Trans07-08PressNotice65

Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010 (HC 460)

The Transport Committee today calls for a much bolder strategy to address road safety calling it the "major public health problem of our age."

In a report out today, Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010 the Committee recommends local authorities be given more powers to introduce 20mph speed limits, increased enforcement to tackle drink-driving and the creation of a road safety commission.

MPs are particularly concerned about the high accident rates among male drivers, younger drivers and on rural roads, and they express deep concern about the continuing links between poverty and road deaths.

The Committee heard evidence that child pedestrians from the lowest socio-economic groups are 21 times* more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than those from the top socio-economic groups. Poorer car users are also at greater risk of death than the more affluent.

Chair of the Committee Louise Ellman MP said: "The number of deaths and injuries on our roads far outweighs the deaths and injuries in other transport modes or in other work-related accidents.

"We need to start seeing this not only as a collection of individual tragedies but also as the major public health problem of our age. The deaths of three thousand people and injuries to a quarter of a million are a staggering annual toll to pay for mobility."

Although 2007 saw a 7% fall in road user deaths, the Committee points out that overall progress since 2000 has been disappointing. Little progress has been made in reducing deaths among car users and there has been a significant rise in motorcyclist deaths, which rose by 26 per cent between 1994-1998 and 2007.

According to Government statistics, serious injuries are falling much more rapidly than deaths. The Committee questions the accuracy of the injury data and whether the Government is really going to meet its road safety targets. Concern about changes in the reporting of accidents has prompted the Committee to call for a review to find ways to link police and hospital statistics as a matter of routine.

Giving local authorities additional powers and resources to introduce 20mph limits more widely would be one way to satisfy the desires of local communities for safer streets, MPs conclude.

Drinking and Driving

There has been no progress in reducing casualties from drink-drive accidents. The number of deaths (460) is now exactly as it was in 1998. It is now 16 per cent of total road deaths.

The Committee recommends that the Government steps up enforcement of drink-drive offences and it welcomes the anticipated Government consultation on drink-drive collisions and a thorough examination of what the drink-drive limit should be.

It also urges the Home Office to give much higher priority to the enforcement of drink-drive and drug-drive offences and the development of equipment to assist the police to identify and prosecute drug-impaired drivers.

Young Drivers

Young drivers especially those under 20 years of age, are nearly 12 times more likely than those aged 35-65 to have caused a fatal accident than to have been innocently involved in one.

The Government needs to re-consider a graduated licensing scheme, and restrictions on young drivers carrying teenage passengers between the hours of 11 pm and 5 am, as recommended in the Committee's earlier report Novice Drivers.

There should also be a range of road user training schemes targeted at school students.

Cyclists

The Committee expresses concern about the behaviour of some cyclists, particularly adults, who evidently have not received adequate cycle training, if any. They pose a risk to themselves and sometimes to others.

Cycle training should be offered as an alternative to fines for offending cyclists.

Older drivers

The Committee is not in favour of mandatory re-testing of drivers above a certain age. It would like to see making walking and public transport more attractive to older people, with initiatives to make driving safer and easier, such as 20mph limits and accessible vehicles.

It would also like the Government to urgently review the increasing use and safety of mobility scooters to see whether safety guidelines or mandatory training would be beneficial.

Driving at Work

The number of work-related road deaths is estimated at between one quarter and one third of all road deaths.

The Government should use taxes and financial incentives to encourage employers to use vehicles with additional proven safety features.

Uninsured drivers

The Committee heard that in some parts of the country an estimated 57 per cent of resident vehicles are being driven uninsured. The Committee recognises unlicensed, uninsured and untaxed driving, dangerous driving and excessive speed are all strongly linked with road casualties and this needs to be more widely acted upon.

The Committee also wants to see:

€ The establishment of a Road Accident Investigation Branch.

€ A new road safety vision for beyond 2010 which incorporates reducing road casualties with other policy objectives such as sustainable transport system, economic efficiency, climate change, social inclusion and physical health.

€ A national target for reducing deaths, which is separate from any targets for reducing serious or slight injuries.

€ Greater independent monitoring and scrutiny of progress.

Notes for editors:

* Figure given in evidence to the Committee by Dr Nicola Christie of Surrey University, based on research by P Edwards in British Medical Journal (2006), 333, 119-121.

Road accidents are the largest single cause of death for people between the ages of 5 and 35 in Britain. (Figures from Professor Danny Dorling of Sheffield University.)

Road accidents cost our economy about 1.5 per cent of GDP - some £18 billion each year.

In 1987 the Government set the first national road safety target: to reduce casualties by one third by 2000. By 2000 deaths had fallen by 39 per cent and serious injuries by 45 per cent.

The current targets for 2010 were published in March 2000. These were a reduction of 40 per cent in the number of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents; a reduction of 50 per cent in the number of children killed or seriously injured; a reduction of 10 per cent in the slight casualty rate. By 2007 the Government was on track to meet these targets.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

1. Committee Membership is as follows: Mrs Louise Ellman (Chairman) (Liverpool Riverside), Mr David Clelland (Tyne Bridge), Clive Efford (Eltham), Mr Philip Hollobone (Kettering), Mr John Leech (Manchester Withington), Mr Eric Martlew (Carlisle), Mr Mark Pritchard (The Wrekin), David Simpson (Upper Bann), Mr Graham Stringer (Manchester Blackley), Mr David Wilshire (Spelthorne).

2. Transcripts of evidence sessions for the Committee's inquiries can be found on the Committee website at: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm/cmtran.htm

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