Articles Tagged ‘speech - Brake the road safety charity’

APPG Mary Williams OBE speech forgotten victims

The Forgotten Victims

*Speech to All Party Parliamentary Group for Road Safety, *

Wednesday 13 July 2005

Mary Williams OBE, chief executive, Brake

Given the Road Safety Bill is making its way through the House of Lords at present it may feel that Brake is running a side show to the main event by talking about issues of more concern to the Home Office and the Department of Health than the Department for Transport, but the timing of this meeting is most timely indeed.

This spring, Home Office funding for three very important projects - set up to develop best practice support of road crash victims came to a very untimely end. This meeting is called partly to bemoan that ending and lack of continuation funding.

So who is a road crash victim? It may seem an obvious question, but it is sometimes important to state the obvious.

Our primary concern is for the 10 families who are bereaved every day. On average, someone who dies on the road loses 40 years from their life expectancy this means that most people who die on roads are young or still in the prime of their life this means that they leave behind parents, husbands, wives, children. Families are torn apart.

Yet under civil law rules, if family members didn’t actually *see *their loved one die but were instead waiting at home for them to return from the shops, but instead had a police officer at the door the law doesn’t consider them to have suffered traumatic stress as a result of the death and they cannot claim compensation for their trauma.

This is one of many more injustices, but perhaps the worst of all is the continued lack of funding for support services for bereaved and seriously injured families, which I am here to talk about for a few minutes.


Every year, the extremely important charity Victim Support is funded to the tune of 30m by the Home Office to support victims of crime. These victims obviously include families of very serious crimes, homicide, rape and grievous bodily harm. But when it came, way back when, to deciding if funds should be released to pay for support for families bereaved by road death, the Home Office made a decision that was clearly based on their remit as a Department, rather than the needs of the victim. They took the view that road deaths are not always (although they frequently are) caused by a crime. As this Department’s remit is prevention of crime and support of victims of crime, road deaths didn’t qualify. Yet there are far more deaths on roads than murders.

The Home Office’s draft new Victims’ Code of Practice is riddled with get-out sub-clauses saying there is a duty to care for victims excepting road crash victims.

Of course, this is an example of disjointed government, not joined up government. Because, one would like to think, from the perspective of the Department of Health it is obviously far more important to support victims of road death, than, for example, support a victim of non-violent burglary.

This quote from a mother who called BrakeCare’s helpline summarises the current situation:

*”My husband and two children were wiped out by a drunk driver. I wasn’t offered any support worker or counselling. I was so alone. I went to my GP as I thought I might end it all. He didn’t seem to know what else to do other than prescribe drugs so I could at least sleep. I became addicted and so unable to cope that I had to give up my job and now I have nothing. No family, no job, no life. How ironic that I was burgled six months after my family were killed and the police officer put me in touch with ‘Victim Support’. Now which do you think was more upsetting being burgled or my family being killed? I am extremely angry and the system is crazy. Whoever makes these rules doesn’t know what it is like to have your family wiped out, doesn’t know what it is like to know your son was decapitated in the crash. It is offensive that victims of non-violent burglary qualify for support and I didn’t.” *

In 2004, after intensive lobbying by Brake’s care division BrakeCare, RoadPeace and other voluntary service providers, the Home Office agreed to fund 3 ‘pilots’ of volunteer-led services for bereaved and seriously injured families in Bedfordshire, West Yorkshire and Merseyside. These pilots were only funded for a paltry 18 months these 18 months are now over, funding has been stopped dead, (we had fought for a longer pilot than 18 months which really only enabled set up to take place) and there are no promises of any more funding any time soon. The pilots are currently been analysed by Surrey University but we are in no doubt that they will have been found to be of untold value to road crash victims.

BrakeCare coordinated the pilot in West Yorkshire, training over many weeks a dedicated team of volunteers, who were managed on a day to day basis by Victim Support West Yorkshire, to visit families bereaved by road death in their homes. These volunteers were on hand to emotionally and practically support families during a range of traumatic and procedural processes, ranging from identification of their loved one’s body, to laying flowers at the roadside, to understanding criminal and civil procedures. These volunteers are a vital life-line and an essential support to police Family Liaison Officers’ duties as well as the victim themselves.

All three pilots are attempting to keep going on no money, because they are staffed by dedicated professionals, although Victim Support West Yorkshire has had to withdraw and Brake now directly manages volunteers itself. But the Home Office hasn’t suggested where we can go for further funding - a promise of a ‘victim’s fund’ proposed by the Home Office last year is still pending.

Please support our call for Government funding for this important work in all three pilot areas and for services like these to be expand across the UK. Support the EDM tabled today on this topic.


If you are a family man or woman, as many of you will be, imagine your other half dying in a road crash, or imagine your children being killed. Now imagine being a child and one or both of your parents being killed in a crash. There is no doubt how traumatic such a death is, and often there are multiple deaths in one family.

The result can be severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder symptoms include agoraphobia, inability to communicate, uncontrollable anger and distress. A 1995 study on the impact of road death and injury by FEVR (the European Federation of Road Traffic Victims) found that “psychological suffering by the victims [of road crashes] and their relatives is often extreme and long-lasting.

Research by Mirza et al, published in the British Journal of Psychiatry (1998, 172: 443-447), found that 75% of 8-16 year olds injured in a road crash met the criteria for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The FEVR report found that suffering often increases with time and is “frequently the cause of serious illness which may even lead to death.” FEVR found that trauma suffered by people bereaved in a road crash resulted in sleeping problems (49%), distressing nightmares (41%), anxiety attacks (46%), suicidal feelings (37%) and depression (64%).

Other conditions such as eating disorders, alcohol or drug addiction, are also widely reported. Sufferers of diagnosed PTSD may have difficulty holding down a job or relationship and place a largely hidden burden on social services and employers.

A death of a loved one in a road crash is a memory that will never go away, and a scar that will last forever. Brake firmly believes that early intervention by well-trained volunteers can, however, help prevent debilitating PTSD, as victims are helped through the appalling shock. But for those victims who go on to continue to display severe traumatic stress symptoms many months and years after the death, more help is needed.

Cognitive behavioural therapy which translates as talk-based, confidential one-to-one counseling with an experienced therapist is a proven method of care for people with PTSD and endorsed by the Department of Health. To be effective, these therapists should be both experienced and expert in working with victims who have suffered a traumatic, sudden, violent death. These are not normal deaths, but they happen to normal families who are thrown into chaos and darkness.

So where are these therapists? I was recently talking to one of the key personnel involved in the post-Tsunami support of families bereaved in that disaster, who was asking the same question. There is no NHS directory of these professionals, and a request by us for funding from the Department of Health to research and produce such a directory for health professionals to use was turned down last year. There is no automatic referral to these therapists who are out there in small numbers - when the worst happens. Instead, GPs try to mop up the broken pieces of people’s minds by referring them to generic counsellors who are not expert in this field at all. Or they go for a ‘quick fix’ of calming drugs that may prove addictive. Or they offer to refer the victim to a psychiatrist for a psychiatric assessment. The psychiatrist themselves may not be an expert in this area, and may not be available for a year due to waiting lists. What is the good of that if you feel the world is about to end and you can only think about making it through today, let alone into next year?

