Is Carcooning Causing A Road Safety Problem?
WHAT IS ‘CARCOONING’?
‘Carcooning’ is a phrase made up by Prof Frank McKenna, a psychologist at Reading University, to describe the fact that car drivers are so surrounded by safety features in their cars that they often forget about the needs of others outside of their own ‘car bubble.’
Over the years, more and more gadgets are being fitted to cars, often as standard, to protect the driver in case of accidents; safety technology like airbags, seat belts that tighten if they detect a severe sharpness in braking, blind spot detection systems and now collision avoidance systems that slow cars down when it detects a car in front at certain speeds at certain distances.
All these are not gadgets that are bad; in fact, they are gadgets that have a use and help protect car drivers. But what protects those outside the cars whilst the driver is ‘coconned’ inside his/her car?
ROAD SAFETY STATISTICS
This is what worries road safety experts, and these fears are borne out by road casualty statistics for the first 3 months of 2012 issued by the Department for Transport. There are some worrying trends in comparison to the same period in 2011, especially for non-car drivers on the road.
Cyclist casualties rose 10% and the number killed or seriously injured by 13%
Overall motorcycle casualties rose 7% and the number killed or seriously injured by 8%
The number of children killed or seriously injured in road accidents rose by 9% and the number killed or seriously injured as pedestrians rose by 14%.
The number of car using casualties dropped by 4% and the number killed or seriously injured also dropped by 4 %
The total number of road casualties actually decreased by 2% but this figure merely hides the fact that because the number of car users involved in the accidents is so high that it masks the non-car using casualty increase.
However, the number of road users killed or seriously injured rose by 4% and fails to disguise the overall rise – a sad way to emphasis it but it just goes to show that something needs to be done about vulnerable road users,
WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY
The chief executive of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, Simon Best, is appalled by the statistics: “It is unacceptable that road deaths and serious injuries have risen for children, pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists.
“Cutting road safety education, scrapping casualty targets and cuts in council spending all suggest this isn’t a major priority. The government needs to show much greater leadership on road safety. Last year’s increase in people killed was a serious warning, but this could be the start of a trend.
“More must be done to get drivers to look out for vulnerable road users. We must have changes to the driving test, greater enforcement and incentives for driver training.”
Simon does not mention the problem of ‘carcooning’ but it is certainly something that other road safety campaigners are aware of.
Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Committee for Transport Safety commented: “Perhaps we are seeing here is ‘carcooning’ effect – that car drivers sitting in increasingly safer cars have less concern for the vulnerable road users around them.”
Many road safety campaigners are concerned about technology that can be used in-car per se. Equipment such as satellite navigation devices can create dependency in the driver so that instructions are followed to the letter without thinking about any obstructions or other road users. And the increase in use of mobile phone and smartphone technology whilst driving obviously has the same ‘numbing’ effect.
So whether it is driver training, driving test adjustment, more enforcement of road laws or simple driver awareness, it is obvious that something needs to be done to stop the trend as it continues upwards.