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Road Criminology: the science of road safety

11/12/2014

At the end of September the Comisariado Europeo del Automóvil (CEA) published a booklet in Spain, Aspects of criminology with regard to road safety, a pioneering manual at International level in which they compiled all the most relevant information with regard to criminology and road safety. This laid the foundations for a new discipline, for the observation of the behavior of drivers, pedestrians and victims with the idea of attempting to eradicate these repeated offences.
The key to this preventative vision is, since we know how traffic accidents happen, we are able to define strategies to avoid them. From the changes in road safety policies to the design of responses that take into account the various profiles of offenders and the social and physical environment. A good example of action is, for example, an audit of accidents and in depth studies that can determine the major cause of accidents at given points to try to eliminate the risks.
Although the work of the criminologist on Road Safety seems to be relatively new they have been involved in police work for some time, looking at cases on the ground and proposing improvements personalized for drivers based on the study of different offender profiles or mapping the crimes for hot spots related to the place in the social environment where the crimes are committed. The idea is to study the most relevant cases and fine each offender according to it, as a way of reducing the number of cases by modifying the social environment in which they occur. In Spain the line that separates a crime is not so instilled, as perhaps in other countries around us, committing a traffic violation is relatively more acceptable than breaking the law in other ways.
So when a driver has an accident in which, for example, those affected are minors not travelling in an approved child seat appropriate to both the weight and height of the child on the back seat of the car, something totally unacceptable and that should never be allowed to happen or in a child seat in the front facing backwards without having disconnected the airbag, they call it “bad luck”. This social permissiveness towards this dangerous conduct of drivers is what has to change. Penalties are not enough, although they help; it is a social conscience that is the most powerful weapon in stamping out this erroneous behavior.
According to Juan Antonio Carreas, coauthor of the manual, we must change the mentality with regard to traffic accidents to being road crimes so that they are viewed and sanctioned with the same rigor as any other crime.
With this objective in mind, to scientifically study prevention, the DGT encourages new projects for the investigation of road safety and mobility. Their investigative plan 2013-2016 makes the study of these methods of vehicle occupant protection a priority, especially when related to baby and child protection systems.
At the European project CHILD, France provides data that 7 out of 10 children travelling by car use a child seat incorrectly, In new studies in our country we are trying to fix an appropriate methodology to create a benchmark by which we are able to work with consistent figures in forming strategies to achieve our goal of no child losing it’s life due to incorrect use of child restraining systems.
At the MAPFRE FOUNDATION for our part, we encourage the academic study of subjects related to the prevention of accidents and victim assistance. Using the Help to investigate, Ignacio H. de Laramendi we are providing up to 15,000€ to help investigators or investigation teams to collaborate in the development of programs and studies, some of which are involved in studies on road safety, and their promotion. Being well informed and aiding that information to reach a wider public is very important.

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