Where there are trauma therapists available through the NHS, they are run off their feet, and you are lucky if you know about them and can get to see them.

Ironically, as hinted at earlier, if you receive a minor injury in a road crash and the other driver was to blame, you may be able to pursue a claim for ‘traumatic stress’ and receive professional trauma therapy courtesy of insurance company pay outs. But not if you were at home when you received the knock on the door from the police officer that wouldn’t qualify you for therapy as you weren’t at the scene of the crash and you weren’t ‘hurt’. The cash is in the system for therapy, but it’s being misdirected by the law to the people who need it to a far lesser degree.

There has been much talk in recent months about the controversial Mental Health Bill, over its worrying proposals to enforce treatment. Trauma is also a mental health issue, and these very needy bereaved victims suffering from PTSD often receive no treatment where it is urgently needed.

Please support our call for Government funding for a trauma specialist in every area of the NHS, to help professionally counsel people of all types of traumas, from deaths by terrorism to deaths on the road. Please sign the EDM tabled today.


In 2000, Charles Clarke, then junior minister at the Home Office, posed in a photo call launching the Home Office’s funding of a bereavement guide by Brake. This is the guide five years on. This guide includes essential information that bereaved people urgently need ranging from information about police investigations to how to pursue a claim for compensation to details of voluntary support groups. We spend inordinate time fact checking and updating the guide every year and ensuring it is written objectively, empathetically and extremely clearly, getting a message across in a straightforward, caring manner using as few words as possible. It is widely applauded as excellent work. It came as no surprise to us that in 2003 the Home Office produced an almost identical-looking guide for families bereaved by murder - a huge endorsement for our guide.

But despite repeated requests to the Home Office to fund translations of the guide, and a version for people who are seriously injured with life-changing injuries, spinal injuries and brain injuries, the Home Office has not gone any further than funding our guide for bereaved people, and this year even slightly reduced our funding for this guide and the associated costs of distributing it.

Our bereavement guide is an invaluable tool for police family liaison officers, who hand it out to every family bereaved on the road on our behalf. Every force in the UK does this without fail and routinely grades the guide extremely highly in feedback reports. Liaising with the police to ensure they are distributing it effectively, including offering free training to police family liaison officers, all costs us time and money.

We also have a helpline (01484 421611) which enables us to verbally explain the guide further over the phone, to both victims and professionals such as police family liaison officers. But we receive no funding at all for this service. A Victim Support helpline is funded by the Home Office to support other victims of other crimes.

This pitiful level of funding given to BrakeCare and other agencies must be increased. Please sign the EDM.


Finally, who else should be doing anything more, aside from central Government?

Obviously every day police officers, chaplains, hospital nurses, and counsellors and GPs, religious and community leaders, as well as voluntary sector organisations like Brake, are doing their best in trying circumstances and with many other priorities to support those bereaved by road death. Even with no funding, many Victim Support branches around the UK are trying against the odds and lack of central funds to effectively support road death victims.

Obviously at a regional level, these unsung heroes often need to be given more resources and leadership to do their jobs better. Police forces should never require police family liaison officers working on road death cases to also be the senior investigating officer, or to work with four or five bereaved families at once, at the expense of their own mental health and detrimental to their own personal life, or for a rookie PC with no training in such matters to break the bad news to a family. But while all forces are increasingly professional in their family care, these things do happen in some locations. Chief constables need to give best practice family liaison care the utmost priority.

There is much more that can be done by companies too. One in three deaths on roads involves a vehicle being driven for work purposes. Companies can be paying for professional trauma therapy for staff who are bereaved or seriously injured, or the families of staff who have died. Some do pay for this, but not enough. Many don’t even have procedures in place to offer appropriate help or even condolences in the right way. Such protocols have got to be a bare minimum. Brake can provide training to companies to help them set these up.

5. So where do we go from here?

  • Support the EDM
  • We have requested a meeting with Fiona McTaggart, Victims Minister
  • We plan to pursue campaigning within the Department of Health, with Minister for Mental Health Rosie Winterton
  • We want to activate MPs and Lords to raise these issues when you can in the House and to write to Ministers with your concerns
  • We will be continuing to liaise with key civil servants to try to keep these issues on their agenda
  • Any additional suggestions of how we can take this campaign forward will be gratefully received

A final note on the Road Safety Bill

At this time, it would be inappropriate not to mention the Road Safety Bill, which has made it half way through the House of Lords and will be back in the Commons in the Autumn.

Please find in your delegate packs Brake’s proposed amendments and do raise these if you can.

  • Please support our proposal to reduce the drink drive limit in line with nearly all of the rest of Europe.
  • Please support our proposal that the 30mph standard limit in towns and villages is reduced to 20, again in line with Europe.
  • In particular, please strongly object to the Government’s proposal in the bill to decrease the penalty for speeding at up to 39mph in a 30mph zone. At 39mph a child who is hit stands a negligible chance of survival and this would therefore be a very bad law indeed given the message it sends to drivers. And, of course, 39mph is almost precisely twice the limit that Brake thinks is safe for communities.

Please contact us if you can support our work on the road safety bill or on road crash victim care needs. Thank you for listening.

Brake annual reception, January 2013 Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive

 Good evening.

It’s wonderful to see such a packed room tonight, and I’m pleased to greet so many new partners, supporters, fundraisers and volunteers, as well as welcoming back many of you who have helped and worked with Brake over many years or even decades.

For Brake, this time of year is an opportunity, not only to do the very important job of thanking you for your crucial support, but to reflect on the state of road safety, and of Brake’s wide-ranging services and campaigns, and consider how we can work, alongside you, to make roads safer, prevent tragedies, and care for bereaved and injured families, as best we possibly can.

In recent weeks we have been evaluating our 2012 achievements, considering how we can develop, and planning our 2013 activities – and I have to say this process leaves me with a tremendous sense of pride. I’m very proud to be part of a charity that does so much with relatively little, that works extremely hard, with great determination, and is constantly pushing to do more, do better and bring about positive change.

Reflecting back on 2012, it was a year where many of our projects and services grew and reached more people than ever before.

We engaged thousands of schools, and tens of thousands of children and young people, in our programmes. We provided free resources, support and encouragement, not just on teaching road safety, but to help schools, nurseries and colleges to promote road safety to the wider community, and campaign for safer roads.

We advised more than 1,000 organisations on road risk management through our Fleet Safety Forum, and recognised employers implementing best practice at our annual fleet safety awards, holding these up as positive examples.

We ran another highly successful Road Safety Week, the UK’s flagship road safety event. More schools, communities and companies got involved than ever before, and we hit the headlines with our calls for drivers to slow down and GO 20 to protect people on foot and bike.

