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Tuesday, 23 November, 1999, 12:06 GMT
Road deaths worth less than rail victims
Road deaths are valued at about 1m per fatality

Relatives of road accident victims have been angered by revelations that government economists value the life of someone killed in a train crash three times higher than that of a person killed by a car.

The economists make their calculations - which include a sum for relatives' grief and the cost to emergency services - to decide how much money should be spent on safety improvements.

But while each death on the railways is valued at about 3m a fatality in a road accident is usually evaluated at only about a third of that sum.

Members of the road safety pressure group RoadPeace are due to meet MPs on Tuesday to complain about the disparity.

RoadPeace: Seeking greater investment in road safety
Campaigners say that the difference in valuation has led to road safety being given a lesser priority and starved of funding.

A BBC investigation has revealed the government calculated that in 1997 road accidents cost Britain about 15bn.

However, the equivalent of only about 20% of that sum was spent on road safety in the same year.

The government argues that the difference in the way deaths are valued is because passengers put their life into someone else's hands when they use a train.

It says that by comparison motorists are partly responsible for their own safety when they get in a car.

However, critics say this does not take into account the fact that pedestrians, particularly children, have to put their lives in drivers' hands when they cross the road.

Many accident victims' relatives are also appalled that any such calculations are made.

RoadPeace member Pam Moore, whose daughter Nancy was killed in a road crash, said: "It is disgusting. That is my child. There is no money that you can put on a life."

However, Transport Minister Lord Whitty insisted that the valuations were in no way a judgement on the person killed.

"Let's be clear we are not putting a value on a life," he told the BBC's Today programme.

Lord Whitty: Government is not complacent about road safety
"These figures are used to prioritise between safety schemes and between safety schemes and other very important considerations."

Lord Whitty also defended the government's record on road safety, but said that it still had much to do and was not complacent.

Although the UK has the highest level of child fatalities in the European Union, he said there had been a major reduction in road accident fatalities overall over the last decade.

This improvement was in a large part due to changes which were not simply due to increases in expenditure on road safety, the minister added.

"Much of that has been due to designing in safety into other systems systems into road systems, traffic systems and the way in which we design vehicles," he said.

These sort of improvements would be further developed in the government's new road safety strategy due to be published early next year Lord Whitty added.

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See also:
23 Nov 99 |  UK Politics
Government 'parks' car tolls
27 Sep 99 |  UK
New bid to strengthen pedestrian power

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