We can be beguiled by three forms of lies, Mark Twain
used to say, perhaps borrowing from Benjamin Disraeli: “There are lies, damned
lies, and statistics”.
I’m wondering this morning which of the three
categories applies as I read about a report from the Parliamentary Advisory
Council for Transport Safety. This
impressively-titled quango – which no doubt employs at taxpayer expense equally
impressive numbers of staff – asserts that older people (like me) are more
likely to be involved in a serious driving accident than younger people, and
produces statistics to prove the case.
Now I haven’t actually read the report – nobody ever
reads these infernal reports, only the headline-grabbing accounts of them – but
according to PACTS serious road accidents, meaning those involving death or
injury, for all categories of drivers, have fallen 41% since 1970. The same incidents involving the elderly are
as follows: 60-69 year olds minus 37%; 70-79 minus 40%; 80 years and older
Not risen, mind you, but fallen.
But on the basis of these figures, PACTS recommends
re-testing and/or driver-training courses for the aged. What the qualifying, or perhaps
disqualifying, age, for such indignities might be would presumably be decided
in legislation. An Act of Parliament
would involve, at taxpayer’s expense, drafting by armies of parliamentarians,
civil servants and lawyers, and the employment of thousands of enforcers on the
public sector payroll.
Is all this worth the money or inconvenience?
My first response to the report is that the figures
quoted verge on the statistically inconclusive, except arguably in the 80-plus
age group. And if that is an arguable
position, I’m damned if I’m willing to be subjected without protest to the
stresses and strains of a new driving test, or be forced to attend training
Now, as I write this, the post arrives, and I find I’m
obliged to have a new photograph taken for my photo-card license, on pain of a
£1000 fine if I fail to comply. This
requirement is not age-related; it is mandatory every ten years and applies to
everyone. What it means is more expense
and inconvenience for the Department of Vehicle Licensing Agency, and more
expense and inconvenience for me.
My charming phizog hasn’t changed much in the last decade
– at least not to the point of being unrecognizable to a copper with half a
brain and decent eyesight – so what is the point? Perhaps it’s something to do with controlling
immigration, or curbing fraud. If that’s
the case, then why doesn’t the DVLA say so?
Britain seems obsessed in general by matters of
road safety, which is curious as we’re among the European countries with the
best road safety record, and they’re improving.
Or are these lies, too?
PACTS probably employs the same people who devise
those incomprehensible zigs, zags, and squiggles on our roads, the ones that
probably cause the confusion that causes all the accidents that go into the
statistical data base that will cause us all to spend insufferable amounts of time
taking tests, filling in forms and having our pictures taken in railway station
photo booths that double as urinals.
Leave us poor drivers alone, for pity’s sake, and
start picking up the roadside litter instead.