26% rise in county's road deaths

By Sharon AsplinPOLICE and an MP have greeted with dismay a rise of more than 25% in the death toll on the county's roads.Essex Police said 116 people were killed in accidents on the roads of Essex last year, compared with 92 deaths in 2002 – an increase of 26%.

By Sharon Asplin

POLICE and an MP have greeted with dismay a rise of more than 25% in the death toll on the county's roads.

Essex Police said 116 people were killed in accidents on the roads of Essex last year, compared with 92 deaths in 2002 – an increase of 26%.

The announcement was a blow to police and safety officers, who this time last year were admitting to feeling cautiously optimistic after the number of fatalities in 2002 had fallen by about 25% on the previous year.


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Essex Police described the increase in the number of road deaths as "disappointing" and admitted they were arresting an average of one person a month for causing death by dangerous driving.

Simon Burns, the Conservative MP for Chelmsford West, said the death rate was a "bitter blow" and "significant setback".

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Official figures showed there were 107 fatal crashes on the roads of Essex in 2003, which left 116 dead. By comparison, there were 85 fatal crashes in 2002 with 92 deaths.

Of the 116 deaths last year, 42 were driving vehicles, 24 were riding motorcycles, 23 were passengers in vehicles, 23 were pedestrians and four were cyclists.

An Essex Police spokesman said the increase in road fatalities was "clearly disappointing" and added: "Every death is a tragedy.

"The vast majority are due to an error or misjudgment. Every driver has an onerous responsibility for their own safety and that of others and they should remember this at every stage of their journey.

"The increase is disappointing. On the flip side, we are arresting a person per month for causing death by dangerous driving, which is not disappointing, it is alarming – that one person every month is being arrested effectively for road manslaughter."

Mr Burns said: "It's a bitter blow that after the improvements in 2002 we've seen a significant setback in the number of deaths on Essex roads.

"Given that we have more speed cameras than ever before it is ironic that the number of deaths have risen significantly and rather undercuts the argument that they help reduce road accidents. One does question whether they are there as a money-making rather than a safety exercise.

"The tragedy is I just do not know what the answer is because Essex Police and Essex County Council have good records, particularly with motorcyclists, providing training and road safety initiatives."

However, there was a small glimmer of hope in the statistics as the general injury rate felt by about 5% from 8,495 in December 2001 to November 2002 to 8,060 for the same period a year later.

Also between December 2002 and November 2003 there were 1,292 people seriously injured in road traffic accidents (up 5% from 1,231 in December 2001 to November 2002) and 6,768 people suffered minor injuries (down 6.8% from 7,264).

sharon.asplin@eadt.co.uk

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