Danger in the Dark

It was a dark and stormy night. The rain pounded down except when gusting winds assisted its ambitions to swipe sideways. The orange glow of the streetlights were insufficient to illuminate the deeper darkness of swallowing puddles. The music of murder mysteries and horror films drifted through the minds of any observer with an appropriately mischievous sense of humour.

It was dark and stormy, but it wasn’t night yet. It was only half past five. It just felt like night since the clocks had been turned back.

Surely the weather would compel anyone with a choice to stay cosy behind closed curtains with feet safely dry in slippers.

Yet due to the time of clock, a multitude do not have such a choice.

They may dodge, coatless, from office to car, as they try, unsuccessfully, to walk between the raindrops, drenched despite the minuscule distance they have covered. They may walk with only umbrellas to protect them, despite the curious accessory’s inability to deal with precipitation when it falls round corners and splashes up from inconsiderate wheels. Or they may don waterproof trousers, coat and boots to bicycle down busy roads, mounted lights illegally flashing. They will still be wet on arrival because the gear, no matter how breathable its advertisement, kept the dampness of exertion in as much as the rain out.

No one who goes outside comes home dry. And along with the discomfort, there is danger. Cue music.

No, I’m not thinking of murderers or even muggers. Many more are killed or injured on the roads than by criminals. And the dangers only increase on dark, stormy Autumn nights. (Although admittedly there are fewer vulnerable users, i.e. motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians, out on the road, bringing down the absolute numbers of casualties.)

November and December can boast the added danger of hosting the lead up to Christmas. So people are drinking. Some are drinking and driving, and drinking and cycling or drinking and walking can be dangerous too. Intoxicated pedestrians have been known to step out in front of moving vehicles without looking.

This dangerous season, the Government’s THINK! Campaign against drink driving celebrates its 50th year. And its success in changing the mind-set of millions is clear, not only from the long-declining trend in road traffic accidents, injuries and fatalities, but also in attitudinal surveys. The results of the latest are described in the following article: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/92-of-people-feel-ashamed-to-drink-and-drive-as-50th-anniversary-think-campaign-is-launched.

The THINK! Campaign has branched out over the years to expound the dangers of speeding, drugs, fatigue and mobile phone use when driving. It has reminded people to wear their seatbelts and be aware of motorcyclists, bicyclists and other less visible, more vulnerable road users. It has worked with schools and in partnership with local governments and emergency services around the country. But it doesn’t rest on its laurels.

As the article and the newest campaign advertisement say, even one death on the roads is too many. Because every serious injury or fatality on the road can destroy not just the victim’s life, but their loved ones. And despite the relatively lenient view of the law and even insurance companies, the person who causes injury or death when simply undertaking the everyday task of driving has terrible guilt to bear for the rest of their lives.

So we need to be reminded how to drive safely every year by THINK!. We need the campaign as a minimum in the absence of being re-tested or re-educated on a regular basis, as @johnstreetdales once put forward in an editorial in @TransportXtra or as those on a speed awareness course have experienced. And we need to hope that the violent, death-preceding music that accompanies dark, stormy nights on our television screens doesn’t follow us onto the reality of dangerous roads.

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