Put the brakes on this lethal vanity

Public campaigns to get us to modify our behaviour so we might be healthier or live in a less threatening environment usually struggle to be as successful as they might be. This is no fault of the campaigners but rather our deafness, our delusion that we are so in control of our actions that these finger-wagging lectures are aimed at everyone but ourselves.

In recent days, this kind of delusion was highlighted when it was reported that many obese children imagined that they were a normal, healthy weight. That kind of self-deception has convinced many of us that we are far better drivers than we actually are. This reckless vanity, especially when it encourages average or poor drivers to drive far too fast, can have lethal consequences. Launching National Slow Down day yesterday, the gardaí and the Road Safety Authority pointed out that a 1% reduction in average speed will bring about a 4% reduction in fatal collisions. Chief Supt Finbarr Murphy called on drivers to slow down by 5-10km/h to reduce injuries and deaths on the roads.

There has been a huge cultural shift on drink driving. What was once tolerated is now unacceptable, a change reflected in fewer road deaths. There were 157 road deaths in 2017 and, as of October 15, there were 117 — suggesting that the cultural shift is paying dividends. That shift offers a template showing how speeding drivers might be confronted. Try the carrot, but bring a big stick in case that does not work.

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