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ROAD ACCIDENTS - Prevent or Punish? Bad laws are the worst sort of tyranny - Burke

ROAD ACCIDENTS - Prevent or Punish? by J.J. Leeming, Cassell – London, 1969

A friend gave me this book and it is such a delight that I have just paid an exorbitant price to buy my own copy from Amazon - intelligent honesty, passion, insight and information written thirty-five years ago but still relevant today.

The cover flap blurb must suffice for the moment for lack of time to do a proper review:

β€œIt is of no practical use to say that such-and-such must or could or should or might cause accidents. We must know if it does cause them.”

John Leeming argues that the whole effect of our present motoring laws and the propaganda to which we are all subjected is to concentrate attention on punishing the motorist rather than on discovering what causes accidents. Indeed our present police procedure actually makes it impossible for the local traffic engineer to discover the cause. Until we stop hounding the motorist and concentrate on discovering the cause of accidents, the appalling slaughter on the road will continue.

The responsibility of the police is confined to proving that the motorist has broken a law. No one questions why he broke the law – there may be any one of a dozen reasons connected with road layout or surfacing or inefficient and sometimes invisible signs. But these are not investigated and continue to trap motorists, causing a stream of accidents from the same cause at the same place.

A long succession of Transport Ministers have been faced with an ever-increasing accident rate. They have all blamed the motorist and the motor manufacturer. They have imposed continually restrictive speed limits and ever more swingeing penalties. But they have never accepted that the first essential of preventing accidents and the financing of the road improvements which must inevitably follow.

We shall never, says Mr. Leeming, solve the problem of road accidents until we concentrate on prevention and not, as at present, on punishment.

For forty years Mr. Leeming has been concerned, as a professional engineer, with the problem of road traffic. As Assistant to Lt.-Col. G.T. Bennett, County Survey of Oxfordshire in the early Thirties, the first traffic engineer to study accidents on the site, he learnt at an early stage in his career the vital importance of accident prevention rather than punishment. As County Surveyor of Dorset he has been responsible for the roads in a county, and continued to study accidents on the roads.

His book is the first to be written by a professional engineer who has specialized in the problem of modern road traffic. It is an essential work for all who are responsible for our safety on the roads and should be widely read by all motorists whose interests he champions so vehemently and so persuasively.

The dedication is also worth quoting:

This book is dedicated to the countless thousands who have died on the roads of the world as the result of the prejudices of a minority, as some reparation and in the faint hope that it may induce some government, somewhere, to begin trying to stop accidents.