MPs admit concern over road safety

Road safety is the “major public health problem of our age”, MPs have claimed.

A report published by the Commons transport committee today, expresses “deep concern” about the link between poverty and road deaths as well as the high number of accidents involving male drivers, young drivers and on rural roads.

In the publication, MPs call for a much bolder strategy to address the problem and recommend that local authorities be given more power to introduce 20mph speed limits, increased enforcement to tackle drink-driving and the creation of a road safety commission.

In compiling the report the committee heard evidence that child pedestrians from the lowest socio-economic groups are 21 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident than those from the top socio-economic groups. Poorer car users are also at greater risk of death than the more affluent.

Chair of the committee Louise Ellman said: “The number of deaths and injuries on our roads far outweighs the deaths and injuries in other transport modes or in other work-related accidents.

“We need to start seeing this not only as a collection of individual tragedies but also as the major public health problem of our age. The deaths of three thousand people and injuries to a quarter of a million are a staggering annual toll to pay for mobility.”

The committee claims that the government’s overall progress in addressing road safety has been “disappointing”.

“Little progress has been made in reducing deaths among car users and there has been a significant rise in motorcyclist deaths, which rose by 26 per cent between 1994 – 1998 and 2007,” the MPs claim.

Government statistics claim that serious injuries are falling much more rapidly than deaths, but the committee questioned the accuracy of the injury data and whether the government “is really going to meet its road safety targets”.

Reacting to the report, shadow transport secretary Theresa Villiers said: “This shocking indictment on road safety will make painful reading for ministers. The serious flaws in the collection of data on road safety revealed by this report are deeply worrying.”

David Sinclair, head of policy for Help the Aged, said: “Safety on our roads is of paramount importance – around 40 per cent of pedestrian fatalities are older people and older people are far more likely to be severely injured or killed in accidents.

“Improving public transport and creating safer roads and pavements will help to improve communities for people of all ages.”