Last week was the national road safety week (17 November to 23 November 2014), led by the national road safety campaigning charity Brake. This is a national event which has taken place annually at a time when British Summer Time has ended and there is less daylight on our roads. The campaign has run since 1997 and involves schools, organisations and communities, working together with the combined aim of increasing awareness across a full range of road users in the continued efforts to reduce road traffic collisions and to make our roads safer.
This year’s strap line is ‘look out for each other’ aimed particularly at vehicle drivers to think more carefully about the risks faced by pedestrians and pedal cyclists, but are our roads any safer and what is the government doing to support these campaigns and reduce collisions?
The overall trend shows that since 2005, there has been a reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured on British roads, but worryingly, Government statistics published by the Department of Transport on 6 November 2014 identify a slowing down of that trend overall and even more worryingly an increase in those killed or seriously injured in the 12-month period to the end of June 2014, compared with the same period to the end of June 2013.
The statistics show an increase in road deaths over the period of 3% compared with 2013. In addition there was an increase of 4% in all casualties, rising from 185,738 at the end of June 2013, to 193,920 to June 2014. The most alarming trend is the increase in pedal cyclists killed or seriously injured by 10% and a 7% increase in motorcyclist casualties. Whilst the statistics also show that the general trend over the years has been a gradual reduction, cyclists casualties have risen sharply.
Further these statistics do not show a complete picture as the data is derived from 40 police authorities across the country, but it is well known that many collisions in which people suffer injury go unreported to the police.
These most recent statistics show the decreasing trend is starting to stagnate and the worry is that figures will start to increase. It is therefore not enough for charities to continue in their valiant efforts to increase road safety awareness; more needs to be done at government level to make our roads a safer place to be. But the clear evidence indicates that is not to be. The government will soon announce whether the speed limit for HGV on dual carriageways is to be increased from 50 mph to 60 mph following the end of consultation periods on 5 September 2014. All indicators point to the increase taking place, particularly as the speed limit on rural roads is to increase in January 2015 from 40 mph to 50 mph. This has caused public outcry and is trade and industry led. As I asked in a previous blog is an increase in the speed limit worth the price of the likely increase in serious injuries and deaths? It appears that only lip service is paid by the government to attempts to raise public awareness of road traffic safety.