The Stilwell response to the Dept. for Transport Consultation – A SAFER WAY: Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World

17 05 2010

We have seen tremendous progress over the last 20 years or so in reducing death and injury on Britain’s roads, despite massive increases in traffic. In the mid 1980’s over 5,500 people were being killed on the road every year; this has now (in 2007) fallen to fewer than 3,000. Of course, this still means that the number of people being killed and injured is at unacceptable and horrendous levels: 8 deaths a day on average.

There are many reasons for the reductions in road death and injury (safer cars being one of them) but one of the most important is that Britain has had national road safety strategies and casualty reduction targets over the last twenty years or so.

Beginning in the mid 1980’s with the national target of reducing road casualties by one third by 2000, and followed by the “Tomorrow’s Roads: Safer for Everyone” road safety strategy and its casualty reduction targets of reducing deaths and serious injuries by 40% by 2010 (50% for child deaths and serious injuries).

Setting a new road safety strategy and targets for the next 10 or 20 years is a prerequisite to continuing the avoidable loss of life on Britain’s roads. A key feature of the proposed strategy, vision and targets is that they are based on a thorough review of road casualty data and research, as have the previous strategies. This evidence-based approach is vital for the success of the strategy and targets.

We support the twin-track approach of the consultation paper: encourage voluntary and willing compliance with road traffic law and increase the likelihood of getting caught, and the consequences, for those who choose not to follow the law.

We agree that Britain’s regulatory framework for road use is “broadly fit for purpose”. However, this does not mean that the strategy should rule out further legal changes; some will no doubt prove necessary. Laws are only as effective as their enforcement; laws that exist on paper, but are not adequately enforced – and seen to be enforced – are not effective.

This consultation paper needs to be read alongside the proposals contained in two recent, major road safety consultations, “Learning to Drive” and “Road Safety Compliance”. The final road safety strategy should clearly encompass the decisions taken following those consultations, as well as the decisions taken following this consultation.

For the full text of our response to the consultation paper go to

Nick Stilwell

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