Thank you Christian [Wolmar, Chairman]
It’s a pleasure to join you this morning.
And although I can’t stay as long as I’d like…
I’m very grateful to Westminster Briefing for inviting me today.
World class record
The phrase “world class” is overused these days…
But over the past decade, Britain can certainly claim to have a world class road safety record.
Provisional statistics show that last year, the UK had the second lowest fatality rate in Europe.
Only Malta fared better.
But our performance wasn’t always so impressive.
In 1966, nearly 8000 people were killed on Britain’s roads – that’s 22 a day.
Today (16 May 2013), the toll is less than a quarter of that…
Though there are twice as many vehicles on our roads.
So we’ve made excellent and sustained progress.
But that progress is of no comfort to victims’ families.
We must never forget that road fatalities are not statistics.
They are someone’s mother or father, son or daughter.
Real lives cut short.
Our strategic framework sets out a clear vision for reducing road accidents…
Through more innovative local measures…
Through tougher action against dangerous drivers.
And through better education - especially for young drivers.
We mustn’t forget the important road safety role of local authorities, especially in terms of investment.
These are testing economic times.
So I recognise that local government, just like central government, faces tough spending choices.
But I also know that it is local communities, rather than Whitehall bureaucrats, who are best placed to design local road safety solutions to meet local road safety challenges.
And that includes deciding where to focus their resources.
That’s what localism is all about…the power to choose for yourself…backed by the funding to deliver.
We are giving more than £1 billion to local councils enabling them to improve the transport infrastructure – including the design of better and safer roads.
We’re investing £600 million in local transport through the Local Sustainable Transport Fund – which again gives authorities greater power to deliver their own transport projects.
We have also given local authorities powers to set speed limits for the roads in their communities, making it easier for them to create 20 miles per hour roads and zones where appropriate.
Most journeys in this country are local in nature.
So a key part of our framework is to raise awareness of road safety in local areas.
We’ve just launched a road safety comparison site, which plots the performance of local authorities over the last seven years.
The site shows how many people have been involved in collisions on a particular road.
This gives residents a more accurate picture of each council’s progress in reducing casualties.
In March, a new road safety research website called the Observatory was also launched.
Part funded by the department, it gives road safety professionals access to extensive research.
Better information is a key weapon in the fight to make our roads safer.
And together, these websites will keep us more informed, so we can target local action where it is most needed.
In short, I’m convinced that localism is a core part of our road safety agenda
We know that a minority of reckless drivers are responsible for a large proportion of crashes.
So both our marketing and enforcement strategies target these drivers.
We are creating a new offence of driving with a specified drug in the body above certain limits.
A consultation on the drugs to be included will be launched in the summer.
The Home Office is developing a specification for new roadside drug screeners….
So they can be introduced alongside the new offence in 2014.
We have also consulted on improving the enforcement of drink driving laws….
And on changing the treatment of fixed penalty notices.
I expect to make a further announcement shortly.
And we’re consulting on making careless driving a fixed penalty notice offence.
This also proposes higher penalties for speeding….
Using a mobile phone while driving….
And not using seat belts.
Through these measures, we want to send a clear message to dangerous drivers:
If you continue to show complete disregard for the safety of other road users, we will catch you – and we will punish you.
Better enforcement is crucial – but it is only one part of a multi-layered road safety programme. Better education matters too.
The better the education the more we can help to enhance the safety of all road users. It can even prevent collisions and crashes from taking place in the first place.
Our hugely successful THINK! campaigns play a significant role in raising awareness of vulnerable road users.
Recent adverts have urged drivers to look out for motorcyclists, particularly at junctions…..
And to see the person behind the helmet.
This followed a campaign to make motorists more aware of cyclists.
And you may have seen a highly effective series of ads emphasising the personal cost of a drink drive conviction.
So THINK! is also crucial to enforcing the law on our roads.
We need to provide effective training for drivers….
In particular, to improve the safety and ability of young drivers.
We’ve already updated the driving test so it better reflects conditions on the road network.
But our forthcoming young drivers’ green paper will consider a range of further proposals for reforming young driver training.
These could include temporary restrictions once they have passed their test….
Or incentives for young drivers to continue training after passing their test.
In the short time I’ve had today, I haven’t been able to talk you through every last dot and comma of the government’s road safety agenda.
But I hope I’ve given you a short overview of how we intend to keep improving safety on our roads.
I thank Westminster Briefing for organising this event to discuss the latest developments in delivering road safety.
I would also like to thank the many people at local level that have helped deliver road safety on our roads.
Road deaths are a tragedy but they are preventable.
We’ve proved that in this country.
But that doesn’t mean we’re complacent.
Our challenge is to keep raising the bar.
To find new and better ways of making our roads safer.
So ultimately we can share our know-how with other countries, and save lives around the world.