We continue developing our support services, to ensure we’re providing the best possible care, help and information to families who suffer the horrific aftermath of a road death or injury. Our helpline dealt with around 1,400 calls, while expanding the range of support it provides.

And we worked hard to campaign on a broad range of issues to stop more families going through the horror experienced by those who call our helpline. We engaged the public to encourage safer, more responsible road use, and we engaged policy-makers to call for measures to safeguard human life.

We communicated our vital campaign messages via scores of press releases and e-bulletins; meetings and events with ministers, officials and MPs; no fewer than 660 TV and radio interviews, nearly 1,500 press articles, and tweets galore.

Under-pinning all of this work is not just a great passion and determination to stop the carnage on our roads, but a conviction in the validity of our arguments. At Brake constantly scan and analyse international research and best practice, and carry out our own studies on road user behaviour. So when we campaign for 20mph limits, when we call for higher fines for driving offences, or appeal to drivers to switch off their phones, or call for regular eyesight testing for drivers – all of which we did last year – it’s grounded in cold, hard evidence on how we can stop people being killed and hurt.


And in 2012, I am pleased to say, we saw some notable campaign achievements. The Ministry of Justice recognised the need to develop support for road crime victims in its victims strategy. The Scottish and Northern Irish Governments announced lower drink drive limits. Northern Ireland published plans for graduated driver licensing, to help protect young, inexperienced drivers. A new law on drug driving was announced in the Queen’s Speech. And more towns and cities implemented 20mph limits to help people walk and cycle safely.

These are measures we’ve campaigned for long and hard, which the evidence says will make a difference and will save lives. And which we will continue to fight for, until they are implemented in full, across the UK.


But in looking back on last year, it is crucial we also reflect on the violent, needless tragedies that continue to afflict families and communities the length and breadth of the country. The fact that every day five more people lose their lives, leaving behind distraught family and friends, and every day, 66 more suffer serious injuries, many life-shattering. All these devastating casualties are man-made and preventable.

Statistics out last year showed the first rise in road deaths and serious injuries for 17 years. So after decades of progress, suddenly more people were being killed and seriously injured. The biggest rise was among people on foot and bike: those using the cheapest, healthiest, most eco-friendly mode of travel.


Last year was described by some as our greatest sporting year ever. There was much discussion about creating a legacy of active, healthy communities, and a great wave of enthusiasm for sports like cycling and athletics. Never has Sports Personality of the Year been so hard to call.

Yet often overlooked in all of this is the relationship between road safety and people’s ability to walk, jog, cycle or get to the park. The fact that danger from traffic is a major barrier in kids being able to walk to school, or adults feeling able to cycle to work. The fact that our next Bradley Wiggins may never even get on a bike because his mum says it’s just too dangerous.


Brake’s work is about preventing tragedies and easing suffering, but it is also about making our streets and communities safer, nicer, more people-friendly places. It’s about enabling people to get out and about without fear or threat, to be mobile, healthy, active and sociable, without being endangered.

In 2013 we will be continuing to engage the public, organisations and those in power, to promote life-saving awareness and action for the benefit of communities everywhere. A key focus will be striving to reach more people through our highly respected and well-established services – and partnership work is vital to this. So we look forward to working with all of you to get more schools teaching and promoting road safety. To help more concerned parents campaign for safer roads for their kids. To advise more employers on improving fleet safety. And to have an even greater impact with our life-saving campaigns. 

We look forward to welcoming much-needed progress from Westminster on drug driving, applauding devolved government on moves to tackle drink-driving and young driver crashes, and hailing local authorities who decide to GO 20 for safer walking and cycling.

But we will also of course be working alongside you to highlight the huge amount that remains to be done to stop the deaths and injuries, and make all our communities safe. 

Thank you again for your ongoing support and we very much look forward to working with you in 2013 and beyond.


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.

Brake annual reception, January 2015

Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive

Good evening. I always feel incredibly proud to stand here and look across a room packed with people who share our passion for safer streets and support for road crash victims, people who work so hard alongside us. I’m especially proud to do this now, alongside Brake’s CE and founder, in Brake’s 20th year.

Brake remains relatively small, but we are growing in size, reach and influence. We’re doing more each year, with your help. We now have 30 staff members, and an income of £1.1 million. We work incredibly hard with limited resources, to speak out, inform, educate, engage and support.

Last year our helpline supported more families devastated by road death and injury than ever before: 545 cases, through 2,000 calls and emails, including for the first time many UK families bereaved through crashes abroad thanks to partnership working with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

We were thrilled to receive accreditation from the Helplines Partnership, recognising the quality of our support, which includes emotional comfort, practical and procedural advice, signposting and advocacy. Feedback shows the enormous difference this makes to so many suffering victims.

But as we move into 2015, we’re conscious that not all road crash victims can access our help, and despite your backing, our team remains stretched. Hence we’re seeking increased funding to develop our serious injury support, partnership work with hospitals, and grow our capacity so we can move, alongside our partners, towards all crash victims being referred to support.

As well as developing our support work, we continued to engage communities across the UK, helping them raise awareness to prevent casualties. Last year 53,000 children marched for road safety in our Giant Walk, and learnt some key lessons on the way. We engaged 500 nurseries in our long-running Beep Beep! Day initiative.

Community engagement is another key area of development for us. We want to run our projects for schools and nurseries on a far bigger scale. We especially want to develop and expand our programme on engaging young people, to help tackle casualties among this at-risk group.

We recognise that working in partnership with professionals in local authorities, emergency services and companies is essential to promoting road safety. Our Brake Professionals scheme now has 1,200 members, and last year we delivered 25 research bulletins, 10 reports, and 40 webinars, seminars and courses, to share information and best practice.

This year, we’ll continue to share research and tools, with a focus on developing our webinars and multi-media resources, to help professionals deliver road safety work as effectively as possible.

As most of you know, we also continue to coordinate the UK’s biggest road safety event every November, Road Safety Week. We had a record year last year, thanks to your help and an ongoing Department for Transport grant. Nearly 10,000 schools and groups registered to be involved, all getting an action pack. We ran a successful media campaign calling on everyone to look out for each other, especially highlighting drivers’ responsibilities to protect people.

In 2015, Road Safety Week is 23-29 November and we hope you’ll all be involved. We will again use the event to promote road safety at community level, and run a high-impact campaign, drawing attention to the links between road safety, the environment, and health.

That continues to be a key theme for us across our campaigning, throughout the year, as our influence continues to grow through social and traditional media, online, and public affairs work.

Our GO 20 campaign, calling for 20 limits to become the norm for safer walking and cycling, gained further momentum last year. We linked up with more charities, organisations and MPs, and shared good practice among the rising number of local authorities switching to 20mph.

Our campaigning work also saw some significant victories, with Scotland introducing a lower drink drive limit, an announcement of a government review of charges and penalties for driving offences, and progress towards a zero tolerance drug drive law, coming in on 2nd March.

