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This Week 417: Road Deaths (1964)


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Christmas 1963 was a grim landmark: 120 people were killed on the roads, the highest for years.

One was Leonard Whiting, a hospital porter from Dulwich, who was knocked down coming home from work. His sister describes her feelings about her brother's death. She thinks that drivers should be made to see the mutilated bodies of their victims in mortuaries, and believes that drunken drivers should be banned for life.

A woman driver explains why she thinks people drive too fast.

Alfred Martin lived in Islington with his family. Shortly after telling them that he had heard three drunks arguing about who should drive, he was knocked down and killed after crossing the road to get the Christmas shopping.

A man outside a garage says that people make too much fuss about statistics: with seven million cars on the road, 120 deaths is reasonable.

Evelyn Cross, a district nurse from Eltham, Kent, was killed on Christmas Day when a car knocked her off her bicycle.

Desmond Wilcox interviews Cecil Orr, Joint Secretary of the Automobile Association. He reminds him that Lord Chesham, Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Transport, has publicly condemned the driving of motorists this Christmas, referring to them as "hooligans". Orr says that on a 200 mile drive you only remember the really bad drivers who form a small percentage: overall, the standard of driving is high. He denies a suggestion that motorists regard driving as a sport and are complacent about road death statistics, and cites an experiment in Lancashire where police who stopped motorists warned them of the dangers. Road safety improved in the region as a result.

Orr admits that drinking at holiday time is a significant factor behind road accidents. If research were proven that drink caused accidents, he feels sure there would be public support for appropriate measures. Graphics show that of the 150 fatal accidents in England and Wales in 1959, 44 involved drinking. There is evidence that drink blurs judgement and gives misplaced confidence.