Do pedestrians even exist? not according to a BBC article on road fatalities

7 Feb

Update – see update note below – the article that I complained about has been updated in response to my complaint and now does mention cyclists and pedestrians.

There is an disappointing article on the BBC News website quoting vehicle safety experts claiming a “Motoring miracle” where “fatal smashes are eliminated”. it goes on to detail loads of super-clever and no doubt expensive technology that ensures that drivers survive “even truly catastrophic accidents” and to help passengers by explaining how the car “can also transmit detailed information about the crash forces experienced by passengers”.

The lead does correctly highlight that over one million people are killed each year on the roads and that human error and driving too fast are ‘at the heart of the issue’ however they then go on to imply that car crashes only happen between two vehicles and only talk about safety for drivers and passengers. No mention of features to protect pedestrians or cyclists, especially no ‘miracles’ that will eliminate the risk to a pedestrian from a vehicle traveling at normal urban speeds.

A ‘road traffic collision’ in legal and professional circles does not need to involve two vehicles. The definition clearly includes a single vehicle where anyone (other than the driver) is injured. The law defines a reportable road traffic collision as “an accident involving a mechanically-propelled vehicle on a road or other public area which causes:

  • Injury or damage to anybody – other than the driver of that vehicle,
  • Injury or damage to an animal- other than one being carried on that vehicle (an animal is classes as a horse, cattle, ass, mule, sheep, pig, goat or dog).
  • Damage to a vehicle – other than the vehicle which caused the accident.
  • Damage to property constructed on, affixed to, growing in, or otherwise forming part of the land where the road is.

The simple fact is that one of the best way of making roads safe for pedestrian is for vehicles to be made to travel more slowly, and to be required to protect everyone including pedestrians. The article fails to mention that the vehicles with offer virtually no pedestrian safety are still offered for sale. For example the £43,oo0 Range Rover which was described in the official report as ‘dire’ back in 2008 but which is still available for sale and use in urban areas.

I have made a complaint to the BBC about the article. Others may also wish to do so.


The trailer for this article, the title of the article and possibly also the content of the BBC article referred to in this post are changing frequently this morning – possibly due to the interest it is generating or possibly that is normal practice. In particular the trailer now reads ‘Auto-braking -Could a computer stop your car from crashing?’. The title of the article is now ‘A future without car crashes’ but still claims that ‘fatal crashes could be eliminated’. A new sentence reading: “Drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists could one day be protected from bad driving” has been inserted.

I am getting a lot of comments to this post, many of they of the ‘get a life’ type which I am not approving. I have been approving comments which in my mind are justified. I have corrected the post to remove my incorrect assertion that the experts were ‘un-named’ or not expert following a comment pointing that error out to me.

On reflection the lead into the article does inform readers that ‘one million people die each year on the roads’ and also that most collisions are a result of human error including driving too fast for the weather conditions, make unwise decisions and fail to notice or anticipate potential hazards. I have adjusted my post to reflect that.

Update 2

The BBC responded to my complaint within a few hours saying that they had updated the article. To quote: “The article did not intend to imply that all victims of road accidents are in cars, and it has been amended to reflect that”.

The article now includes the text “Drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists could one day be protected from bad driving”. However… the Horizon documentary that it was promoting and which was shown last night didn’t once mention pedestrians or cyclists or motorcyclists or anyone else outside the vehicle. In their letter to me the BBC explained that the piece was “largely focused on research being done in the car industry. Much of that, inevitably, relates to car occupants.” I guess it will be inevitable until pedestrian safety ratings get rammed in the manufacturers faces! Not so good that the BBC fell for it though.

17 Responses to “Do pedestrians even exist? not according to a BBC article on road fatalities”

  1. livinginabox February 7, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    Complaint filed.

    • Adam H February 7, 2011 at 11:32 am #

      why? because someone else told you too?

      Go vote for the BNP – they hate cars too!

  2. Chris February 7, 2011 at 10:27 am #

    the bbc article is about getting cars to be able to detect cars crashing in stop. quit your moaning

    • livinginabox February 7, 2011 at 11:11 am #

      While motor-vehicles have their benefits, they have numerous disadvantages.

      Motor-vehicles pollute the air with particulates that kill thousands; they directly facilitate the causing of premature violent death and injury to thousands; they discourage cycling and walking and thereby discourage physical activity thereby promoting obesity; the UK’s obesity levels are the highest in the EU and are growing fastest; obesity is a gateway condition that leads to numerous chronic and life-threatening diseases that are extremely expensive to treat; traffic noise damages community cohesion and diminishes quality of life. Motor-vehicles require facilities: whether it’s storage at home; at work; or wherever parked and roads. There is never enough land paved-over for motor vehicles and that leads to congestion, which obstructs the emergency services including the new bariatric ambulances costing £90,000 each needed to transport to hospital the increasing numbers of obese patients weighing up to 70 stones / 444 kg. Congestion in-turn leads to lost time for car occupants and bus passengers. Also, between 1998-2008 cars injured 319,775 pedestrians, seriously injured 67,224 pedestrians, killed 5,615 pedestrians and killed 561 pedestrians on the pavement, a considerable number of whom were children. (DfT figures).
      Assumes that 10% of pedestrians casualties occurred on the pavement or verge, what was the case 2007-2008.

      Mmmm, aren’t cars wonderful?

      • Adam H February 7, 2011 at 11:31 am #

        deleting my comments b!tch? can’t handle sarcasm?

        Seriously – lighten up you sad, sad person!

      • livinginabox February 7, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

        Brain-fart warning!
        ’70 stones / 444 kg’ was incorrect, it should read ’50 stones / 318 kg’.

