1950s >> 1956 >> no-628-december-1956

Road Accidents — Why?

In recent years a great deal of attention has been focused on the problem of the ever-increasing casualty rate built up by the large number of fatal road accidents.

This problem is international in character, and is found in every country where modern transport methods are being used. As the fatal accidents go on increasing the social nature of the problem becomes evident, and governments are taking over the management of roads from local authorities and other voluntary bodies in an effort to devise ways and means of alleviating the worst effects, but without success. In common with other social problems, such as war, crime, health and poverty, very little progress is made towards a solution. In an endeavour to force people to follow a certain pattern of behaviour, new regulations are made and very severe penalties imposed on drivers. Road Safety campaigns are launched, and the clergy are prepared to denounce bad road users as sinners, but in spite of the application of these devices, almost to the point of persecution, the problem persists undiminished. The cause is quite evident, and is in fact recognised by various experts advising governments. For instance, Lord Derwent, chairman of the British Road Federation, at a conference in London on 17th September this year, made the following remarks: “There is not a nation in the world today that is so prosperous, so rich in resources, or so lacking in design and engineering skill that it can tolerate for further decades the utter waste of time, precious fuel and general wear and tear that happens every day in the traffic jams that are a blight on practically all major cities.” He also went on to state that “Seventy-five per cent, of Britain’s road accidents happened in built-up areas, where there were too many vehicles, too many pedestrians, and too many cyclists.” Similar opinions have been expressed from time to time by road engineers, safety experts, social investigators and motor and transport organisations, who have carried out a great deal of research in an effort to find a solution.

Most of the factors that lead to congestion on the roads are the result of capitalist development, and indeed are necessary to the furtherance of a capitalist economy—the transference of freight traffic from the railways to road transport services at lower cost and with greater efficiency (this also applies to passenger traffic), the need for mobility of labour, requiring quick easy travel at low cost, and the creation of large housing estates far removed from sources of employment. There is also a very large increase in the number of vehicles used by commercial firms providing low cost and efficient transport for directors, travellers and salesmen. The same facilities are required for people engaged in professional work, and those employed by local authorities. Add to this the many thousands of pleasure motorists and tourists to complete the picture of chaos on the roads.

The origin of many social problems is contained within capitalist society in embryo, and grow more or less at the some pace as its development. Since it is essential for capital to be invested in profitable projects, it is inevitable that the social problems must continue. The alternative is to change the basis of society from a capitalist economy to one based on common ownership, Socialism.

J. Cuthbertson