Mike Sales wrote:........I think it unlikely this elderly pedestrian darted out into the path of the car whilst blinded. A responsible driver, seeing the confusion ahead, ought to slow down to a 126 speed.
The idea that stuff happens on the road, that accidents happen and nothing can be done about it is not acceptable to me and others.
The fact is, risks are taken, and taken often by those who are well protected from the results if something goes wrong. They are given rules to try to keep them from hurting others. This rule 126, I would say by observation is widely ignored.........
The employment of various safety improvements often provides the user with an increased inclination to take more risks. Because we feel safer, we become less risk-averse. This applies to a surprisingly wide range of vehicle safety technologies.
Volvo, as I recall, first illuminated this take-more-risk phenomena when they began to put always-on sidelights on their cars. They were later surprised to discover that this did not result in less accidents involving lit-up Volvo drivers but more! Eventually, they discovered that the always-on lights encouraged drivers to think they were safer therefore could drive faster and with less care, as others would see them earlier.....
Various studies over the years have purported to find that this effect, in various guises, emerges with the advent of all safety aids, including seat belts, air bags and, it seems, bicycle helmets and high-viz.
In some cases the safety aid does, of itself, decrease the chance of harm to the user, in some degree; but only until the point at which the user's increased appetite for risks increases the chance of harm beyond that amount that the safety aid improved.
Worse, in some cases the increased appetite for risk provided by the safety aid provides no increased safety to those involved in the accident but without the safety aid. Thus pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders suffer a greater rate of involvement in vehicle-caused "accidents" as the drivers take more risks and cause more "accidents". The air bag and seat belt-protected drivers have more accidents but themselves suffer less harm than their victims.
The feeling of increased safety often shades into a feeling of invulnerability, which in turn leads to a chronic lack of attention and skill to the daily driving (and perhaps cycling). If a driver or cyclist also goes about for a significant period without being involved in an accident or near-miss, they sometimes become even more convinced that "it can't happen to me" or even "my helmet will save me". .....
No one is immune to these effects of improved technology. No, not even moi!
I recently put hydraulic brakes on a road bike and the greatly improved control (ability to modulate and brake without hand fatigue) did increase my speed down "fast" hills. I told myself that the extra control meant I was "safer" at these increased speeds. You will read this sentiment all about the cycling webs and mags, concerning the pleasures of the disc brake.
Happily I realised that there's a lot more to the risk than those aspects in which better-modulated brakes will help. Increased speed and momentum increase the chance of a bad event materialising then biting. I still have to think about braking then do so in a highly controlled manner. It became obvious to me that the increased speed severely reduces the already very short period for exerting rapid & highly controlled braking in an emergency.
So, as you recommend, I'm back to "go only as fast as the realistic stopping distance to unforeseen obstacles or events allows minus a margin for my probable error in braking".
They do say that a spike in the steering wheels of cars would help. Perhaps cyclists should all have a similar thing in place of the steering column top cap? A new item for Kapz to sell us all!