Brake annual reception, January 2014

Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive

Good evening. Thank you so much for joining us tonight. It is wonderful to be in a room packed with people who have worked so hard alongside us, supported us and partnered with us in the past year, and in some cases over many years, for the benefit of road safety and road crash victims.

As well as saying thank you to all of you, this reception provides us a chance to reflect on the progress we have made in the past year towards safer communities, fewer casualties, and better supported victims – and to consider how we can move closer to our vision in coming years.

Brake remains a relatively small charity – we have the equivalent of 23 full time staff and an income of one million pounds. But I'm proud to say we continue to speak out loudly, with conviction and credibility, and are heard by millions each year; we inform and engage thousands of professionals, educators and communities; and we support many families who suffer horrendously due to road death and injury.

And last year our work continued to extend its reach, and achieve results.

Our support services for people left reeling and distraught by road death or injury, which are part-funded by government, have continued to develop:
- We now offer a more comprehensive range of care, information and help than ever before
- Our packs continue to be presented to bereaved families following every UK road death
- Our helpline handled no fewer than 1,500 calls last year
- We are also thrilled to now be able to offer support to British families bereaved by overseas crashes, thanks to a partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We also came a step closer to our goal of ensuring all bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims can easily access the specialist support they need:
- Police guidelines now recommend that officers working with bereaved families flag up our helpline at the same time as handing over our packs.
-And the Ministry of Justice's new Code for Victims of Crime now recognises bereaved road crime victims as victims of serious crime with particular needs, who should be referred to appropriate support.

At the same time as working to ease the suffering of road crash victims, we continued to step up our work to engage communities and professionals to tackle this carnage and make our streets safer for everyone.

In 2013, we ran 40 seminars, webinars and courses for road safety and fleet practitioners and produced 25 reports, sharing research and good practice to support them in reducing risks and raising awareness.

Nearly 100,000 children took part in our Giant Walking Bus and Beep Beep! Day initiatives, which promote road safety to families and get the message to drivers to slow down to protect kids.

Almost 8,000 schools, groups and organisations registered for our flagship event, Road Safety Week, and we collected feedback on more than 500 initiatives that took place at grassroots level.

And that is a crucial part of Brake's role – encouraging and helping community groups, schools and professionals to take action on road safety in their area. By running events like Road Safety Week, by offering free resources and information, by promoting the importance of road safety, we are stimulating and supporting communities to bring about positive change.

Sitting alongside our community and professional engagement work, is our national campaigning, which had an unprecedented year.

We continued to call for reform for our driver testing system, to tackle catastrophic young driver crashes and engender a safer driving culture. We now eagerly await an expected green paper on this issue.

We ran media campaigns raising awareness about the dangers of driving on any amount of drink or drugs. We welcomed progress on the new law on drug driving, expected to come into force later this year, and we called on Westminster to adopt a zero tolerance approach on drink and drug driving.

We delivered hugely successful campaigns calling on drivers to sharpen up – by getting their eyes tested regularly – and tune in – by never calling, texting or multi-tasking at the wheel.

And we continued pushing for safer streets for walking and cycling. Working with 10 other charities under the GO 20 coalition, we called for 20 limits to become the norm in built up areas. We welcomed news of Birmingham, the City of London, and other localities planning to GO 20 and saw growing recognition of the link between road safety and public health.

But what made 2013 a particularly successful year for Brake, was not us, but you, or rather all of us working and speaking out together. We worked with corporate and NGO partners, government agencies, media outlets, industry bodies, associations and of course our wonderful volunteers to get the road safety message out more widely and powerfully than ever before:
-Our support services would not reach victims in their darkest hours, were in not for close partnership working with all police forces
- Road Safety Week, run with the support of the Department for Transport as well as corporate sponsors last year, would not have had the impact it did without the involvement of police, fire services and local authorities around the country
- Each of our media campaigns was given power by the brave voices of bereaved and injured volunteers
- And many of our corporate partners not only provided vital funding, but also promoted road safety to millions of staff and customers.

This approach, of working and speaking out together, is vital to Brake and to progress in road safety. So I encourage everyone here to consider how we can continue to build on our partnerships, and do more to shift attitudes and behaviour and culture, to tackle the five deaths and 63 serious injuries that happen daily on UK roads, and support the families left devastated.

Brake's vision is a world where no one loses their life, or suffers horrendous injury, as a result of violent and preventable road crashes, a world where kids and adults can walk and cycle freely, without fear or threat, and where everyone's priority when using roads is looking out for one another. We vehemently believe this can and will be achieved, through passion and perseverance, and intelligent, joined-up working.

I thank you all for helping Brake to work towards this vision. We may not get there this year, but we will continue to make steps towards it, with your support.

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