THE news that British road safety charity Brake has launched a campaign calling on all road users to ‘look out for each other’ may raise a wry smile among motorists in Cyprus, where we daily see quite absurd levels of selfishness (some might say stupidity) on our roads.
The campaign aims to help stop the five deaths and 61 serious injuries that happen every day on UK roads – and it particularly hopes to protect people on foot and bicycles. The call comes at the start of Road Safety Week, coordinated by Brake, during which police across the country step up traffic enforcement to deter and catch drivers who are putting others at risk.
As part of the campaign, Brake and partners RSA and Specsavers have revealed statistics that show a shocking numbers of UK drivers are senselessly risking lives by flouting traffic laws. Almost one million fixed penalty notices were issued for ‘careless driving’ and speeding offences in 2013 – that works out at almost two every minute. 950,505 were for speeding and 17,483 for careless driving (a fixed penalty newly introduced in August 2013).
Brake says this lack of patience and consideration towards other road users can, and does, result in tragedy. It can also stop the most vulnerable from exercising their right to healthy, active, sustainable travel. The results of Brake’s survey of 5,000 primary school children show that two thirds (67%) think roads in their community can be dangerous for walking and cycling and two in five (41%) say they have been hit or nearly hit by a vehicle while on foot or bike.
That’s why Brake is calling on all road users to look out for each other, and particularly urging drivers to protect people on foot and bike – by slowing down to 20mph in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends, and giving people plenty of room and consideration.
Members of the public are invited to show their support for the ‘look out for each other’ campaign by demonstrating their support on social media using hashtags, #RoadSafetyWeek and #LookOutForEachOther, going to www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk to make the Brake Pledge and find out how they can support Brake; and asking their MP to sign Early Day Motion 462 in support of Road Safety Week.
Julie Townsend, Brake’s deputy chief executive, said: “When drivers use roads without care for others the consequences can be tragic and horrific – people killed and badly injured, lives ruined forever, because of a moment of impatience or selfishness. At Brake we witness the suffering that results, daily, through our work supporting people affected by road death and injury. And there are wider consequences if we don’t look out for each other on roads – people afraid to walk and cycle or let their kids walk and cycle, and unable to get out and enjoy their community and live active lifestyles. That’s why, instead of making our streets stressful, risky places, we’re asking all road users to look out for and protect each other, particularly the most vulnerable – that means drivers sticking to 20 or below in towns and villages, looking carefully at junctions, and being considerate. Ultimately, we’re all just human beings trying to get around, with equal right to use the roads, not competing tribes.”
‘Vulnerable road users’ (pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse riders) account for half (49%) of road deaths in the UK, where, in 2013, 405 people were killed and 5,160 seriously injured while walking, and 113 people were killed and 3,185 seriously injured cycling. That’s 24 people a day killed or seriously injured on foot or bike – one every hour.
Speed is recognised as a critical factor in all road crashes, and especially in protecting vulnerable road users. If something unexpected happens – such as a child stepping out suddenly – it is a driver’s speed that determines if they can stop in time, and if they can’t, how hard they will hit. Every 1mph reduction in average speeds causes, on average, a 5% reduction in crash rates, and drivers who speed are nearly twice as likely to have been involved in a crash.
Brake’s advice for drivers is to stick to 20mph or below around homes, schools and shops. Your stopping distance in an emergency will be half what it is at 30mph, and in busy urban areas you won’t notice a difference in your journey time. You’ll also save on fuel, vehicle wear and emissions.
Vulnerable road users are often at risk from vehicles manoeuvring, such as at junctions, where they may not be seen in a blind spot. 75% of cyclist collisions occur at or near junctions when vehicles are turning. Brake says drivers should take it really slow at junctions and bends, look longer and very carefully and check mirrors before manoeuvring. “Always assume a pedestrian or cyclist may be there; never just assume it’s safe to turn”.
Traffic around homes, schools and shops, which could often be redirected to roads where fewer people are walking or cycling, puts vulnerable road users at risk. Brake suggests that you consider your route and try to minimise driving in communities. Consider whether you need to make your journey by car at all: could you walk, cycle, or take public transport? Studies show that ‘active’ travel makes you happier – as well as healthier.
Fear of traffic discourages people from walking or cycling, so it’s also a public health issue. Only 22% of journeys and 3% of miles travelled in Britain are on foot, and only 2% of journeys and 1% of miles travelled are by bike. A Brake survey of UK schoolchildren found that three in four (76%) would like to walk and cycle more. Another survey found that one in three non-cyclists would cycle if routes were safer.
“Up to 95% of crashes are caused by driver error. Therefore it is vital that drivers take responsibility to protect themselves and everyone around them”.