But we still have a long way to go, before our laws are fully in line with research and best practice, and we have a truly safe system that enables everyone to get around without fear or threat, sustainably and actively. It’s that principle we’ll continue to champion in 2015 and beyond.

Across all our work, we have grown. Growth enables us to support more crash victims in need, deliver more life-saving education and awareness, help more communities and professionals, and campaign ever more vociferously.

As we move into our 20th year, we are on the cusp of not just becoming a bigger, more impactful organisation, but one that is at the forefront of driving a shift in how we use roads and approach road safety, a shift that will not only prevent terrible, needless tragedies but enable everyone to live greener, healthier, happier lives.

For us to continue to grow, and make that step, your support is critical. So I’d like to finish with a plea, for everyone here to do everything in their power to support Brake this year. If you can, step up your company’s support. Back our campaigns. Become a professional member. And please fundraise for us, to help mark our 20th year.

I will be running a little over 20 miles in the London marathon, and you can sponsor me tonight, so please do! But please also consider how you and your organisations can work with us to make things happen throughout this year and into the future.

I’m now delighted to welcome Robert Goodwill MP, under secretary of state for transport, with responsibility for road safety.

Thank you.

Brake annual reception, January 2017

Speech by Mary Williams OBE, chief executive, Brake, annual reception for the charity, Westminster, 25 January 2017

To quote Martin Luther King, “The time is always right to do what is right.”

Time is an unruly beast however. 

It has a habit of speeding up and slowing down.

For busy families, and busy workers, in our busy world, it moves fast. The temptation to multi-task; to drive while on a smart phone, to break speed limits, to take the car rather than cycle and save the planet, are life-threatening, climate endangering behaviours fuelled by pressures of time. They cause drivers to prioritise ‘in the moment’, wrongly, and to devastating effect.

Time can stop in a moment.

Time grinds to a halt when someone is killed or seriously injured in a road crash. Our routines are suspended. Suddenly, our attention is focussed.

It’s beautifully summed up in WH Auden’s famous poem so often used at funerals.  “Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone. Scribble on the sky the message “he is dead”.”

Yet, consumed by grief and distress, we are given a strange and precious gift. We are given the gift of sight. We can see what matters above all – people and life. As Auden puts it: “he was my north, my south, my east, my west.”

Whether we can see it or not, the time is always right to put humanity first.

“The time is always right to do what is right.” 

There are so many affected families who work alongside Brake, bravely, to fight for humanity. To fight for what others cannot see through the haze of the day to day.

To fight for appropriately grave sentences for drivers who kill and injure through wanton actions:

use of smart phones and other on-board screens.

drink and drug driving.

speeding, or driving unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured.

knowingly driving a mechanically unfit vehicle or driving tired.  

Campaigning takes time – frustrating amounts of time. Brake has been fighting for tougher sentences for more than 20 years. Last year, working with affected families, we elevated our Roads to Justice campaign in the media.

The current government consultation road traffic offences provides a real and urgent opportunity to redress paltry sentencing.

There are so many campaigns that Brake has found, to our cost, take inordinate time, when the road ahead seems so clear.

There are so many campaigns we have consistently supported, are still outstanding and that this government has a chance to resolve. 

A reduction in the drink drive limit, to stop our country being infamous for having the highest limit in Europe.

The government has the public with them. More than three quarters of drivers we surveyed in partnership with Direct Line think our limit is too high.

Approved testing devices to catch MDMA and cocaine drivers.

20mph limits as a default for built up roads.

A country-wide network of segregated cycle lanes that connect places, enabling, fast, healthy, zero emission transport.

Prioritisation of pedestrianisation, with wide and safe pavements, crossing places and livable traffic free spaces, enabling people to move our bodies, talk to our children, meet our neighbours. Invigorating communities.

A country with transport powered by clean fuels, to end the carnage of respiratory deaths from particulate pollution. There is more than one way a vehicle can kill you.  

Vehicles, speed, air pollution and people just don’t mix. It’s possible, but not yet, that automated vehicles of the future will be able to stop on a penny for every hazard.

But that doesn’t and will never change our need to move our bodies, and consequently be healthy, happy people, particularly our children and their need to walk, run, hop and skip in safety and while breathing clean air.   

This week’s very high air pollution warning in London and the mayor’s announcement of “toxic air audits” at London schools drives home the importance of super-charging policy measures to enable low-carbon transport. 

Brake is fighting for a world that is safe, green, clean and fair, with zero road casualties and emissions from transport. This is a vision of sustainable mobility.

The United Nation’s 2020 deadline is rapidly approaching, for a halving of road deaths and injuries globally through safe systems and the 2030 goal of clean transport.  

This government has the power to stop the clock. To see what needs to be done. To be at the forefront of road safety solutions globally.

Over the past year, Brake has looked hard at our role providing education. We’ve particularly reflected on the difficulties of a campaigning, awareness raising charity achieving immediate behavioural change among individual drivers. Our surveys tell us time and again that many drivers understand risks, and do it anyway.

More than half of 25-34 year old drivers we questioned last year admitted sending or reading messages while driving.

Behavioural changes takes time. We haven’t got time.

The reality is that, while Brake can raise awareness, change needs to come from the top, and fast. 

To provide more funding for victim support.

To eliminate road casualties through safe systems.

To enable all vehicles to be clean vehicles.

But together we are so much stronger. I want to thank all supporters of the charity who help enable that change.

The families bereaved and injured, and their supportive communities, who raise awareness of the cause and fundraise.

The teachers who promote Road Safety Week in their schools, enabling children to pester power their parents to slow down.

The police and other road safety professionals, particularly family liaison officers, doing such an important task supporting affected families.

The companies prioritising managing their road risk, investing in low-carbon transport, or providing funds to the charity.

To our governments for part-funding Road Safety Week and our national victim helpline.

And last but not least to the Brake team of staff I am privileged to work with, many of whom are here tonight also.

When a life ends, time is suspended. We have clarity. Let’s use that clarity to keep fighting for humanity. 



Brake policy meetings and speeches

Speech by Brake campaigns director Julie Townsend at the Brake and Cambridge Weight Plan Parliamentary reception on driver tiredness, 13.07.11

Speech by Brake campaigns director Julie Townsend at the young driver Parliamentary reception held by Brake, Association of British Insurers and The Co-operative Insurance, 11.05.11 

Speech by Brake campaigns director Julie Townsend at the Brake annual reception in the Houses of Parliament 19.01.11

Brake's campaigns director speaks at Road to Recovery conference on Brake's Forgotten Victims campaign 2.11.10

Brake's CE Mary Williams OBE addresses CARRSQ road safety conference, Brisbane, Australia (word) 10.10

Brake's parliamentary reception on sleep apnoea 20.07.10

Brake's meeting with Mike Penning Road Safety Minister 06.07.10

Brake's CE Mary Williams OBE address the international Speed Congress in London 13.05.10

Brake's deputy CE Cathy Keeler meets the North Review of drink and drug driving team 18.02.10

Brake's deputy chief executive Cathy Keeler attends seminar to discuss the government's National Victims Service 10.02.10

