Cars have brought an unparalleled degree of freedom to millions of people around the world. We have come to expect to travel wherever and whenever we want, either using our own vehicle or by hailing a taxi. The benefits have been enormous, enabling our generation to spend the working week commuting between different cities, and the weekends travelling to visit friends and family.
The costs of this freedom – in terms of road traffic injuries and atmospheric pollution – have been considerable but technological advances could reduce these costs. In a few decades, our shiny new autonomous electric vehicles might have consigned accidents and petrol stations to the history books.
After decades of cars remaining largely unchanged, motorists are now confronted with a bewildering array of power systems (diesel, petrol, LPG, hybrid, electric only) and "essential" driver aids such as satellite navigation, Bluetooth connections for gadgets, cruise control, lane departure warnings, vehicle stability control, anti-lock braking, parking sensors and self-parking.
This technological wizardry offers the potential for us to continue to travel freely without having to invest significant effort in planning a journey or driving with a modicum of skill… which is fine until something goes wrong.
In recent years, the bureaucracy of travelling has become streamlined and it is easier than ever before to buy car insurance or drive through Europe on holiday. Sadly, whatever your views about the European Union, the bureaucracy associated with taking your car across the English Channel is likely to become more onerous than in recent years.
A few weekends ago, my wife and I found ourselves in a lengthy post office queue. We needed a couple of International Driving Permits (IDP) to make sure that a long-planned weekend trip to France was not affected by complicated political uncertainties. When we eventually got to the front of the queue, we paid the fee (£5.50), handed over our passport-sized photos and watched a hard-working clerk meticulously transcribe the details from our modern driving licences – with their holograms and integrated photos – into large grey 1950s-style booklets. We felt as though we’d been teleported back into a long-distant age when personal computers and mobile phones were the stuff of science fiction. The price of driving freely in Europe had just gone up by £5.50 and 30mins of inconvenience.
In addition, I am expecting to pay an administrative fee for our car insurer to issue a "free" green card which confirms that our car is insured for continental driving.
At an individual level, such costs and inconveniences are relatively minor. When multiplied across all the British companies that trade internationally, this extra and unnecessary bureaucracy will add significant costs to the UK economy at a time when we should instead be addressing the growing burden of accidental injury by investing in the three Es of prevention: Enforcement, Engineering and Education.
According to Alison Thewliss MP (chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Working at Height), "…falls from height are still too prevalent. In the past year alone, 35 families in the UK have been devastated by the loss of loved ones and many more will have had to deal with life-changing injuries."
During the group’s parliamentary launch of its report into the subject, RoSPA Archangel Paul Blanchard gave a powerful account of the way his life changed as a result of a fall. RoSPA is proud to support the report’s recommendations, which focus on capturing evidence and using this to raise awareness amongst employers and the 10 million British employees who work at height. The recommendations should help ensure that UK workplaces remain among the safest in Europe.
However, it is important not to ignore a far bigger challenge. In 2017, almost half (40 per cent) of the UK’s 14,095 fatal accidents were caused by falls. Older people aged 65 and over suffered the vast majority of these falls (90 per cent) in the privacy of their homes. Domestic falls are often the result of unsuitable equipment such as rickety ladders, lone working and inadequate risk assessments (i.e. poor planning). We could make a huge impact on the UK’s burden of injury by thinking about our own elderly relatives and enabling them to work at height by using the safe systems that we take for granted in the workplace and applying them to our home environments. Accidents don’t have to happen!
(Image by Helena Cuerva from Pixabay)
Posted: 4/9/2019 11:43:37 AM