We all have a right to live in a safe community. People in Barnet rely on knowing that their children can get to school safely, that they can cycle to work easily, and depend on reliable public transport and roads to get them from A to B.
But although the UK has some of the safest roads in the UK, there are still an unacceptable number of deaths and injuries happening on our roads every day. Five people die on our roads every day, and there were 1,262 casualties from road traffic accidents in Barnet last year. That’s the 2nd highest number of casualties in London, and the highest number of all outer-London Boroughs. Although there was a 9% reduction in the number of casualties compared to 2011, there has been a 15% increase in the number of casualties amongst cyclists with 82 in total last year. Every year across the country over 3000 people are killed or seriously injured on a bike or motor-bike.
This week thousands of children, schools, colleges, workplaces and police officers from across the country will join together in Road Safety Week. The annual campaign led by the charity Brake reminds us that there is still a lot more we can do to make the streets in Barnet safer places to be.
This week Brake are calling for action on distracted driving. The simple fact is that if you are distracted at the wheel you are 2-3 times more likely to crash, potentially causing a serious injury or even killing someone. With more and more of us reliant on smart phones and getting distracted by electronic devices, the risk of having a collision increases.
But we need to remember that strong leadership is crucial too. That’s why the last Labour government was right to make road safety a priority. There are now almost 17,000 fewer deaths or serious injuries in a year than there were in the mid-1990s. But we need to do more work locally to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
I’m worried that the Tory-led Government is distracted, and that the local Conservatives running Barnet council are not doing enough to tackle road safety. The government have axed targets to cut deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Since 2010 they have cut spending on safety, speed cameras and the frontline police vital for traffic enforcement. In Barnet when we have called for an overall road safety strategy for the Borough, the Conservative councillors have voted against the proposal. Meanwhile, people in Barnet tell us they are really worried about road safety on many of our local streets. We’ve been supporting ‘Walksafe’ road safety schemes and 20 mph zones in roads where local residents tell us they want them.
This Road Safety Week I’m calling on Ministers and people in Barnet to tune into road safety and take action to save lives.