Death on the roads – Article lacks logic

Letter to the editor of the British Medical Journal, 26 June, 2006, commenting on Unsafe driving behaviour and four wheel drive vehicles: observational study, by Lesley Walker, Jonathan Williams and Konrad Jamrozik.

EDITOR — Walker et al show convincingly that drivers and other occupants of heavy four wheel drive vehicles are safer in crashes than those in smaller or lighter vehicles and those on foot or cycle.1 They also show that drivers of these vehicles use mobile phones more often and seat belts less often than drivers of other cars.

But by conflating mobile phone use (which distracts drivers) and non-use of seat belts (which makes drivers feel less safe) as equally important examples of illegal and dangerous practices they have sown confusion and undermined the prospect of a constructive approach to road safety.

Using mobile phones and not using seatbelts have opposing consequences for other road users. The distraction caused by mobile phones increases the threat to others, but the non-use of seat belts decreases it. As the authors note, deaths of pedestrians, cyclists, and rear seat passengers increased (by 8%, 13%, and 28% respectively) after laws mandating the use of seat belts in front seats were introduced in the United Kingdom.

To follow this debate on the BMJ website and to view the full article commented on see: http://bmj.bmjjournals.com/cgi/content/full/333/7558/71

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