Tuning into Road Safety


I’m something of a petrol-head. I love driving and I used to do a bit of motor racing. But I’m a regular public transport user too, and in London I usually walk to and from work. Cycling? Yes, but not as often as I should.

All these things make me a “road user” – well, apart from the racing. However, when I’m moving about I want to feel safe on the roads, like everyone else. But like a lot of other people, I too often assume that road dangers come from other people, not from me. Just like other people are “traffic”, not us.

But all too often, the biggest danger we all pose to ourselves and others comes from nothing more complicated than losing concentration. It may be the phone – hands-free or not. It may be thinking about that meeting today. It may be the noise from the kids in the back of the car, or forgetting that zig-zags are there for a reason when we pull up as close as we can to their school.

But the results are plain to see. Up to one in five collisions are caused by drivers distracted at the wheel. Although the UK has some of the safest roads in the world five people are still being killed every day.

That’s why the theme of Road Safety Week 2013 is “tune in to road safety.” The Government must listen to that message. Axing casualty reduction targets, and cutting the policing vital for traffic enforcement, are not the actions of Ministers properly tuned in to road safety. Sadly the most vulnerable on our roads – pedestrians and cyclists – seem just an afterthought in the Government’s £50 billion new roads strategy.

Making our streets safer for the future demands a new approach. The recent spate of tragic cyclist deaths shows why we need to manage roads differently – with proper separation for cycle lanes, including at hazardous junctions. I’ll be out and about this week with police forces from around the country to look at how they are enforcing road safety for motorists and HGVs – and the action they are taking to tackle drink and drug driving. This Road Safety Week we need to tune in to new thinking to make our roads the shared and safe spaces they should be.

This article was published in the Daily Mirror on Monday 18 November 2013.

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Richard Burden

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I was Labour Member of Parliament for Birmingham Northfield between 1992 and 2019 and a former Shadow Transport Minister. I now chair Healthwatch in Birmingham and Solihull, and the West Midlands Board of Remembering Srebrenica. I also work as a public affairs consultant. I am an effective community advocate and stakeholder alliance builder with a passion for human rights. I am a trustee of the Balfour Project charity and of Citizens Advice Birmingham, and a former Chair of Medical Aid for Palestinians.

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