Keynote address at PACTS event
This was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government
Best foot forward! Safer streets, fewer casualties, better health.
It’s a pleasure to join you this morning.
I’m very grateful to PACTS for inviting me today (8 May 2013).
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, 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.
I know this from my own constituency in Derbyshire, where safety has improved significantly in recent years.
But Derbyshire also illustrates how patterns of road safety evolve – even over short periods.
We have a real problem with speeding motorcyclists in the Peak District.
In fact, the A537 has been called the most dangerous road in Britain.
The majority of casualties are young, male motorcyclists.
Many from outside the area.
But their impact on the county’s overall safety record is enormous.
While just 39 people were killed on Derbyshire’s roads in 2011…
Almost a quarter down on the 2005 to 2009 average…
Sixteen of those deaths were bikers or their passengers…
Compared with just 5 in 2010.
So it’s vital that we respond to changing threats quickly and effectively.
And that’s precisely what we are doing.
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.
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.
One of our key local objectives is to make streets safer for pedestrians.
Many schemes are benefitting from our £600 million Local Sustainable Transport Fund.
We have been working to make pedestrian crossings safer…
So all local authorities in England are now authorised to use pedestrian countdown signals.
Some are already operating - in places like Plymouth, Swindon and Hull.
We’re also protecting pedestrians and cyclists by giving traffic calming advice to highways authorities…
And by revising our guidance on setting local speed limits.
Traffic authorities are now keeping speed limits under review…
With the option of introducing more 20 miles per hour limits and zones on busy streets.
Our hugely successful THINK! campaigns also 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 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.
Alongside better enforcement, 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 PACTS for organising this briefing as a contribution towards Global Road Safety Week.
The very existence of a Global Road Safety Week is a reminder of how tragically common road deaths are around the world.
But it’s also a reminder of how preventable they are too.
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.