Speech by Brake trustee Deborah Johnson in the Houses of Parliament at the Brake annual reception 19.01.10

Open letter from Brake to Home Secretary Alan Johnson, calling for ban on mini-motorbikes (pdf) 04.01.10

Speech by Brake chief executive Mary Williams OBE to the UK's road safety partnerships 20.10.09

Speech by Brake trustee Deborah Johnson in the Houses of Parliament at the Brake annual reception 21.01.09

Brake and a delegation of MPs meets road safety minister to lobby for 20mph limits 14.07.08

Brake's annual reception in the Houses of Parliament - speech by Brake CE Mary Williams OBE 17.01.08

Brake's Head of Campaigns Cathy Keeler meets Victims Minister Maria Eagle MP 17.01.08

Brake's Head of Campaigns Cathy Keeler meets Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick MP 09.01.08

Brake Speed Congress, May 2014

Campaigning for slower speeds and safer communities

Speech by Mary Williams OBE, Brake chief executive

In advertising and in popular culture, speed is packaged as desirable and exciting. For example, a recent Jaguar advert featured actor Sir Ben Kingsley and the caption “It’s good to be bad”. In this conception, speed is linked with being more focussed, more precise, always one step ahead, and obsessed by power.

If we contrast this with other road users, particularly children, our most vulnerable road users, we see that they are also obsessed with power, and love to go fast, but are inattentive and inexperienced, make mistakes and are clumsy, and take longer. Kids may be just as obsessed by power as speeding adults, but on the roads, they are powerless. They are vulnerable and need our protection. Speed remains the number one cause of crashes – it is our main battleground in road safety.

Unfortunately, many drivers do not see speed as a serious issue. Simple illustrations can help to bring home the point to those who are sceptical: for example, the below diagram, illustrating inertial speeds by using the metaphor of falling from a building.


As all of us working in road safety know, there is no quick fix to reducing speeds. It takes a mixture of efforts to reduce speeds, for example: technology such as intelligent speed adaptation (ISA); road engineering such as separation of vehicles and pedestrians; changes to road rules such as 20mph (30km/h) speed limits; increased speed enforcement such as average speed cameras; and, last but certainly not least, education and awareness campaigns.

This last point is Brake’s major focus. As a campaigning charity, we: set out policy positions to influence government and other decision-makers; raise awareness through PR and media work; carry out education projects; fundraise; and provide much-needed services for the victims of road crashes.

Some question the efficacy of road safety education and campaigning. The answer to that is simple: if you don’t know walking is possible, you cannot take your first step. Campaigns enable governments, drivers and communities to know what safe measures are available and to work towards them. This is known as the ‘availability heuristic’, a mental shortcut that means people are more likely to think of things as important or persuasive if they already have examples in their mind.

For example, the US Department of Homeland Security has an annual budget of more than $40 billion, to combat the 100 terrorism-related deaths in the USA each year – this equates to $400,000,000 per death. By contrast, the US annual road safety budget is $1 billion, to combat 35,000 road deaths every year – working out at just $29,000 per death. This is due to the availability heuristic: most people consider terrorism a much greater threat than road death, due to the high reporting of terrorism in the media and its prominence in films and other popular culture. Road deaths are rarely reported simply because they are commonplace and so not often deemed newsworthy, creating a false impression that they are less of a threat than terrorism.

It is therefore vital that we in the road safety sector continue to talk about road risk, and speed in particular, as often as we can, to keep it at the forefront of people’s minds. There are several things that we as road safety campaigners can do to get this message across in the most effective way.

  • Smile: positive, encouraging messages are the best way to get people on our side.
  • Appeal to the widest audience: Brake doesn’t stand up for cyclists, or pedestrians, or any other one group – we stand up for people. We are all pedestrians at least some of the time, we all use the roads, so we all have a common interest in making sure our roads are safe.
  • Collaborate: there are lots of groups with an interest in road safety, including cycling campaigns and disability rights groups. We share common goals so should work together – the more people on our side, the fewer standing against us.
  • Peer-led education: road deaths affect whole communities, so first-person, locally-focused stories, such as Brake’s victim story videos, are very effective in bringing the message home.
  • Present information in many different ways: for example, interactive online tools and social media will help reach a wider audience than just static web pages or press releases distributed through traditional media channels.
  • Whole community engagement: in particular, getting kids involved in campaigning can be very effective. Children are our most vulnerable road users, and have a keen sense of right and wrong, so involving them in campaigns gives them a voice on issues that affect them directly. Campaigns like Brake’s Giant Walking Bus are a great example of ‘people power’, demonstrating that ordinary people care about safer streets as much as we do.
  • Fundraise:as well as supporting the lifesaving work that we do, our fundraising efforts help people to understand what we are trying to achieve, and understand that slower speeds are a cause, as much as cancer is a cause.
  • Focus on the message:the slower speeds message must be made appropriate and relevant to all audiences. It is especially important to have some messaging that targets children – ‘pester power’ is an incredibly important persuasive technique.

There is a behavioural theory known as ‘nudge’, which states that influencing behaviour in a positive direction, for example through setting a good example or packaging safe behaviour as desirable, is a more effective way to change behaviour than simply telling people what they should or shouldn’t do. Emphasising the positive aspects of slower speeds – slow is healthy, slow is relaxing, slow is seeing the world around you and being part of it – will help counter the message seen in adverts such as the one referenced at the start of this paper.

To be slow, drivers need to: know this is something they need to do; agreeto do it; intend to stick to this agreement; have the capacity to do so; and actually slow down. There are many internal and external pressures that can make this more difficult for drivers, as summarised in the table below.

External pressure

Internal pressure

Family has low safety standards

Poor value set and lifestyle

Peer pressure and circumstance

Thinks roads are safe and crash risk is low

Belief ‘others’ think bad behaviour is ok

Inflated opinion of ability / easily influenced

Other drivers / road design / no enforcement

Risk-taker and impulsive

Uncaring superiors and no community

Bad habits and law breaker


Work and home-life stresses

However, this doesn’t mean that influencing behaviour is an impossible task. For every negative pressure listed above, there are also positive pressures – as listed below.

External pressure

Internal pressure

Family has high safety standards

Positive values and lifestyle

Peer pressure and circumstance

Awareness of road danger and crash risk

Belief ‘others’ think road safety is important

Realistic opinion of ability and self-confident

Other drivers / road design / enforcement

Does not enjoy risk taking / not impulsive

Caring superiors and community

Good habits: law abiding


A calm life

People have the potential to make safe choices – we just need to influence them in the right direction, and allow people to follow their principles. Most people do want to be safe, and want to protect others – certainly no one wants to be responsible for a death or serious injury. People also want to connect with others, be part of a community, and look out for one another – slow is a way to do this.

Although we still have a long way to go in road safety, we should remember how far we’ve already come. We are making progress, through connecting with people: people have the power to change the world.


