Have you seen this - shock absorbant lamp posts.
At first this seemed a wonderfully obvious way to reduce fatal road accidents, but with any social proposal we must investigate the unseen effects. Should we be making roads safer? I think not.
Here's a great statistic (and whilst I fundamentally abhore statistics, those which are used to assail other statistics are palatable!) in 1922 there were about 7 child road accident fatalities per 100,000 children. In 1986, there were only about 4. In 1922 there were about 80 child road accident fatalities per 100,000 vehicles. In 1986 the figure was less than 5. A dramatic fall.
(source: Hillman et al. 1990, cited in John Adams, "Risk")
According to government reports, this demonstrates that roads are safer. They completely ignore the fact that since we deem roads to be more dangerous, we're more protective of our children. In fact, fatality rates for teenagers has dramatically risen, suggesting that all the protection given to the young weakens their ability to develop road skills when old enought to have independence.
So returning to lamp posts..... Almost every government study of road safety measures danger to those within vehicles. The government advice to children is to scare them away from roads, and the safety advice to cyclists pretty much mocks you for being foolish enough to dare. The policy is consistently to remove children from the threat of danger, than to reduce the danger itself. The principal measure for road studies is the time-saving for motorists, and making the cacooned safer.
The statisticians tactic to objectify risk cannot work. By insulating people from risk, the propensity to take risks increase. This is why intervention to reduce 'injury hotspots' is likely to increase the chances that the area will become 'fatal hotspots'. In London, traffic moves so slow its almost impossible to be killed in an accident (unless you're a cyclist or pedestrian...) but any measure to increase the flow, ease congestion, and make it easier to drive faster will increase the likelihood of fatal accidents.
And back to lamp posts...... Adams 1992, cited in John Adams, "Risk" shows that the effect of seatbelt legislation has increased road accident deaths in the countries surveyed. It seems that people drive as quickly as they deem safe, and when the environment is adapted to reduce the chance of an accident, speeds will rise.
This all bodes ill for the non-motorist, who's safety is ignored in many of these studies.
Gordon Tullock, Nobel laureate in-waiting at George Mason University suggested that a dagger should be fitted to every steering wheel, pointing to the chest of the driver. That should slow them down!