Page last updated at 10:25 GMT, Wednesday, 29 October 2008

MPs demand action on road deaths

Around 3,000 people a year die on the UK's roads

Lower speed limits and a tougher enforcement of drink-driving laws are needed to reduce road deaths, say MPs.

The Commons transport committee also queried whether road injury and death statistics were accurate, as police and hospital figures differ.

Chairman Louise Ellman said road deaths were "the major public health problem of our age" and said 3,000 dead on the roads a year was "too high a price".

The government said it recognised "more can be done" to improve safety.

The committee said that, although last year saw a 7% fall in deaths on the roads to 2,946, overall progress since 2000 had been "disappointing".

'Particularly concerned'

Motorcyclist deaths had risen by 26% between the mid-1990s and 2007.

The committee said it was "particularly concerned" about high accident rates among male drivers, younger drivers and those using country roads.

It also heard evidence that the poorest children were 21 times more likely to be killed as pedestrians hit by cars than those from the richest families.

Less well-off drivers and passengers were also at greater risk of death than the more affluent.

The deaths of 3,000 people and injuries to a quarter of a million are a staggering annual toll to pay for mobility
Louise Ellman, MP

Ms Ellman, Labour MP for Liverpool Riverside, said if 3,000 people a year were killed in train crashes there would be a national outcry.

But because road deaths were seen as individual cases, they were seen as something separate.

She told the BBC: "We think this should be recognised for the problem it is, a national problem affecting people's lives and affecting people's families."

Accuracy questioned

She said 3,000 deaths, and 250,000 injuries were "a staggering annual toll to pay for mobility".

The committee queried the accuracy of the government's data on serious injuries and deaths - while police figures suggest serious injuries are coming down, hospital statistics do not.

The committee said there was a "significant body of evidence to suggest that methods for recording road-traffic injuries are flawed" and urged an independent review of the way figures are collected.

Criticism of our statistics is itself based on flawed comparisons with hospital admissions data, which are published with a warning about their reliability
Department for Transport spokesman

The government says the number of injuries on roads is falling far more quickly than the number of deaths.

The MPs called for new road-death reduction targets, separate from those set for serious and slight injuries.

They also recommended that the drink-drive limit be lowered, roadside breath test devices approved and there should be tougher penalties for alcohol-related offences.

More 20mph speed limit zones should be in place, it added.

'Should be ashamed'

Liberal Democrat transport spokesman Mark Hunter said: "It is a travesty that drunk drivers still kill as many people now as they did a decade ago.

"The government should be ashamed that it has failed to make a dent in this problem."

A Department for Transport spokesman said road deaths and serious injuries had been reduced by more than a third since the mid-1990s, equivalent to almost 17,000 fewer deaths and injuries.

"But we have always been clear that one death is one too many and so recognise that more can be done to make our roads safer.

"We work continually to improve the way road casualty data is recorded and are now linking police and hospital data.

"However, criticism of our statistics is itself based on flawed comparisons with hospital admissions data, which are published with a warning about their reliability for monitoring trends over time."

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