Brake's annual reception in Parliament - Chief executive speech

Welcome and thank you to everyone for taking the time to celebrate Brake’s work with us. All charities should take heart that citizenship is on the national curriculum of school learning. Brake in particular. Road safety is about good citizenship. Above all else, it’s about caring for our fellow man. It’s the parent who choses to care for the environment and prioritise health living, teach their child how to cross roads safely by choosing to walk to school - meanwhile reducing the danger of traffic to others on the school run. It’s the company boss who invests in a new vehicle fleet, risk management procedures and isn’t afraid to change for safety’s sake: banning use of all types of mobile phones, replacing company cars with rail passes, requiring all those who have to rive to be annually assessed. It’s the community that pulls to gether to reduce a speed limit, get a crossing, get a speed camera. It’s the mate who takes away their best friend’s car keys rather than let them drive drunk or drugged. It’s the Minister and civil servant who makes the connection, vitally, between reducing CO2 emmissions from excessive use of vehicles (reportedly up by 20% in the past 10 years in many regions) by enabling communities to walk and cycle by investing in road safety. Road safety can be the key to environmental goals. That link cannot be over-stated. No mother would agree to their child walking to school if there is a significant risk of death, as there often is.

In 2007 small steps were taken.

The Department for Transport published its child road safety strategy.

An overhaul of the driving test was promised.

The Government, after significant effort on our part, renewed its funding for our support literature for bereaved families.

New charges of killing through careless driving, driving unlicensed, and uninsured, and corporate killing charges, are being introduced.

These are significant but small steps.

Where is the funding for face to face support for road crash victims? The forgotten victims. Today there has been a ‘near miss’ plane crash. Hours of broadcast time have already been devoted to it. Yet today 9 people died on the roads in the UK, devastating families and communities. It is shameful that the promises of David Blunkett in 2001, that we would see funding for services for our desperately traumatised victim group through a much trumpeted Victim’s Fund have been, so far, false promises. Maybe next year, the year after, we wait; the families stoically suffer, without publicity, often in isolation, suffering horrendous trauma without the support they deserve. Representatives of the criminal justice system and parliamentarians here tonight - do what you can to help us with this vital campaign.

I hope tonight proves to be a useful opportunity to make links and reinvigorated about tackling the mammoth task ahead. I want to close by quoting from a speech by Michelle Kirby, auntie to Tommy who has killed aged 10 on a crossing last year. Michelle bravely spoke at the launch of Road Safety Week, when we launched our campaign for 20mph limits in all communities. Michelle says:

“Tommy was a very bright, funloving and cheek you with a unique personality and vivid imagination. He loved dinosaurs and Doctor Who. He loved his family. One can only imagine what Tommy’s parents Lynsey and Lloyd have gone through these last six months and will do for the rest of their lives. A simple visit to the supermarket, walking past any school. All everyday things that bring back memories of the son they cherished and believed would be with them for the rest of their lives. Tommy also has a brother, Alfie, who is just 4, and young cousins, my children, who are all still at odds to understand just where their hero has gone.

Those of you who have your own children, the next time you have a conversation with them, cuddle them, put them to bed or even tell them off, spare a thought for Tommy’s mum and dad. Could you imagine never been able to do these things with your child ever again?”

Please back Brake’s campaign for 20mph limits in built up areas. Lobby your MP. If you are a MP, lobby Government, reduce the default built up limit to 20 - NOW.

And if you are still wondering ‘How can I help?’ you know how you must help - give to Brake, volunteer for Brake, campaign with Brake.

Brake's parliamentary reception on sleep apnoea

Julie Townsend speech – parliamentary reception on sleep apnoea, 20 July 2010

I’d like to start by telling you the story of Toby Tweddell.

Toby was driving to work in Liverpool on the 8th August, four years ago in 2006. It was about 8.30 in the morning when he pulled up on the M62 behind a queue of traffic.

Out of nowhere, a large truck hit Toby’s car from behind, shunting him forward and into the pick up truck in front. Toby’s car was so badly crushed that it took emergency services an hour to cut him free from the wreckage.

He was rushed to hospital, but after five hours in the operating theatre, he was pronounced dead.

He was just 25.

It was found that the truck driver, 54 year old Colin Wrighton, had fallen asleep at the wheel. He was later diagnosed with the common sleep disorder obstructive sleep apnoea – as this was undiagnosed at the time of the death a charge of causing death by dangerous driving was dropped, and a year later the coroner returned a verdict of accidental death.

Just two weeks before the crash that killed Toby, Colin Wrighton had been to his doctor for the second time to complain about excessive tiredness. The doctor had failed to spot the signs of sleep apnoea, so the condition went untreated.

In the case of Toby Tweddell, there is an obvious link between sleep apnoea and Toby’s tragic death. In many other cases that link is not so clear. We simply don’t know exactly how many needless deaths and injuries are caused each year as a result of sleep apnoea.

However, research suggests that this is a huge problem on our roads, and one that must be addressed without delay.

An estimated 265 deaths are caused each year by tired drivers – that’s five every week. But we suspect this is just the tip of the iceberg. Recent independent research indicates that a horrifying one in six drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel.

It’s also estimated that as many as 700,000 people in the UK suffer from sleep apnoea, which disrupts sleep and causes acute tiredness. Sleep apnoea is treatable. Yet many, perhaps most people, seem to be ignorant of what it is, and how to spot the symptoms.

Those most likely to suffer from sleep apnoea are middle aged men who are overweight – a profile that a large proportion of truck drivers fit in to. It’s thought that up to one in six truck drivers could be suffering from severe sleep apnoea and requiring immediate treatment – that’s about 80,000 truck drivers who are ticking timebombs, with the potential to cause catastrophe on our roads. In simulated driving tests, sleep apnoea sufferers score worse in terms of hazard awareness and reaction times than people who are drunk.

Brake is urging policy makers to take urgent action, to prevent these ticking timebombs going off. To help those thousands of people suffering from sleep apnoea to understand their condition, to get treated, and to put an end to it. To stop more people like Toby having their lives needlessly cut short, causing unimaginable grief and trauma to family and friends.

We want to see Government investment in awareness campaigns, especially aimed at professional drivers, so they understand the tell-tale signs of sleep apnoea. We want a requirement for the National Institute for Clinical Excellence to publish clinical guidelines on the management of sleep apnoea and similar disorders. And we want drivers to be screened before they get their licence, and regular medical screening of professional drivers.

These measures require investment, but it seems obvious that sleep apnoea must be a huge economic drain, affecting the productivity of thousands of workers, as well as leading to costly and tragic deaths and injuries on our roads.

We are making these calls to action in memory of Toby Tweddell – and we hope that we have your support in making them happen.  

To the parliamentarians in the room, we’re urging you to sign an EDM calling for action on sleep apnoea (we’re collecting signatures at this reception) and we’re also urging you to push this issue within parliament – we need to see further debates to maintain pressure on the Government to act. And please do consider how you can raise awareness in your constituency as well, such as by working directly with local employers.

