Tuesday, 3 July 2007

Laws and Physics

Most of the UK has been under deluge of heavy rains for the past week or so. It's like the monsoon season here. Psychalist has been getting wet this week, which is OK, but the camera has been staying in the dry. Here's a topic that isn't easy to get a photo of anyway - Seatbelts.

Not everyone enjoys physics at school, I'll grant you. However, the simple relationship between mass and velocity called momentum can't be lost on so many people, can it?. Every day there are reminders of these laws of physics: knocking down skittles; dropping something delicate on a hard floor; even walking into a door or other hard object.

Why, in the space of a 15 minute ride, can I see so many people in cars not wearing their seatbelts? Some days I don't notice so much but if I try, I can sometimes see, in the length of two and a half miles, up to a dozen folk risking theirs and other's lives. I would say this is significantly more than the 10% that research shows are not wearing belts. Perhaps I ride through pockets of resistance.

I used to think it was predominantly a certain sector of society but it isn't. It doesn't appear to be particular to any one community, religion or class. I see it all over. Some places it may be more noticeable but you can see it everywhere everyday without much effort. Perhaps the only consistent feeling I have about the people that I see without belts is that they tend to be younger drivers but not exclusively. This is confirmed by the Department for Transport's 2007/2008 road safety campaign:

"The 'Backwards' (Pizza) campaign was developed in 2003 and aims to demonstrate the importance of wearing a seatbelt in the front and back of a vehicle. It particularly targets short trips at low speeds in urban areas, as it is most frequently on these types of journeys that drivers don't belt up. 17-24 year old males are the main targets for the media as research suggests that this age group are the worst offenders, but the campaign will be seen by, and is relevant to, a much broader audience."

A recent newspaper called for a review of our stance on speed cameras because they aren't contributing to road safety. Apparently the UK road safety statistics used to be some of the best in the world but are now slipping down the league table of countries. One aspect of deploying speed cameras must be as a solution to limited police resources. The disadvantage of less patrols though, is more folk thinking they can get away with moving traffic violations. I don't think you notice as much from the inside of a car. Being on a bike enables you to see a lot more. I not only see belts not used but also more crafty culprits who leave the belt fastened and then sit on it to make it look like they are wearing it.

Education has to be major factor. I know from first-hand experience the value of a seatbelt. I wouldn't even be writing this today if it were not for one. Some degree of lazyness is also a factor and the younger drivers tend to have a greater sense of immortatlity. Perhaps it's time to bring back the public information adverts with the hammer and the peach. The Think Road Safety campaign is not so sure:

"Seatbelt wearing is not identified as a priority area in FY0607 but following the publication of the 2005 KSI statistics it was agreed that this topic still requires public education. It may be necessary to review the current creative strategy, partly because it is beginning to suffer from over-exposure and partly in order to target more explicitly the occasions when seatbelts are not worn."

Actually, I think my straw poll survey would have an even higher percentage for the non-wearers if I include all the van, bus and taxi drivers. They'll tell you they're exempt but they're not. Only the likes of milkmen and refuse collectors are. The rest are covered by the same laws but I bet not many of them know that.

I think a couple of patrol officers could have a productive hour every few weeks just to remind drivers not only are they breaking one law but they can't break the laws of physics.

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