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PostPosted: Thu Apr 08, 2004 12:44 
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Location: Safe Speed, ... 37,00.html

Rise in motorcyclists drives up road deaths
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent

ROAD deaths are rising in many parts of the country, despite the Government?s announcement yesterday that it was meeting all its road safety targets.

Figures from 19 police forces, compiled by the lobby group SafeSpeed, show a 5 per cent increase in the annual death rate last year, the sharpest rise for 15 years.

The survey calls into question the Government?s road safety strategy, which has concentrated on increasing the number of speed cameras while allowing forces to re- deploy hundreds of traffic police to other duties.

Ministers have attempted to deflect attention from their failure to reduce the death rate by focusing on the fall in the number of serious injuries in road crashes.

But a leaked letter from David Jamieson, the Transport Minister, to the Government?s panel of road safety advisers discloses the degree of concern over the death rate. Mr Jamieson writes: ?I would like to make the levelling off in fatalities a particular area of focus for the panel.?

Mr Jamieson?s letter contrasts with the optimistic tone of a statement on road safety yesterday by Tony Blair, who said: ?I am pleased so say we are making good progress.? He was referring to the Government?s target of reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured by 40 per cent by 2010.

Interim figures show that the Government is comfortably on course to achieve that target, with the number falling by 17 per cent in the past four years. But the headline figure was qualified by a note buried inside a three-year progress report on the road safety strategy, which the Department for Transport published yesterday.

The report said: ?The previous downward trend in fatalities appears to have ceased since 1998. The 17 per cent reduction in killed and seriously injured is therefore entirely a result of year-on-year reductions that have been seen in serious injuries.?

The report concluded that the failure to reduce the death rate ?would clearly detract from the success of achieving the target?.

If road deaths had fallen at the same rate as serious injuries, 600 lives would have been saved in 2002 alone. But Mr Jamieson ruled out setting a separate target for cutting the death rate. ?But I do think we need more research into why the death rate is not coming down,? he said.

Mr Jamieson said that one of the main reasons why the death rate had stuck at about 3,400 for the past five years was the increasing popularity of high-performance motorcycles. Almost a fifth of all the people who died on the roads in 2002 were motorcyclists. The largest proportion of these were ?born-again bikers?, men in their 30s and 40s riding machines of more than 500cc. A national strategy on reducing motorcycle deaths is to be announced in the autumn.

In 19 force areas, deaths have risen from 1,270 to 1,337, with men aged between 20 and 24 accounting for almost 20 per cent of the male fatalities from 2000 to 2002.

Road deaths reached a post-war peak of 7,985 in 1966 and then declined steadily to 3,421 in 1998. Unlike the overall death rate, the number of pedestrian deaths has continued to fall, from 906 in 1998 to 775 in 2002. The greatest improvement in casualty rates was among pedal cyclists, with the number killed or seriously injured falling by 40 per cent since 1998.

Paul Smith
Our scrap speed cameras petition got over 28,000 sigs
The Safe Speed campaign demands a return to intelligent road safety

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