Recession ‘good for road safety’

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A new report has said there is ‘clear evidence’ that the economic downturn and ensuing financial hardship has helped improve road safety.

While the economic struggles may have been bad news for many businesses and individuals the study says it helped drive an unexpected drop in deaths and injuries on the roads.

The International Transport Forum report examined six studies from OECD countries which assessed how the financial crisis of 2008 onwards affected road safety issues, including fatalities.

It concluded that there was clear evidence that when economic growth declines, particularly when unemployment increases, there is an decrease in fatalities and serious injuries on the roads.

According to the report, the financial and economic crises which started in 2007 were accompanied by marked falls in annual numbers of road deaths in most OECD countries larger than they had experienced before.

The report’s authors said that the various studies showed that the decrease in deaths and injuries could not simply be put down to improving safety standards in vehicles and showed there were three “mechanisms” related to financial problems that helped improve safety.

First was an overall slowing of growth or decline in traffic volumes as economies contracted and commerce suffered.

Secondly was a reduction in the number of drivers from high-risk groups on the road. These groups were usually young males and the decline in the number of them taking to the road was in part linked to higher unemployment.

The final factor was identified as a decrease in dangerous driving habits such as speeding and drink driving, linked to a fall in disposable income. The suggestion is that with less money to cover fines and the cost of vehicle repairs motorists were more cautious at the wheel.