Road safety week is upon us again. Seven days to highlight the biggest single killer of under 25s, 168 hours to focus on an issue that takes the lives of approximately 1,770 lives per year, 147 per month or around 5 people per day.
It’s clear that Britain’s roads need to be safer for the benefit of all road users – cyclists, pedestrians, drivers and passengers alike.
Road safety for all
Hopefully in the quest to become carbon neutral we will be seeing a lot more journeys made on foot and on cycles. For a start, it is vital that more is done to improve pedestrian and cycle networks – and we urgently need to see work on better and more sustainable public transport.
But the need to protect the most vulnerable is paramount and we need far more than just one road safety week to truly open up the discussion. The number of accidents and fatalities on our roads is truly shocking. It needs to be treated as a health crisis – and one that we can solve.
Driving lessons: teaching us to ‘share the space.’
It certainly surprises people when I tell them my job outside of being a Green councillor – I have been a driver trainer for 14 years. My experience means that I can assure you learning to drive is a race to the bottom in which prices and schedules override safety and skills. It’s rare to see a new pupil who is interested in how they will gain a skill for life with the benefit of good quality training.
The issue partially comes down to the industry. Driving instructor training is poorly regulated and angled at getting the prospective instructor to qualify as soon as possible rather than giving them the ability to train pupils in safe and sustainable driving.
We are one of the only countries in Europe where you can take driving lessons not having passed a test based around the theoretical part of driving.
In the UK, a candidate can take a test having never had a professional driving lesson, whereas in Germany it is compulsory.
I believe that much more work could be done in preparing road users in how to share the road with everyone who needs to use it.
The solution to better driving
We need brave legislation to reduce the number of vehicle related fatalities in the UK, standard number of lessons, graduated licence system, probationary period after passing and compulsory re-testing. We also need to consider expanding 20mph zones. Unfortunately, we have successive governments tied to lobbyists from the motoring world.
But road safety isn’t only linked to the way we drive. It’s about making it clear that driving isn’t the only option.
We are all road users – either on foot, by bike or by car. With a climate crisis upon us, it’s vital that we discuss how we can share the space – and put vulnerable road users – and our climate – first.
Cllr Steve Davis is a member of the Environment, Transport and Sustainability Committee.