tax makes these safey systems twice as expensive for those who tick them on the options box. The RSA should be drawing attention to - and campainging on - this, I think.

C'est La Craic said...

In France they've just brought in a law saying you have to have one of those plastic flourescent triangles in your car. You also must place it something like 10 metres behind your car should you break down. Of course everytime a car passes the fucking thing falls down. There's already been one death due to someone trying to cahse down their triangle.
But of course if the police arrive while your broken down, and you have no triangle, you lose points and pay a fine.
You would have to wonder wouldn't you

The Gombeen Man said...

God... that story about the poor bugger meeting his end while chasing a safety triangle would be funny if it weren't real.

You certainly would have to wonder.

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Boater said...

I nearly killed a man walking on the road 2 days ago. It was on the Road from Kealkill to Bantry in Co. Cork. I was going 60km on a 100km road. The man was on my left just after a bend and a big van was coming against me on my right. I braked hard and just missed him Thank God. I was driving way under the speed limit and I was being careful but his death would still have been my fault! The whole road to Bantry is non-stop bends with high hedges/ditches that it is impossible to see around/over. This type of narrow, twisted road with no hard shoulder seems to be in the majority here. How many lives could be saved if no hedge/ditch on a road bend could be higher than 3 feet tall. At least this might give walkers a chance of be seen. It is criminal for the RSA, the Government, County Councils, etc. to allow this terrible - and easily fixable - visability problem to continue to exist all over Ireland. Joan, County Cork

The Gombeen Man said...

That's a subject that I've raised myself elsewhere on this blog, Joan. I think the authorities find it easy to blame everyone and everything but themselves. Even here in Dublin - a major "urban" centre - there are places where children have to walk to school on roads without footpaths and with bad visibility... and as you say, even if hedges where cut back, especially on blind spots and bends I am sure lives really could be saved.