Road Safety GB, PACTS, RoSPA and the IAM have all moved swiftly to back the Transport Committee’s call for the “Government to step up and provide stronger leadership on road safety”.
In a new report examining the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety, the Transport Select Committee calls on the Government to take action to improve the safety of young drivers and carry out an independent review of driving training.
Louise Ellman (pictured), chair of the Committee, said: “We are very concerned that 2011 saw the first increase in road fatalities since 2003, with 1,901 people killed on the roads. It is shocking that road accidents are the main cause of death amongst young adults aged 16-24 and that so many cyclists continue to be killed or injured.
“If the Government is not willing to set targets, it should show more leadership. Action is required to improve road safety for young drivers, including an independent review of driver training. We welcome the attention cycling has received but there is much more to do.”
The Committee also highlights the variations in road safety performance between local authorities.
Louise Ellman added: “The evidence we gathered suggests the principal factor in improving road safety is robust political leadership. The Government’s strategy sets out to devolve decision making on road safety to local authorities but many authorities face a shortage of funding and the loss of many skilled road safety personnel.
“We welcome innovative working between local authorities and, for example, health authorities. The Minister should also do more to flag up and disseminate best practice.”
The Committee urges the Government to utilize the opportunity presented by a planned update for the Strategic Framework for Road Safety in September 2012 to reassess its road safety strategy. According to the Committee, more attention should be given to engineering improvements in road design and technology and the Government should account for recent increases in the number of road fatalities. Furthermore, any increase the motorway speed limit should only follow approval from MPs in the House of Commons.
James Gibson, Road Safety GB press & PR officer, said: “Road Safety GB is extremely supportive of the Select Committee’s report.
“The lack of national targets sends out the wrong message to local road safety officers, local authority executives and the wider community. National casualty reduction targets provide a focus and would help to give road safety the status and priority it deserves.
“While we support the idea of localism and acknowledge that individual areas of the country have different local road safety issues, with so many people and businesses travelling on roads throughout the country we feel it is important to have a national focus to bring all the efforts and work together.
“The Select Committee is concerned with the recent rise in fatalities. Statistically you would be naive to pay particular attention to one year’s worth of data but like the Committee we are obviously concerned that in 2011 fatalities rose compared to the previous years. We will be very concerned if there is an ongoing trend which shows casualties increasing in future years.
“Road Safety GB welcomes the opportunity to engage with Government and remains committed to helping road safety professionals and highways authorities across the UK to continue to facilitate education, training and publicity programmes which are well targeted and achieve best value.”
The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) welcomed the report and suggested that the Government is prioritising the economy over lives. Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, said: “Just over a year after the publication of the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety and following the first rise in road deaths since 2003 and in serious injuries since 1994, it is time to take stock of how we are doing in road safety.
“In its report, the Committee has highlighted the lack of leadership being given to the road safety profession by the current Government. The Government seems more committed to reducing the deficit than it does to cutting deaths and injuries. Yet, as Mr Penning has said, the success of his time as road safety minister will be demonstrated in further reductions in deaths and injuries.
“The figures for 2011 show that there is no room for complacency with regard to road safety policy and activity. As we review the framework, we also need to develop a British version of Vision Zero, developing both an appropriate philosophy for improving safety and the means to achieve it.”
Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “We welcome the Select Committee’s report; it highlights the potentially lethal combination of reducing investment in road safety while scrapping casualty targets.
“We would like to see more suggestions on how to bring the worst councils up to the level of the best. It’s simply not fair that people are much more likely to die in a road accident in some areas than they are in others. The Government should be held accountable when it allows a local authority to fail on road safety.
“MPs are also right to raise young drivers as a priority. There is still much more that we can do in terms of training young drivers to give them the experience they need to be safe. The Government could save lives and reduce insurance premiums by investing in training for young drivers beyond the L test.”
Kevin Clinton, head of road safety at RoSPA, said: "RoSPA welcomes the Transport Committee’s report, which is timely because of the recently announced increase in road deaths.
"What the increase in road deaths and this report highlight is the need to review what is happening on road safety in this country, including what effects spending cuts and service reorganisation are having and how successful the Strategic Framework for Road Safety is being.
"Although we are still in the early days of the framework, we are pleased to see that the Government is going to review it this year. It is important to identify whether the road safety strategy can be improved because, as the economy picks up in the coming years, road use will increase and we do not want to find ourselves in a situation in which road deaths and injuries are rising as a result. We therefore need to prepare for economic improvements, as well as more people cycling and more young drivers coming back on to the roads. These are among the factors that may put an upwards pressure on road casualty figures and now is the time to review what is happening and what can be done."
In contrast, the Association of British Drivers (ABD) says the Transport Committee has “missed the point”, claiming that the fall in the number of road deaths in recent years has been largely “despite, rather than because of, Government and local authority road safety policies”.
Brian Gregory, ABD Chairman, says: “Despite much furore over switching off cameras and cutting funding for 20mph zones, it is obvious from the recent statistics that areas that have switched off or not installed cameras, such as Avon and Somerset, Swindon and Durham have actually achieved very good results, while areas such as Portsmouth, which spent much of their budget on 20mph limits, had the worst casualty increases in the country.
“The ABD demands a thorough appraisal of the effectiveness of all road safety measures. Giving power to local councils is all very well in theory but all too often they lack expertise and are keen on what they see as vote winning measures that appease local residents and pressure groups, rather than truly effective measures that save lives.”