1,793 people killed in road crashes in the UK last year is 1,793 too many
Conservative MP Jack Brereton writes ahead of his Westminster Hall debate this afternoon on road safety and looks at how to reduce the total number of road deaths each year.
Road safety is an issue that affects every constituency, right across the country. Everyone will recognise specific dangerous roads and accident hotspots in their patch. I hope my Westminster Hall Debate will; help explore how we can best measure and improve road safety. 1,793 people were killed in road crashes in Great Britain last year, which is 1,793 too many.
In fact, the Government estimates that road traffic collisions cost the UK economy more than £16.3 billion per year. In Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire alone, it costs the economy on average £32.5 million annually for all accidents involving speed, costs that could be reduced if we make our roads safer.
Encouragingly, the economy has grown every year since 2010, and the population and volume of road traffic has grown with it. Despite this, the number of road deaths has not grown over the same period, and we can be thankful for that. But the historic reduction in deaths has now stalled, we should be doing better and getting the number of deaths down.
Last month, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety – or PACTS for short – released a new report on “Developing Safe System Road Safety Indicators for the UK”, it is a timely and interesting report and it will form the basis of my remarks.
In fact, we are far from exhausting the potential for technological advances, particularly in the field of autonomous cars and smart roads. And it is at this time of great technological change that a more comprehensive approach to road safety is needed – something against which both current and new forms of transport can be tested, something that is responsive to new technology.
Traditionally, measures for road safety have been reactive. Areas with a history of more serious collisions have received more focus, but often locations where there is the greatest danger of collisions with a history of near misses don’t get the attention they need. Campaigns have focused on getting drivers and vulnerable road users to stop certain behaviours instead of proactively designing out such behaviours.
This means that as well as expecting road users to comply with laws on seat belts, speed limits, not using phones and so on, we should also expect: firstly vehicle makers to design safer cars, vans, lorries and buses; secondly highways agencies to design and maintain legible and forgiving road infrastructure; and thirdly medical and emergency services to be prepared, trained and equipped to provide an efficient and effective post-crash response.
What has become increasingly clear, as the PACTS report recognises, is that road safety is not just about speed or chasing previous collision history, but ensuring actions are focused on reducing dangers more widely.
Sometimes, by making motorists feel safer, there is the perverse effect for them to drive more dangerously and by making them more alert to possible risks, they drive with greater attention.
Across the country we are increasingly seeing from partnerships like the one we have in Staffordshire, changing the approache from local service providers. There is an increasing shift towards more holistic preventative actions through a whole range of methods with local communities stepping up to take greater responsibility to improve safety on their roads.
This means more work in schools and with community groups to encourage, and teach about, safer, more responsible road usage. Many communities are also now developing speed watches in their towns and villages with local residents volunteering time to encourage safer road usage.
We need to bolster the trend we have seen towards broader preventative and community led initiatives that best encourage behavioural change and more responsible road usage for everyone. Making better data available will be key to that, as will spreading information on examples of good and best practice in road safety across the local partnerships, delivering the improvements we all want to see. I hope this Westminster Hall debate will help in some way to get the reduction of road fatalities back on track.
Jack Brereton is the Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent South. He is a member of the Transport Select committee.