It is a pleasure to follow Vicky Ford. I am grateful to various organisations for their briefings on this evening’s debate, including PACTS, Brake, Cycling UK, the Road Safety Foundation, Guide Dogs, Ageas and the Towards Zero Foundation. I have two main comments, one about language and one about why road safety is a constituency issue, as well as a national and international one.
First, we as politicians know that language is crucial, which is why we should, and the emergency services do, now speak of “road traffic crashes” and not “road traffic accidents.” We should know now, if we did not know before, that most incidents, and the consequent statistics of people killed or seriously injured, could have been avoided if humans had made positive decisions. They are not accidents; they are avoidable tragedies. If drivers had only observed the rules on speed, drink, drugs, mobile phone usage, seatbelts and the rest, those lives could have been spared.
I am also struck that Brake describes the failure to cut the number of deaths and serious injuries in recent years as figures that have “stagnated”. Many commentators, including me and the Minister, have used the word “plateau” but, on reflection, that suggests high ground and achievement. “Stagnated”, however, suggests something entirely different, negative and certainly not nice.
On the question of targets, as raised by a number of colleagues, in May the Department for Transport published an independent capacity review on road safety by Systra. Among its recommendations were:
“Set interim quantitative targets to 2030 to reduce the numbers of deaths and serious injuries”.
“Set measurable interim targets to 2030 to reduce the numbers of deaths and serious injuries with supporting road safety performance objectives, as proposed for the national framework.”
As well as this independent review, deaths and serious injuries as a result of road traffic crashes have been recognised by the United Nations and the World Health Organisation as an international crisis—1.25 million dead and 20 million seriously injured every year—and they are now subject to two sustainable development goals. SDGs 3.6 and 11.2 recommend a target of halving the number of people killed or seriously injured by 2030. The Government signed up to those goals and published the Systra recommendations, so why will they not formally endorse targets as part of the weaponry to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries?
The UK fire service has a proud record in international aid, including providing second-hand fire engines and other equipment, unused kit from brigades and supply chains, and training and advice. That has been happening for decades, and not just following disasters. The charity Fire Aid, which I chair, especially provides pillar 5 post-crash response. It is hugely frustrating that UK aid from the Department for International Development has billions of taxpayers’ pounds to distribute but cannot support small charities like Fire Aid, which is saving lives in 40 countries around the world and delivering soft diplomacy for UK plc.
I said at the beginning of my contribution that this is as much a local issue as a national or international one. In Poplar and Limehouse 190 people were killed or seriously injured between 2011 and 2016. Twenty-two were under the age of 16, and 78 were between 16 and 29. RTCs are the biggest killer of our young people nationally.
Investment in road safety not only saves lives but makes economic sense. Each year road crashes cost UK plc £35 billion, or 2% of our GDP. For every £1 invested, £4.40 of monetary value is created. This not only makes economic sense; it makes human sense, too.
Road safety should not be a party political issue. The Minister is held in high regard as a man of integrity. There is an opportunity here for him to reset our efforts, to give leadership and provide ambition and to reduce our KSI—killed or seriously injured—statistics. I look forward to him delivering, but I think he needs targets in his campaign.