Get over the M4 coach crash paranoia

Crashed BusDeath on the roads! Nightmare coach crash! Take double decker coaches out of service! Britain has been in the grip of coach crash paranoia over the last two days after a nasty accident on the M4 close to Heathrow [BBC]. Suggestions in the newspapers have ranged from compulsory seatbelts (sensible) through to the idea to fit black box flight recorders to buses (mad – have these people never heard of the tachograph?)

Yet let’s put this in perspective. While any road death is a tragedy, and my sympathy is with the victims, 2 people have died in this accident. Few in comparison to the 3201 people that died on UK roads in 2005 [National Statistics]. Bus and coach travel is really safe by any comparison, and to over-report a relatively minor incident like this has the same impact as the over-reporting of rail accidents – creating the implication that a means of travel is more dangerous than is actually the case.

So everyone, please get a grip. Coach travel is really adequately safe. You are far more likely to die when you walk across the street tomorrow on the way to the coach station to take a coach journey somewhere than you are to come to a nasty end in the coach itself. So let’s all just be a bit more sensible about this.

One thought on “Get over the M4 coach crash paranoia

  1. Apologies that this is not a new thought, but the response to this accident is just one example of the broader issue of (largely but not entirely media-driven) exaggerated over-response to real but really not very extensive problems. The UK public debate is very good at this kind of over-response – the 1991 Dangerous Dogs Act is perhaps the classic example, but the severe over-regulation of school trips as a result of an extremely small number of problems is also one that has got some publicity recently.

    We have a totally distorted approach to the issue of risk in public policy.

    For an interesting recent proper (but readable) look into this, I recommend http://www.brc.gov.uk/publications/risk_report.asp

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