I’ve fought many hundreds of road traffic accident trials but you hardly need me to tell you that the biggest cause of all of them is people driving too fast. Far too fast for the circumstances. When it rains, you should allow for twice the normal stopping distance. You don’t though, do you, dear British driver? Instead, you behave as if you were somehow out there in the wet and not inside your car. You speed up, you drive closer to the car in front, you act like you’ve got a deathwish.
The biggest problem with road traffic accident trials is that most drivers are ill equipped mentally to understand what is really happening on the road around them. It’s hardly surprising. They know they won’t get caught for most transgressions of the Highway Code. Besides, being able to properly deal with information coming in through a 360° arc, whilst moving, being able to manage three pedals with two feet and any number of controls with two hands, these are beyond the wit of most folk when an accident situation arises. In court, very few people are able to properly recall what happened. This largely down to two factors. The first, as just described, is that they aren’t very skilled drivers. The second is the perfectly natural urge to reconstruct events so that it is never your fault.
All the road traffic accident trials I have fought turned on an evidential argument between the parties as to what actually happened. Rarely were there third-party witnesses. When there were, these people often added to the confusion. Either that or they were deliberately lying to help one side or the other. When those witnesses lined up on my opponent’s side, those cases were very easy to win because it was remarkably easy for an experienced advocate such as myself to unpick the conspiracy to lie. Unless you’ve been in court many times, you are unlikely to deceive the barrister cross-examining you. If you want to be honest and tell the truth in a civil trial, please read my guide for how to be a good witness in court.
Many of these arguments would be disposed of if drivers used cams in their vehicles. Ideally, they would carry both a dash cam and a duplicate for the rear view. It ought to be possible to calculate both the speed they were travelling at and obtain a clear picture of how an accident happened. With such evidence, we would no longer need to waste time and money arguing about whether the accident happened at one spot on the road or another, whether one photograph or another best described the scene or what the driving conditions were at the time. We should make regulations that dictate all new cars sold in the UK have these cams and their use mandatory. Just us having the knowledge that a certain proportion of drivers are filming everything is likely to have some impact on drivers. Compared to the cost of running a motor, the cost of these devices is moderate.
In Russia, these cams have started to be widely used owing to the bonkers road conditions people face there. We’ve all seen the sans-froid with which Russian cows deal with being unexpectedly tipped onto a carriageway. Just in case you haven’t, here it is again, repeated three times for some reason in this video:
They look like they’ve seen it all before. So do the numerous Russian pedestrians who find themselves right in amongst car chaos when simply crossing the road. How many people are killed on Russian roads each year? The answer is approximately 36,000. In fact, the Russian Federation is statistically nowhere near the top of the most dangerous countries to be on a road in. The full list is below, compiled from figures from the World Health Organisation, ordered according to how many deaths there are per 100,000 of the population. The safest countries are at the top of the list, the most dangerous countries are at the bottom. The UK ranks 36th, Russia 167th. I couldn’t help wondering how Scotland would fare if it was an independent country because they drive like complete nutters there. Leaving to one side the definitional difficulties of the statistics, the official figures thankfully reveal that the accident rate is coming down. There were 200 deaths in 2011. With approximately 5,200,000 people in Scotland, that equates to a road death per 100,000 of the population of 3.9. That would make Scotland the 29th safest country in the world for road travel, which frankly astonishes me given what I have seen up there. (I have travelled loads in Scotland.) It goes to prove that you can’t rely on the evidence of your eyes, when it comes to forming opinions about stuff for which there are large data sets.
|Country||Road deaths (reported)||Road deaths per 100,000 (reported)||Road deaths (estimated)||Road deaths per 100,000 (estimated)|
|1||Democratic Republic of the Congo (the)||365||0.6||20183||32.2|
|6||Marshall Islands (the)||1||1.7||1||1.7|
|8||Micronesia (Federated States of)||2||1.8||16||14.4|
|27||West Bank and Gaza Striph||188||4.7||896||4.9|
|30||Papua New Guinea||308||4.9||901||14.2|
|36||United Kingdom (the)||3298||5.4||3298||5.4|
|45||United Republic of Tanzania (the)||2595||6.4||13886||34.3|
|47||Saint Vincent and the Grenadines||8||6.6||8||6.6|
|50||The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia||140||6.9||140||6.9|
|89||Bosnia and Herzegovina||428||10.9||428||10.9|
|91||Lao People’s Democratic Republic (the)||656||11.2||1075||18.3|
|95||Czech Republic (the)||1222||12||1222||12|
|105||Sao Tome and Principe||20||12.7||52||33|
|106||Republic of Korea (the)||6166||12.8||6166||12.8|
|108||Central African Republic (the)||565||13||1399||32.2|
|119||United States of America (the)||42642||13.9||42642||13.9|
|130||Republic of Moldova (the)||571||15.1||571||15.1|
|133||Trinidad and Tobago||207||15.5||207||15.5|
|146||Syrian Arab Republic (the)||3663||18.4||6552||32.9|
|158||British Virgin Islandsh||5||21.7||5||21.7|
|160||Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of)||6031||21.8||6031||21.8|
|166||United Arab Emirates (the)||1056||24.1||1626||37.1|
|167||Russian Federation (the)||35972||25.2||35972||25.2|
|174||Iran (Islamic Republic of)||22918||32.2||25491||35.8|
|176||Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (the)||2138||34.7||2497||40.5|
Time for a film. Here’s a clip of some of the ‘best’ pieces of footage from Russian dash cams. It begins with a car with a cracked windshield, which appears to be driving rather fast on the wrong side of the road. Why did this driver mount a dash cam and then carry on like that? The head on collision is inevitable. The second clip and much of what follows is reminiscent of Grand Theft Auto, with lunatic lane changing decisions, falling street furniture and explosions. There are lots of these videos and plenty of evidence that Russian men prefer to punch their way out of trouble, as if an old-school-fisticuffs-session will sort everything out. What on earth is going through the mind of the pedestrian at 0:56, when he gives a friendly wave to the driver who just rear end shunted the car in front directly through the marked crossing he was using?
Could the driver with all that hay on top of his car at 1:34 see anything at all? Seconds later we saw a pedestrian fire a gun at a driver who had nudged him out of the way. He looked like he shot at people every day. Although I’ve watched this clip several times, I’ve got no idea what caused the car at 4:02 to flip up in the air like that. Any ideas? What on earth was going on at 4:11? The person falling out of the minibus appears to have leapt from a rear seat. The vehicle looks driverless. The man at 4:54 who the driver slams directly into just bounces off and walks away, as if nothing had happened! Further evidence that it isn’t just Russian cows that take this sort of nonsense in their stride comes at 5:42, with the fellow who simply gets out of his wrecked car and walked off casually. It’s obvious that it isn’t just Russian drivers to blame for all these problems. The state of their vehicles is pretty dreadful. Why do so many wheels come off? My overall favourite moment here is the motorcyclist at 10:02 who is so desperate to beat the traffic around the corner, that he misjudges his line altogether and rides off into a garden on the other side. Here’s another mashup, this time prominently the fist fights.