To the supportive organisations attending this event, please do come and talk to us about how you can help. It’s vital that we work together to secure decisive action on this important issue. Thank you.

Brake’s International Speed Congress 2012

17 May 2012, Institute of Mechanical Engineers (IMECHE), London
Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake

Good morning. I'd like to extend a warm welcome on behalf of Brake to our biennial international congress on speed.

Speed is, arguably, the most fundamental of the issues we grapple with in the road safety sector.

It is, as we all know, a factor in all casualties on roads, and something that has a profound effect on all road users' safety, on communities, and the way we live our lives. If we effectively reduce and manage traffic speed, we can deliver far-reaching benefits for society, to do with health and active lifestyles, child and family well being, the environment, even community cohesion.

And yet speed remains, for many of us, the most controversial issue we deal with. Driving fast is unfortunately synonymous for many with freedom and excitement. It continues to be glorified through many media outlets in a way that suggests driving fast is a right, a pleasure we should be allowed to indulge if we wish, like a chocolate bar or a hot bath. Perhaps most damaging is the myth that everyone likes and wants to drive fast, that this is the norm, and any impingement in this is meddling or nannying.

No other form of criminal and dangerous behaviour – something that causes suffering and harm to families and communities – is publically defended in this way.

And this of course is the big challenge for us, which we hope this conference will help you tackle. To demonstrate that the myths that have been built up around speed are just that. To chip away at the defensiveness that surrounds driving fast. To shift attitudes and culture.

And NGOs like Brake can play a critical role in this, by supporting and working with road safety professionals, by encouraging community engagement, by putting pressure on government, and by continually promoting and reinforcing road safety messages nationally and regionally.


Brake has campaigned vociferously on speed since our inception 18 years ago, through media activity, events, resources, and lobbying.

What we want to achieve hasn't changed a great deal – lower traffic speeds across all road types, but particularly 20mph or below in communities, through lower limits, improved compliance, and better driver awareness. But the way we deliver our messages has shifted. Over the years, thinking around how to bring about behaviour change has developed, and so has our approach.

In particular, we have moved away from simply warning of the consequences of driving too fast, to, more and more, promoting the positive benefits of slowing down – pointing out the relationship between reduced speed and sustainable travel, healthy lifestyles, and the environment.

We have also moved away from drawing attention to the fact that most drivers speed and drive too fast. We instead now focus on the widespread support and demand from families, schools, and society at large for safer streets and communities through slower speeds.

It's a subtle change but an important one: from saying no to going fast, to saying yes to slowing down. From telling drivers off for speeding, to thanking them for braking.

In doing this, we're responding to research that suggests people are more likely to behave a certain way if they believe it will have positive benefits for them – and that people find it easier to believe in bringing about positive outcomes for themselves, than suffering negative consequences. We are responding to evidence that people, by and large, like to conform, and are more likely to behave a certain way if they think others will approve.

In other words, we are taking advantage of the fact that people are both selfish and social creatures. People care about themselves, their families, and what people around them think. We can use this, we hope, to build a sense that driving fast is shameful and anti-social, that slowing down is the positive and compassionate thing to do. And perhaps we can use this to build our own myth, which we hope will become reality, that staying well within limits, and slowing down to protect people, is the social norm.

I want to stress, though, that we are at Brake not moving away entirely from communicating the terrible consequences of driving too fast, which remains important. As a charity that supports families who suffer the appalling aftermath of a death or injury on roads, we continue to engage these victims in our campaigns, allowing them to tell their stories if they wish, in the hope others won't have to go through the same awful circumstances. This continues to be a vital component in our campaigning, and we are indebted to the bereaved and injured families who work bravely alongside us. We are in no doubt these human stories get people's attention, and make the public and policy-makers sit up and listen.

Alongside this, we continue to use stark, simple facts about stopping distances and the physics of speed, and to draw on international research such as that being presented today, to demonstrate how and why slowing down makes such a difference.


Communicating these messages on speed – the benefits of slowing down, the demand for safer communities, the stories of those who have suffered road crashes, and the simple facts on speed – is a critical role NGOs can play in the battle for speed reduction.

Brake is working through a variety of means to communicate these messages to key audiences, and to support and reinforce the work of those delivering road safety at grassroots level.

Firstly, we lobby national government, calling for better policy and more investment to manage and reduce speed. With the UK government's focus on localism, our current emphasis is on persuading the government to more effectively enable local authorities to implement widespread 20mph limits. We are appealing to the government to improve their guidance on setting local speed limits - something we hope to see progress on in coming months - and to release more funding for this.

Alongside engagement of national government, we continue to inform and empower communities who are campaigning for safer roads locally, particularly lower limits.

This includes deploying our Zak the Zebra mascot, to help these communities generate publicity and build support and momentum for their campaigns.

On the lobbying front, we are also at the moment, unfortunately, investing time in protesting the UK government's proposals to increase the speed limit on our motorways to 80mph. We have built a coalition of road safety and environmental groups opposed to the plans under the banner 'No to 80'. The campaign is being launched tomorrow through national media and social networking. This is one aspect of our campaigning where we are focusing on the negatives. The coalition is highlighting that 80mph limits will increase casualties, carbon emissions, and costs for the taxpayer and drivers – so employing social, environmental and economic arguments. I would urge any UK organisations here who would like to be part of the campaign to please let us know.

But at the same time as pushing for policy change, our work engaging communities in road safety and speed reduction, continues to develop.

Brake coordinates three major initiatives for pre-schools, schools, colleges and youth clubs:

Beep Beep! Day is an activity nurseries and pre-schools can run for under-8s. It's about teaching tots the road safety basics. But much more than this, it's about getting the school or playgroup engaged in road safety, and promoting road safety to parents and the wider community. Brake provides resources, and carries out publicity around the events, promoting the message that by slowing down, drivers can help local families walk and cycle safely.

Our Walking Bus event, coming up on 20th June, involves hundreds of thousands of primary school kids marching for road safety. Again, it's an opportunity for schools to teach children about safe walking, but more than this, it's about the schools saying to their local community: we care deeply about children's safety, and we need drivers to slow down to protect them. Through the publicity Brake does around the event, we are demonstrating support within communities for slower speeds.

And in a similar way, our Too Young to Die initiative is about young people speaking out to peers and others on the importance of safe driving, including slowing down. We ask young people to develop road safety campaigns as part of a competition, and we publicise the results. Again, we're demonstrating support within the community for slower speeds.

I want to stress that the involvement of road safety practitioners in these initiatives is vital, and I'd encourage you to find out about them on our website if you're not already involved. They provide an opportunity to engage schools and clubs as part of a wider national event, they can be tied-in with your year-round road safety programmes, and we offer free resources.

The same is true of our flagship event, Road Safety Week, which this year in the UK will focus on the theme of speed and protecting the vulnerable. Road Safety Week is now in its 16th year. Each year it involves thousands of partners, professionals, schools and community groups running local road safety activities, alongside a national and regional media campaign by Brake.

