Road safety is always on our minds here at Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, but never more so than at this time of year. That’s because it’s Road Safety Week – an annual event organised by the charity Brake to highlight the importance of safe motoring.
This year, the focus is on one of the biggest killers on Britain’s roads: speed. In 2016, according to the official statistics, there were 10,681 accidents where speed was a contributing factor – either because the driver was exceeding the speed limit, or because they were travelling too fast for the conditions. 331 people were killed as a result: 22% of all road deaths last year.
Happily, as the graphs above show, those numbers have come down over the past six years. However, this has mostly come from a reduction in accidents where a driver was going too fast for the conditions, but not breaking the speed limit. Speeding – in the sense of breaking the speed limit – remains roughly as big a killer as it was back in 2010.
All of which means that there are more than 300 needless deaths every year that could be prevented, if only we were all a little more careful with our speed. And that’s the message Brake is trying to drive home this Road Safety Week, with the slogan ‘Speed Down Save Lives’ and the social media hashtag #SpeedDown.
Tougher sentences and 20mph zones
The Government is attempting to deter speeding – along with other forms of dangerous driving – by introducing tougher sentences. Last month, the Ministry of Justice announced that it intends to legislate for a longer maximum sentence for causing death by dangerous driving, as well as a new offence of causing serious injury by careless driving, ‘when parliamentary time allows’.
Meanwhile, local authorities have introduced more and more 20mph zones, which seem to have helped to reduce the number of accidents in built-up areas and which, crucially, reduce the likelihood that an accident will result in fatalities.
More traffic officers needed?
At the same time, however, the number of specialist road police officers in England and Wales has been cut by 7% in the last year. That follows a 27% cut between 2005 and 2015. The House of Commons’ Transport Select Committee raised concerns about these cuts in a report last year, and called on the Government to ‘support police forces in maintaining the number of specialist road traffic officers’.