As Brake marks 20 years of coordinating UK Road Safety Week, the charity's community engagement manager Dave Nichols takes a look at what the Week means to him.
Each year, it never ceases to amaze me just how many people get involved with UK Road Safety Week and the varied ways they support the initiative. There is always so much enthusiasm to raise awareness about the dangers on our roads and campaign for safer streets. OK, we know there is so much more that needs to be done at a national level – from better roads policing to increased investment in road and vehicle design – and Brake continues to lobby government and key figureheads on these and other issues, and will continue doing so until we have a world where there are zero road deaths and injuries.
But even though politicians seem to be reluctant to review legislation as they don’t view it as a vote-winner, Road Safety Week surely proves there is great desire and appetite from the general public to improve our roads and laws, and to end the five deaths and 60 serious injuries that happen every day on our roads.
I always enjoy hearing about the wonderful grassroots initiatives that take place during Road Safety Week. Our case studies from last year give a flavour of the fantastic ideas people come up with, from the fleet manager who designed a week's worth of action to launch a new road safety policy for thousands of employees, to a concerned mum who launched a campaign as she was fed up with feeling her children's lives were in danger every time they walked to school. We are always fortunate to get such positive support from our emergency services too. Last year was a prime example, when the Metropolitan Police spent the week running enforcement and engagement activities based on our Pledge. These activities not only tie together the important messages we aim to get out to the public, but back them up by punishing those criminal drivers who have a blatant disregard for the law. The fire services are always out in force too, running awareness-raising demonstrations at schools and businesses, and promoting key messages at events.
By far the biggest majority of those who sign up for Road Safety Week are schools, nurseries and colleges (and those who visit them). Road safety isn’t currently covered on the national curriculum, but I love hearing the intuitive ways that teachers and others use our theme and resources to help meet curriculum goals. Road crashes are the biggest non-medical cause of death among children and the biggest killer overall of young people. All children and young people use roads and most have experienced road danger, plus children’s health and lifestyles are often heavily influenced by their family’s travel choices and local road safety. Road safety is the perfect topic for a lesson or project that can really engage them.
Road Safety Week isn't just about trying to achieve change, it’s about uniting thousands of people who enjoy life to tackle a common cause. They’ve witnessed dangerous driving habits. They’ve seen the impact more motorised traffic is having on our roads. They’ve breathed in toxic fumes from car exhausts as they go about their day. They want to walk and cycle without fear of fast traffic. They want affordable and reliable public transport so they don't have to use a car. They want a better way of life. Not just for their family. Or mine. Or yours. But for all of our families.
Over the past few months we’ve seen just how great Britain is at uniting in the face of tragedy. And bereavement through road crashes is no less of a tragedy. Five people die on our roads every day. A further 60 are left seriously injured. Many of these tragedies don't make the headlines in the national media, but if the same number of people were being injured or dying on our train lines or waterways, or in our airspace, there would be a national outcry. At Brake we believe that all road deaths are unacceptable. And thankfully the majority of our nation think so too and want to do something about it.
So, whether you support Road Safety Week every year or you are about to register for the first time, be proud that you are supporting a worthy cause.
Without you, Road Safety Week wouldn't happen. We wouldn't be able to shout out for safer streets. We wouldn't be able to engage kids and adults with important messages. We wouldn't be able to demonstrate the consequences of making poor decisions. And most of all we wouldn’t be able to show the decision-makers that road safety matters!
As always, thank you!