The terrorist attacks in Paris, killing 17 people last week grabbed huge amounts of media & political attention. Attacks of this kind are incredibly rare in Western Europe, while the relatively common occurrence of death on the highway goes virtually unnoticed. I’m not suggesting that terrorist acts should get less coverage, I’m suggesting that road deaths should also be reported, currently you’re more likely to hear about the traffic jam caused by the incident than any information on the casualty.
Facts & Figures
I’ll take 2013 as an example, as we have data for that year & it includes the death of serviceman Lee Rigby & that of Mohammed Saleem, who was killed by a Ukranian student attempting to start a race war. There were no terrorist related deaths in the UK until we get back to 2005 & the London bombings where 56 lives were taken. In between we have some failed attacks, e.g the Glasgow Airport attack in 2007.
- Terrorist related deaths in UK: 2
- Terrorist related injured persons in UK: 0
- Commercial Airline fatalities in World: 224
- Traffic related deaths in UK: 1,713 (lowest recorded since records began)
- Traffic related seriously injured in UK: 21,657
- Total traffic related casualties in UK: 183,670
- Pedal cyclist deaths in UK: 109
From Government Report: “Pedal cyclist deaths have seen a long-term fall, but have fluctuated between roughly 100 and 120 over the last six years. Since records began in the 1920s, the highest annual figure seen for cyclist deaths was 1,536 in 1934. The lowest annual figure for pedal cyclist deaths was 104 in 2009, 93 per cent lower than the 1934 high.”
The Numbers Don’t Add Up
Aside from the lack of media coverage & politicians making no statements whatsoever on road deaths, it also appears that other terrorist attacks also get little or no coverage. On the same day as the Paris attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine workers, there were other attacks in different parts of the world which claimed many more casualties. Boko Haram in Nigeria massacred approximately 2,000 people & a car bomb in Yemen killed 38 people & injured another 66.
This does throw up some possible reasons road deaths are ignored, we’ve may become numbed to them. This could be the reason why loss of life elsewhere in terrorist attacks is also ignored by our press & politicians, we almost expect to hear of incidents in far away places, but when it’s close to home we become emotionally involved. Do we now expect traffic deaths & have they therefore become ‘ordinary’, surely there’s something seriously wrong if that’s the case. Airline casualties are also reported extensively if there is an incident, while the 2013 worldwide total of 224 casualties is only twice that of the pedal cycle deaths in the UK alone. I don’t remember any cycle deaths being reported on the news, but airline stories go on for days & weeks in some cases.
What surprises me is that politicians are incredibly eager to offer money to be spent on anti-terrorism measures, even wars, when spending that money on helping to stop the many preventable deaths, which could be avoided on our roads if a fraction of those vast sums of money were spent in a productive manner relative to the death toll. It looks like media involvement in ‘dramatic’ death carries weight, politicians attempt to gain votes & popularity by offering to fix those problems, while ignoring the ones that affect many more families across the UK.
Another reason could be the pro-driving lobbyists, we could include Jeremy Clarkson as their media representative on the BBC. We all still buy cars which are not limited to the national speed limit, speed cameras are vandalised & complained about, speed restrictions are fought against. At least Edinburgh Council have had the guts to implement a city-wide 20mph limit to reduce deaths, but the lobbyists are already out providing countless reasons why it won’t work & they should be allowed to speed.
The Gist of It
I apologise for the morbid subject of this blog post, but it has become increasingly shocking how little regard is given in the media, or politically, for the loss of cyclists lives on our roads. We really need to increase awareness to the media that we don’t see this as normal, we see this as preventable & an area where resources should be targeted. Are millions of £’s going to be spent on snooping our emails & monitoring our internet use, or would that money be better spent on reducing something like road deaths, which affect many more people & families in the UK than terrorism? Does cycling need an effective lobby group to push for solutions to the death toll, by providing information to the media & political organisations, how on earth do we go about this?
Each life lost, whether that’s in a terror attack, on the road, or in an airline crash is tragic, but the response seems disproportionate to the actual numbers, maybe we need to have a proper debate about how best we can prevent the most number of deaths, rather than hastily jumping on a political bandwagons.