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A report today by the National Audit Office highlights the fall in the number of deaths among both pedestrians and cyclists since the mid-1990s though more remains to be done to improve their safety. The number of deaths among pedestrians has fallen by 36 per cent but Great Britain is some way behind some of the better performing nations, particularly for child pedestrians. The number of cyclists killed or seriously injured fell from 2000 to 2004, but rose again by 11 per cent from 2004 to 2007, despite the amount of cycling staying broadly constant.

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The Department for Transport’s budget for its own road safety activities in 2008-9 was £36 million. This funding is not however directed at specific road users and many other bodies contribute to road safety, making it difficult to determine the effectiveness of the Department’s specific contribution.

The DfT has, however, taken a number of relevant measures to reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries amongst pedestrians and cyclists, including a general strategy for road safety which has provided a focus for other organisations working in this field. It has also developed media campaigns under the Think! Campaign to change the beliefs and attitudes of road users.

The Department is on track to meet the targets in its Road Safety Strategy for 2010. Today’s report points out that the underlying picture is complex. There is a slower rate of decline in fatalities (18 per cent) than serious injuries (37 per cent) compared with the average between 1994 and 1998. To increase transparency, the Department should set separate targets for those killed and seriously injured and for different road user groups.

To meet its road safety objectives, the DfT needs to work with a number of different organisations. Generally it has a good working relationship with them, but its approach up to now has been informal relying on personal contacts built up by staff over time, and it needs to develop a strategy for managing these relationships.

“Making roads safer for pedestrians and cyclists is a key element in encouraging people to walk and cycle more. While their safety has improved generally, some are more vulnerable, such as child pedestrians from deprived areas. The Department for Transport needs to draw on its research programme and the lessons learned from the projects that it funds to find ways of improving safety, especially for groups most at risk.”

Tim Burr, head of the National Audit Office


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