Louise has been a long standing member of the Transport Select Committee and in May 2008, Louise was elected as its Chair. Louise has been Joint Chair of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) since 2006.
The latest official statistics on road accidents show a welcome reduction in the number of people killed or injured on our roads. Yet even with this improvement, 2, 946 deaths and 247, 780 road injuries were recorded on our roads in 2007.
Imagine what kind of outcry there would be if that toll of deaths or injuries occurred on our railways, planes or ships. Yet, deaths on the road are seen as a series of individual incidents rather than as an unacceptable national calamity.
The Transport Select Committee recent Report, ‘Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010’, challenges this attitude. In calling for an end to complacency, it asks for road accidents to be treated in the same way as those in other modes of transport.
Underneath the statistics lie areas of particular concern. One related to young, new drivers aged between 18 and 25 years of age. This situation was investigated in the Transport Select Committee Report “Novice Drivers.” The uncomfortable truth is that, while novice drivers constitute one in eight driving licence holders they account for one in three deaths. Even more horrendous, one in two drivers killed at night are under the age of 25. One suggestion in our report is that drink-driving limits be reduced for these young drivers.
Another acute concern relates to children from poorer socio – economic backgrounds. These pedestrians are 21 times more likely to be killed in a traffic accident that those from the highest socio – economic groups.
The Report made a number of specific suggestions. These include; permitting local authorities to designate more 20 mile per hour zones, questioning the validity of the statistics defining seriously injured road causalities, improving enforcement and implementing our earlier recommendations in relation to novice drivers.
But beyond the specific suggestions, we called for the setting up of an independent Commission on road safety, recognising this is a major public health issue. Behind every statistic of death and serious injury lies a broken and devastated family. That is why it is time to recognise road safety as a major policy issue worthy of more serious consideration. That is the challenge before us.
Louise Ellman MP