1. Seven people died on May 10 as a result of the
tragic railway accident at Potters Bar. It was rightly a matter
of great concern. The Secretary of State made a Statement in the
House. There was enormous news coverage: newspapers devoted pages
to analysing why it happened, and it was the lead story on many
radio and television news programmes.
2. Every day, year in year out, about 10 people are
killed on our roads. In 2000 3,409 died, including 857 pedestrians.
This dwarfs many other causes of death: it is four times the number
of homicide victims.
There can be few of us who do not have a relative, friend or acquaintance
killed or seriously injured on the roads. Many of these deaths
and injuries are avoidable.
3. The Government has set a target of reducing deaths
and serious injuries in road accidents by 40%. This may be met
by a reduction in serious injuries, but the number of deaths on
the roads has declined little in recent years. The numbers killed
fell from 4,568 in 1991 to 3,598 in 1996, but have remained at
that level since: there were 3,421 deaths in 1998 and 3,409 in
2000. With the right measures in place we could probably reduce
road deaths to under 1,000 each year. There would also be huge
cost savings from taking these steps, but there is surprisingly
little pressure to act to achieve this.
Road casualties rarely merit a mention on the national news; they
are indeed greeted with complacency as we pride ourselves on having
the best road safety record in Europe.
4. The largest single contributor to casualties on
our roads is driving at either excessive (breaking the speed limit
and therefore illegal) or inappropriate (ie speeds which are foolish
for the conditions even if within the speed limit) speeds.
It is now a more important factor in road traffic deaths and serious
injuries than alcohol.
As the AA told us: "the wrong speed on the wrong roads kills
around 1000 people a year".
Road traffic speed in both urban and rural areas inhibits walking
and cycling and so makes people less physically active. It reduces
the quality of life. We are not going to regenerate our towns
and cities and make them attractive places to live while they
are dominated by fast moving vehicles. In the country too villages
are severed and country lanes, once enjoyed by those taking a
stroll, or riding a horse or bicycle, are now dominated by traffic
travelling at high speed.
5. Children suffer particularly. Road crashes are
the single biggest killer of school age children, accounting for
"two-thirds of premature child deaths".
The UK's child pedestrian casualty rate is worse than many other
It is so bad because of the lack of speed restrictions rather
than increased exposure to traffic.
Poor children are much more likely to be the victims of traffic
accidents: they are more likely to play on the street. There have
been a number of effective programmes to educate children, parents
and carers, notably Kerbcraft and the work undertaken through
the Drumchapel project. Nevertheless, parental fear of road traffic
has reduced the independence of children from all backgrounds.
It has been a significant contributory factor in the decline in
the number of children walking to school: in 1971 72 per cent
of seven year olds travelled to school unaccompanied; by 1990
only 7 per cent of seven year olds went to school alone.
6. The Committee decided to hold an inquiry to find
out the answers to a number of simple questions:
- What is known about the causes and consequences
of speed, and what to do about it?
- How far are the necessary measures being taken?
- What should the Government and other relevant
groups and organisations be doing, and are they doing it?
7. This is an opportune time to undertake this inquiry.
It enables us to chart the progress made in the two years since
the Prime Minister launched the Government's Road Safety Strategy,
Tomorrow's roads:- safer for everyone in March 2000. It
is also almost two years since the Urban White Paper, Our towns
and cities: the future, which proposed measures to ensure
that the adverse impacts of traffic are reduced in cities and
8. Our decision to examine this subject has also
been influenced by growing concerns that since 2000 progress has
been slow and that road safety has become less of a priority for
the Government. Since 2000, the Government has:
- dropped its previous commitment to press within
the European Union for a Pedestrian Safety Directive
- decided that road safety cameras should be painted
yellow and should be restricted to serious accident blackspots
- failed to implement a number commitments made
in its Road Safety Strategy
- been slow to bring forward proposals to increase
penalties for road traffic offences
The problem is that: "Most drivers and pedestrians
think speeds are generally too high but 95 per cent of all drivers
admit to exceeding speed limits".
9. We received 157 memoranda. Among those who submitted
evidence were the leading researchers on road safety, senior health
professionals, motoring organisations, several local authorities,
groups working on behalf of children and road safety campaigners.
We would like to thank all of them, and our specialist adviser,
Rob Gifford of the Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport
1 HDA (RTS 153). Back
ACPO (RTS 137). Back
Professor Allsop has discussed the potential reduction in fatalities
in Britain in Europe, 12th Westminster Lecture on Transport Safety,
PACTS 2002 (in press) For the discussion of the potential reduction
in fatalities; see para 112 below. In Victoria, Australia, there
has been a 52% reduction in road deaths (see HDA, RTS 153); Road
Accidents Great Britain: 2000 states: "the total cost-benefit
value of prevention of road accidents in 2000 was estimated to
be £16.920 million, of which £12,170 million is attributable
to personal injury accidents, with damage-only accidents accounting
for the remainder" (p. 16). Back
Tomorrows roads, p. 48. Back
Road Accidents Great Britain: 2000 states that the "numbers
of people killed on the roads in Great Britain in incidents involving
drink-driving fell to their lowest levels in 1998-9. However,
it is estimated that there were still 460 such deaths per year..."
(p. 34). Back
RTS 48. Back
Cyclists Touring Club (RTS 26); and see RTS 4 from the Faculty
of Public Health Medicine of the Royal Colleges of Physicians:
"Two-thirds of the deaths and serious injuries among children
involve child pedestrians injured in road crashes..." The
Traffic and Children Coalition stated: "the number of children
killed and seriously injured in car crashes is many times higher
than the number harmed by strangers" (RTS 47). Back
In 2000, 9 EU countries had a lower child pedestrian death rate
than the UK (Road Accidents Great Britain: 2000, Table
50; we were also told that "The death rate from road traffic
injuries for children in the UK is twice the European average"
(RTS 4); Back
RTS 47, quoting DETR, Comparative study of European child pedestrian
exposure and accidents, 1999. Back
RTS 47. Back
Our full terms of reference were:
- The role of illegal and inappropriate
speed in respect of:
- causing crashes, and the severity
- reducing the quality of life in
urban areas; and
- the consequences of illegal and
inappropriate speed for urban design
- The availability and reliability
of research on
- the consequences of, and reasons
for, illegal and inappropriate speed, and in particular
- the reasons for the very high pedestrian
- The extent to which the problems
associated with speed should be tackled by:
better enforcement; road re-design and
traffic calming; road re-classification; physical measures to
separate pedestrians and cars (e.g. barriers); technology (e.g.
through Intelligent Speed Adaptation and car designs which promote
pedestrian protection); education to improve drivers' and motor
cyclists' behaviour and pedestrian and cyclist awareness; changes
to speed limits; and what specific policies should be implemented.
- The extent to which relevant bodies
are taking the right actions
- Whether local authorities, DTLR,
the Highways Agency, the police and Home Office are providing
a co-ordinated approach to speed management, and what they should
- Whether the sentences imposed by
magistrates and judges on those convicted of speeding offences
have in all cases been appropriate and what other approaches ought
to be considered
- Whether motor manufacturers, the
national press, TV programmes about motoring and advertisers have
shown an appropriate attitude to speed, and how they should change
- The role of speed management strategies
Cm 4911, November 2000. Back