“Thirty million people to be vaccinated by April. Zero net carbon by 2050. 300,000 new homes a year. The UK Government is not afraid of targets. Nor is it afraid of ambition: ‘moon-shots’ and ‘world-beating’ are now part of its lexicon.

So why is it so reluctant to adopt targets to reduce road deaths? After ten years of no targets and no progress, surely now is time for a reset?

For almost three decades (1983-2010), the UK Government set ambitious casualty reduction targets. The targets were seen as fundamental to the substantial reductions in death and injury that followed. Other countries followed our example. But in 2010 this changed: targets were abandoned and Westminster governments ever since have ducked the issue, paying no heed to the EU target to halve road deaths by 2020, which they endorsed in 2011.”

Taking aim

Written by David Davies, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), this is the beginning of an article in Local Transport Today.

If the UK wants to be taken seriously as a leader in road safety, it must stop resting on its laurels. Since 2010, the UK has made less progress on road safety than nearly every other country in Europe. 

Mr Davies believes this is down to, in large part, the Government’s reluctance to adopt national targets. Reinstating them, he says, is the “single most important policy decision that the UK Government could take”.

For almost three decades (1983-2010), the UK Government set ambitious casualty reduction targets. Davies sees the targets as “fundamental” to the substantial reductions in death and injury that followed. However, in 2010, the targets were abandoned.

According to the government, casualty figures have remained ‘broadly stable’. They haven’t reduced, but slightly increased despite the huge investment in vehicle protection systems by manufacturers. Davies believes that governments over the last decade have “ducked the issue”. Meanwhile the EU’s target has been to halve road deaths by 2020. This was endorsed by the British government in 2011, though little action has followed.

Hollow words

Speaking at the World Health Organisation’s Road Safety 2020 conference in Stockholm, the government supported the global target of “50 by 30” in the UN road safety declaration (a 50% reduction in road traffic deaths and injuries by 2030).

The governments and administrations in Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and London have adopted targets for their areas. However, the there was nothing for England or Britain overall. This is what Davies sees as “the missing but vital piece of the jigsaw”; a target for the UK. Simple but ambitious road casualty targets, “preferably in line with the global targets that the Government supports”, should be the cornerstone of strategy going forwards.

While targets alone do not guarantee outcomes – they need to be backed by commitment, plans and resources – they provide the inspiration, motivation and activation of process. Without them “we face another decade in which some 1,800 people will die and 30,000 will be seriously injured each year on our roads”.

Read his full article here .