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Name and shame councils who perform badly on road safety, say MPs

18 July 2012

Councils who perform badly on road safety should be named and shamed, said an all-party committee of MPs.

The Transport Select Committee also rounded on the Government's road safety record, saying it needs "stronger leadership" and a "clearer vision".

The report by the the Transport Select Committee was published within weeks of road deaths rising for the first time since 2003.

Deaths and serious injuries increased for the fist time since 1994.

Since taking office the coalition has cut funding for local authorities' road safety programmes and police enforcement.

The Coalition also put the brake on the introduction of speed cameras by refusing to pay for them.

Ministers, the Committee said, should explain the rise in road deaths.

MPs hoped that "this does not mark the beginning of a worrying trend in road deaths".

The Committee also remained unconvinced at the Government's approach to tackling the casualty rate among young drivers aged 16-24.

"We are not convinced that this is reflected in the road safety strategy," the MPs noted.

The report went on: "Stronger leadership and a clearer vision are required from Government to communicate the importance of road safety to local decision-makers."

"We are very concerned that 2011 saw the first increase in road fatalities since 2003, with 1,901 people killed on the roads," said Louise Ellman, the committee chairman.

"It is shocking that road accidents are the main cause of death among young adults aged 16-24 and that so many cyclists continue to be killed or injured.

"In 2010 there were 283 fatalities amongst car occupants aged 16-25, while 27% of young men aged 17-19 are involved in a road collision within the first year of passing their test."

She went on: "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."

Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: "Rightly, the Government has set itself the challenge to be a world leader in road safety. The question is whether the policies being followed help to achieve that aspiration.

"The current Government seems more committed to reducing the deficit than it does to cutting deaths and injuries.

Yet, as roads minister Mike 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."

AA president Edmund King said: "The report highlights the need for leadership yet quotes the Association of Chief Police Officers as saying that road safety is not part of their strategic policing requirements and hence chief constables 'will not necessarily look at roads policing because there are no national targets'.

"We believe that more emphasis in road safety needs to be put on enforcement and that a reduction in cops in cars will do nothing to deter the drunk, drugged, distracted, dangerous drivers.

"We also need to see evaluation of training and best practice from local authorities so we know what measures work. When resources are scarce, guidance in what does and doesn't work is crucial.

"We also support the outline measures to reduce casualties amongst cyclists."

Road safety minister Mike Penning said: "Road safety is a top priority and it remains a fact that Britain's roads are some of the safest in the world.

"Naturally I am disappointed that there has been even a small increase in the number of people killed or seriously injured in 2011, however deaths and serious injuries last year were still 7% below 2009 and the number killed was also the second lowest since the 1930s."

He went on: "We continue to take urgent action to crack down on the most dangerous drivers and improve training to make our roads safer.

"I would like to thank the committee for the time and thought they have given to putting the report together.

We will compile a thorough response to the issues raised."
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "We see a need for targets.

Having a definite goal rather than a mere aspiration focuses the mind and means that in the increasingly bitter battle for resources road safety is treated as a priority.

"We regard improving infrastructure as central to achieving any target.

We know where the most dangerous stretches of road are and work done for us by the Road Safety Foundation shows that a 10-year rolling improvement programme could result in 6,000 fewer deaths over that period.

"For as long as humans drive cars there will be accidents.

Therefore, if we can't prevent every crash we should make a major effort to mitigate their effects."

Malcolm Shepherd, chief executive of charity Sustrans, said: "The statistics on road safety released just a few weeks ago have shown an alarming rise in serious injuries among the most vulnerable people on our roads.

"If the Government is serious about making our roads safer it must show clear leadership. A great start would be to reduce our default residential speed limit from 30mph to 20mph, which will make our communities safer for everyone."


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