  3. Kevin February 7, 2011 at 10:35 am #

    Moan moan moan. You have ulterior motives for making your ‘formal complaint’ and have no idea whether this technology could save pedestrian lives. If you’re so wrapped up in a certain political standpoint you make a blog about it and contact media organisations when they fail to mention it in related articles, you’re probably going a little overboard.

  4. Stumo February 7, 2011 at 10:38 am #

    The technology showing where the road is in fog potentially benefits all road users, especially if the same technology can later highlight cyclists, pedestrian crossings etc.

    Likewise technologies that take into account drivers driving too fast for weather conditions can benefit all.

    I think you’ve been a bit over sensitive on this one.

  5. Biggles February 7, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    ‘Unnamed’? What are you on about? Read the article properly, they’re all named, there are five of them listed.

    It’s quite a good article summarising a programme on BBC2 tonight.

    What on earth is the basis of your complaint? You can’t know whether it summarises the programme well until you’ve seen it.

    Stopping cars crashing will save pedestrians, cyclists, cows, you name it. Or would mentioning that interfere with appears to be your private war against motorists?

  6. Jay Dee February 7, 2011 at 10:58 am #

    Hi, I think you missed the point of the BBC article – its specifically called ‘A future without Car Crashes’, not a future without ‘road traffic collisions’. They are not the same thing. The article focuses nearly exclusively on collisions between cars and the ways of preventing these. As such I dont think pedestrians are excluded, the article does not at any stage suggest that its about accidents in general, it is focussing on the removal of one type of accident, which would be a welcome advancement.

  7. Adam H February 7, 2011 at 11:10 am #

    Firstly, the BBC article is very informative, and well written (unlike yours – “No mention of the children who have are”).

    Secondly, the BBC haven’t once said road traffic accidents (or RTCs as you like calling them) only happen between to cars.

    Jog on mate

  8. Pedestrian First, Cyclist Second, Driver Third February 7, 2011 at 11:37 am #

    Nowhere does the article even imply that these systems are *not* going to help reduce car-pedestrian accidents. They’re simply assessing new technologies, only two of which is directly related to stopping accidents (auto-braking and intelligent windscreens) both of which potentially (and most probably) would help reduce these accidents.

    I actually like your site, and despite achieving what you set out to do (drive traffic to your site), you’ve lost a lot of potential respect by creating a controversy where there really isn’t one.


    Yes cars are bad, but articles like this actually help in improving vehicles by making people aware of the technology available and how it’s beneficial. This creates a demand, which in turn increases the speed at which these technologies are introduced.

    “Motor-vehicles pollute the air with particulates that kill thousands” – New technologies are emerging all the time (electric, hydrogen) which would significantly improve this.

    “…causing of premature violent death and injury to thousands” – The article you are being encouraged to complain about is addressing this exact point.

    As my name suggests, I am first and foremost a pedestrian, I don’t have any objection to your points about congestion or accidents involving pedestrians – especially children). However I will say that obesity should not be used as an argument against driving (I shouldn’t be restricted from driving because other people eat healthily and exercise).
    I would also say that most of the time I’m close to being hit by a car is when I’ve made a mistake (not looking before crossing the road etc.) – human error.

    • livinginabox February 7, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

      I was arguing that the UK’s first place in EU obesity rates results primarily from too many cars. People need exercise. Cars that IIRC have produced the lowest cycling figures in Europe.

      Children get taken to school because of the perceived danger of being hit by cars. Obesity rates in primary schools is 1 in 5.

      People stop cycling. Pedestrians are in real danger when they cross the road.

      All this is fact.
      For example obesity from physical inactivity directly:

      “Motor-vehicles pollute the air with particulates that kill thousands” – ‘New technologies are emerging all the time (electric, hydrogen) which would significantly improve this.’

      Yes, but when? This assumes these new technologies gain significant and rapid penetration into the car fleet.

      There are simple technologies. Cutting-off rat-runs through residential areas (allow access only) and 20 mph limits and stringent penalties and strict enforcement.

      Getting tough on drivers who kill, more lifetime bans.

      Why should the penalty for a child’s mistake be the death penalty?

  9. Peter Miller February 7, 2011 at 12:53 pm #

    Just to say that I have updated the post in response to fair criticism above of the tone of my first version. I have updated both the main text and added an ‘update’ note at the bottom indicating what I have changed. Overall I think it did rather over-react to the BBC piece, however I still think that it is unacceptable to re-define ‘car crashes’ as only being between two vehicles. That is not the definition of the term and allows the experts in this case to duck the whole issues of vehicle/pedestrian collisions and resulting injuries/fatalities. Granted, many vehicles are getting safer for pedestrians, but there will be no ‘miracles’ while cars are as a matter of course driven at speed within inches of pedestrians.

  10. Hex February 7, 2011 at 3:14 pm #

    What a lot of venom in these comments. I wonder what petrolhead forum your article must have gotten linked to in.

  11. Peter Miller February 8, 2011 at 8:15 am #

    Partial success… I received a response to my complaint from the BBC where they said that it was not their intention to imply that all victims of road accidents are in cars and that they has been amended to reflect that. That is good, unfortunately the documentary itself failed to mention pedestrians or cyclists at all. Possibly they will be more careful next time!

  12. David Hembrow February 8, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    What a remarkable set of responses. The tone of the article in the first place was fine. It’s a personal blog, reflecting a personal opinion.

    And I agree that it’s completely unreasonable to define crashes as only involving motor vehicles. It’s not a small issue. There are over a million deaths each year world-wide due to motor vehicles. Half of these deaths are of people outside the vehicles.

    Unfortunately, in Britain we’ve got to the point where both pedestrians and cyclists are so side-lined that they are regularly ignored. It’s not the same everywhere.

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