Memorandum by the Department of Health
ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED
1. The Department of Health welcomes the
opportunity to give written evidence to this Inquiry.
2. The White Paper Saving Lives, Our Healthier
Nation recognised that accidental injury represented a substantial
3. But the burden of death and injury is
disproportionately heavy on the worse off in society. For example,
children from poorer families are five times more likely to suffer
accidental death than children in social class 1. Focussed action
to prevent or reduce accidental injury could therefore help address
4. The Department has led a cross-Government,
cross-sectoral Task Force on Accidental Injury Prevention whose
terms of reference were to advise the CMO on ways of delivering
the targets in Saving Lives, Our Healthier Nation for reducing
accidental deaths and serious injuries by 2010. The Task Force
has been wound up and its Report will shortly be presented to
the Chief Medical Officer.
5. The World Health Organisation projects
that, by 2020, road traffic injuries will have the third greatest
burden of the ten leading diseases. It recently published a five-year
to integrate prevention of road traffic injuries into public health
programmes, with particular emphasis on low and middle income
6. There were 320,283 reported road accident
casualties in Great Britain in 2000, of whom 16,814 were child
pedestrians (aged 0-15 years), and 5,832 were older pedestrians
(aged 60 or over). A total of 3,409 casualties died, of whom 107
were identified as child pedestrians and 366 as older pedestrians.
7. The Department for Transport, Local Government
and the Regions (DTLR) has extensive research evidence showing
that there is clear link between speeding and accident risk. The
evidence shows a particularly strong link between vehicle speed
and the risk of collision with pedestrians and severe injury.
Controlled reductions in vehicle speed, such as with 20 mph zones,
have been shown to reduce injuries to vulnerable pedestrians by
about six per cent for every 1 mph reduction in average traffic
8. The total cost to the NHS of all accidental
deaths and injuries is not recorded, but the Department estimates
the total cost for all external causes (including poisoning and
intentional injuries) at around £2.2 billion. The medical
and ambulance costs attributed to road traffic accidents was estimated
by DTLR as £540 million in 2000.
9. Much of the work of preventing road accidents
at a local level is carried out by local highway authorities and
the local police. The Department supports interventions of proven
effectiveness. They include environmental interventions that use
safety cameras to deter excess speed, and that introduce 20 mph
zones where they can be of benefit to vulnerable pedestrians.
10. The Department also supports interventions
by the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions
(DTLR) to influence the behaviour of road users, particularly
those which aim to give children training in using the roads as
11. The Department is working with DTLR
and DfES to encourage schools to develop travel plans to make
it safer and easier for children to walk and cycle rather than
be driven to school. The Department is a member of the School
Travel Advisory Group that was established by the Government in
1998 to find ways to encourage walking, cycling or travel by bus
or train to school, whilst at the same time improving safety on
12. The Department notes the report by the
DTLR/Health and Safety Executive Work Related Road Safety Task
Group, and in particular the recommendation is that employers
should do more to manage the risks associated with occupational
driving, for example not making work schedules so tight that employees
would have to break speed limits to meet them.
13. The National Service Framework for Coronary
Heart Disease requires the NHS to develop "green" transport
plans by April 2002. To support the development of these plans,
the Department has commissioned SUSTRANS to run seminars, and
has worked with NHS Estates and DTLR to promote the guidance currently
14. The Healthy Schools programme funded
by the Department of Health and Department for Education and Science
encourages staff, pupils and parents to consider cycling and walking
to and from schools, and to provide training in road safety awareness
and personal safety/security issues.
15. NHS Direct Online, the Internet arm
of the NHS telephone enquiry service, offers advice on accident
prevention which includes road safety. Its recommendations include
the correct use of child car seats, the need for children to learn
to cross roads safely, and the imperative of not drinking and
16. The Department has also funded an initiative
called the Injury Minimisation Programme for Schools (IMPS) which
complements a similar DTLR initiative by taking groups of children
out of school, introducing them to the A & E environment of
a local hospital, and exposing them to the reality of accident
risks, and ways of avoiding them.
17. The Department has grant-funded the
organisation BRAKE to help it in mounting road safety campaigns,
and has supported campaigns that encourage children to wear helmets
18. The Department's role is to bring together
the main Government and non-Government Stakeholders in preventing
accidental injuries to give their initiatives greater unity and
impact. The report of the Task Force ranges across the entire
spectrum of accidental injury, including road traffic injury.
19. The Report is still being finalised.
However, it recognises the burden of injury related to road traffic
accidents, recommends that more co-ordinated efforts are made
to reduce accidents, and that those efforts are focussed on areas
where they will have greatest impact, including efforts to reduce
injuries to child pedestrians and to give focussed attention to
reducing the causes of injury that contribute to health inequalities.
20. The Department welcomes this Inquiry,
and looks forward to its report in due course.
104 5 year WHO Strategy for Road Traffic Injury Prevention,
November 2001. Back
DTLR Highways Economic. Note No 1: 2000, Table 5. Back