The Need for Returns of Road Accidents.
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ONE of the recommendations of the Committee of Representatives of Police Forces and of Road Users, which reported last March, was that coroners should be provided With forms for the purpose of making a return of the causes of fatal accidents on the road. There were 22 classified causes In the model form, but it would appear that at least two additions are required if such a return is to inform the public as well as to provide material for devising remedial measures.
In recent months a good deal has been heard about the drunken driver and the physically unfit driver. Probably the public, by reason of the prominence given to certain cases in the daily Press, have gained a wrong idea as to the extent of drunkenness among drivers and of the menace of partly disabled drivers. Whilst nobody will cavil at the stiff penalty proposed in the Criminal Justice Bill to be inflicted on the drunken driver, it would be highly instructive to see returns showing the extent of the evil, as indicated both by accidents and convictions. Similarly, with regard to the physically unfit driver, we ought to know the extent to which he is a danger, particularly when the demand is made in some quarters for a physical test before driving licences are granted. In the suggested coroners' return, which, it is understood, finds favour with the Ministry of Transport, reference might be made to those two conditions, which are not sufficiently covered by such headings as "inexperienced driver" and "negligent driving."
But something more than the return of fatalities and their causes is required if we are to be given a complete picture. This can only be obtained satisfactorily from returns of all road accidents throughout the country that are serious enough to demand the attention of the police. It is not likely that, in these days of inspection, supervision, Inquiry and other administrative impositions, a national system of inquiry by Government agents into all kinds of road accidents would be tolerated, even if it were practicable. It is possible, however, to collate, centrally, returns from the local 018 police relating to road accidents that have come within their purview in connection with court proceedings, or otherwise, and the causes of which have been ascertained. This would afford a great deal of valuable information. Meanwhile, it is significant to note that the Under-Secretary to the Home Office, when asked in Parliament the other day to give the number of motorists convicted on more than one occasion for being drunk while driving, and the number of prosecutions within the last six months of motorists suffering from physical defects which are regarded as a bar to efficient driving, had to admit that he was not in a position to give the information.