Council's bid to cut road fatalities

A SERIES of road safety initiatives look set to be introduced in a desperate bid to cut the number of fatalities in Suffolk after the 12th victim was killed this year.

David Green

A SERIES of road safety initiatives look set to be introduced in a desperate bid to cut the number of fatalities in Suffolk after the 12th victim was killed this year.

The latest victim, an elderly cyclist who was fatally injured after a collision with a skip lorry at Darsham on Friday, has yet to be identified by police.

Since the start of the year, five drivers or passengers in cars have died, three pedestrians and four cyclists or bikers have lost their lives.

Friday's fatality comes just days before Suffolk County Council will move to introduce a number of new measures to improve road safety.

The list of 16 key improvements include:

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more work with mobile speed cameras

a unified anti-speeding message for motorists

new warning signs at accident black spots

quicker completion of new road and junction lay-outs

quicker enforcement action after spates of accidents at the same location and

speed awareness courses for “low end” speeders

The partnership-driven initiative also intends to work with the US Air Force - to reduce accidents involving American personnel - and their families, and with vulnerable groups such as motorcyclists.

A report to be considered by councillors on April 17 suggests that despite a high figure in 2003, when there were a number of multiple victim accidents, there has been a gradual but clear downward trend in the number of people killed or seriously injured on Suffolk's roads.

In both 2006 and 2007 “milestone” targets for reducing fatal and serious injury accidents were achieved. The targets were 369 and 346 respectively and actual victims numbered 359 and 301.

Child casualties have significantly dropped. The 23 killed or seriously injured in Suffolk in 2005 was the lowest ever and while 25 were killed or injured in the county in 2007 this is well ahead of the target, which was to reduce annual casualties among youngsters to 25 a year by 2010.

But in an interview with the EADT last week, Guy McGregor, Suffolk County Council's portfolio holder for roads and transport, said no death is “acceptable”.

“Our efforts will remain high on the financing of improvements on the roads and education process, particularly in terms of speeding.

“Every death on a road in Suffolk is a tragedy for the friends and family involved.”

Suffolk County Council has set up a scrutiny process to judge whether the actions being taken in partnership with other organisations to improve road safety are proving effective.

One of six corporate priorities identified for 2008/9 is the maintenance of Suffolk as a safe place to live and work and this includes road safety accident reduction and prevention work.

Now coming under scrutiny is the county's current road safety performance and the future strategy.

County councillors want to know how local communities are involved in road safety and how actions are monitored and assessed to ensure objectives are being met.

The local authority is also re-examining why it received a low score for road safety in a Government report into its delivery of the Local Transport Plan, based on the period 2001-6

The scrutiny committee can make recommendations to department chiefs, central government and the Suffolk Road Safety Partnership, which involves the county council, Suffolk Fire and Rescue Service, Suffolk Constabulary, Suffolk Safecam, the Highways Agency and the East of England Ambulance Trust.

Senior fire and rescue officers are due to attend a road safety scrutiny committee meeting on April 17.

David Chenery, a road safety officer, says in a report to the committee: “Suffolk has aligned itself since 1987 with government casualty reduction targets and in the last six years taken on more onerous targets in its drive to continue the downward drop of road casualties in the county.”

Mr Chenery says the strategy for 2009 onwards will be influenced by several factors which could include, some of which are likely to feature in Suffolk's emerging, second Local Area Agreement. Government is already considering post-2010 targets. Future casualty reduction will need to take into account wider changes in society.

These could include the tendency for older people to drive later in life, the impact of the encouragement of walking and cycling to reduce obesity and technological advances, such as in-car entertainment systems, which can create road risk.

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