The way we coordinate Road Safety Week neatly reflects our wider role as an independent NGO campaigning on speed and other road safety issues. We develop the overarching theme and messages, we promote involvement to communities and professionals, we provide information, resources and advice on getting involved (through our website and email action packs). We make a big splash during the week itself by coordinating a comprehensive media campaign – using research and case studies, to generate coverage nationally, regionally and online.

But the essence of the event, the flesh on the bone, is community engagement, and that comes from you, and members of the public, running activities locally, demonstrating that safer roads are vitally important to ordinary people everywhere.

So it is very much a partnership project that works because of the commitment and engagement of professionals and volunteers across the UK, many of whom get involved year in year out.

It's a model we think is extremely effective, which I'm pleased to say we're starting to roll out internationally. Our first Road Safety Week New Zealand, coordinated by the newly-formed Brake NZ, was a big success last week. We are also developing our international Road Safety Week website to share information with practitioners worldwide. And we will be sharing our expertise and supporting the UN's next global Road Safety Week in May 2013.


And in the UK, this year's Road Safety Week kicks off on 19th November. It's a perfect opportunity for UK practitioners to have a big push on speed awareness, or launch or promote new initiatives on this topic. So I'd encourage you all to register now to take part on the Road Safety Week website, and you'll be sent free electronic resources and information.

In line with our focus on promoting slowing down as a positive, socially-responsible, and all-round wonderful thing, our main theme this year is Slower Speeds = Happy People. We hope once again to be working with all of you across the sector, to make this event a pivotal point, not in our battle for speed reduction, but in our celebration of slower speeds.

Thank you, and enjoy the rest of the conference.

Forgotten Victims speech - November 2010

Bringing the forgotten victims to the fore – care provision in a Big Society

Speech by Julie Townsend, campaigns director, Brake
for the Sudden Death Forum’s Annual Conference, November 2010

Good morning to you all. I’m really pleased to be speaking to you about Brake’s Forgotten Victims campaign.

This is our long-running campaign to fight for the rights of people bereaved and seriously injured in road crashes to access quality support that’s appropriate to their needs – support that’s crucial in helping these families on the road to recovery, and yet remains lacking for the vast majority of road crash victims.

Our campaign has taken an interesting turn in the past few months – as we’d reached a point where we felt able to put forward a proposal for a new approach to caring for bereaved road crash victims at a national level. We also have started to look at how our services might be adapted to be appropriate for other victims affected by a sudden bereavement, and how we might work in partnership with others to achieve this.

This strategic review of Brake’s care services coincided with a new Government, which is, as I’m sure many of you are aware, in the midst of a major review of Government-funded services for victims and witnesses.

And it also coincided with our new Prime Minister talking a lot about his vision for a Big Society

Many of the statements made by Mr Cameron remain a little enigmatic, but from what we can grasp of the Big Society concept, we feel we have tapped into it with our proposals which I’m going to share with you over the next 20 minutes or so.

Before I do that, and talk through Brake’s new direction of travel in terms of delivering care services, I wanted to give you, very briefly, a history of Brake’s work in this field.

Brake was set up about 15 years ago, by our chief executive Mary Williams OBE.

Mary was desperately concerned about both the lack of a national campaigning force for road safety, and the woeful lack of support available to road crash victims.

So Brake was founded with those two aims – preventing road death and injury, through campaigns and awareness-raising, and easing the suffering of people directly affected by road crashes.

Three years on, our helpline was formally launched, acknowledging the calls Brake had already been receiving from individuals in desperate need of support. It was initially operated on a small scale, providing a listening ear service to people bereaved in road crashes.

At the same time as getting our helpline off the ground, over the following couple of years we worked to develop support literature for bereaved road crash victims, using our experience through the helpline, and consulting with a wide range of organisations and experts. The literature was developed to provide information on the wide range of practical procedures, alongside supportive information on some of the emotional reactions that people often experience. It was designed so that families could dip in and out of the pack as relevant.

In 2000 we achieved funding from the Home Office to produce and disseminate this literature across England and Wales. Following this we went on to achieve funding to produce equivalent guides in Scotland and Northern Ireland. And we’ve managed, just about, to maintain that Government funding to the present day, although we’ve had to fight pretty hard for it on a number of occasions.

We also worked hard over the years to build good relationships with police forces, including providing training on the contents of our pack, and maintaining regular phone contact with every force, to ensure that the packs were being disseminated to all bereaved road death victims in an empathetic and helpful manner.

We also produced, over the years, several other key pieces of support literature: a guide for families with a loved one in an ICU, a guide for families affected by serious injury, and most recently, a book for bereaved children, which you’re all encouraged to have a look at during the break.

At the same time, our helpline continued to evolve in parallel with the literature, so that it became more than just a listening ear, but also a source of the broad range of information contained in our packs. So the two came to operate as sister services – and very often our helpline operators will be supporting a victim who has a copy of our literature in their hands, referring them to key information.

So we’re now in a position where our literature is given to families by police following every death on the road in the UK.

And, as you can see from this slide our helpline (which is funded not by the Government incidentally but by the same four solicitors who sponsor this conference) it’s continued to grow, with a year on year increase in calls as we’ve got better at marketing it, despite the fact the road casualties, thankfully, have fallen significantly. In 2009-10 we received 1,222 calls, of which 1057 were directly from victims, the rest from professionals supporting victims, who frequently draw on the helpline for information and advice too.

So that’s a brief history of Brake’s two bedrock national services for road death victims – our support literature and our helpline.

But at the same time as running these important services, we have constantly been aware of the desperate need for high quality face-to-face support for those traumatically bereaved, particularly in the immediate aftermath following the death. And we’ve been constantly aware of the lack of such a service, which we believe should be funded by the Government to operate nationally. Road death victims have, historically, been specifically excluded from the Government funded support provided through the charity Victim Support.

In 2003 Brake started delivering face-to-face support itself, in a limited area, as part of one of three Home Office funded pilots. As part of this pilot we trained Victim Support volunteers to go into bereaved families’ homes and provide basic emotional and practical support in the period of shock that follows a violent bereavement. When the three Home Office funded pilots ended in 2005 and no announcement was made by Government about how the service would be taken forward, we decided, with grant funding, to continue running the service, training our own volunteers this time to provide support, again just within our local area.

The funding for this programme came to an end late last year and we took the opportunity to take stock and evaluate what we’d achieved and what direction we needed to go in next.

The conclusion that we came to through our review was that relying entirely on using trained volunteers was going to prove extremely challenging if we wanted bereaved road crash victims to receive a consistently high quality service that could be delivered across the country in a cost effective way.

While many of our volunteers were highly committed and delivered high standards of support, we came up against the difficulties that I think any organisation faces when using volunteers to deliver a service that requires a lot of skill and commitment – varying standards, and a lot of labour-intensive work training and retaining volunteers.

The issues involved in relying entirely on trained volunteers has been acknowledged in the development of the Government-funded Homicide Service, delivered by Victim Support, which uses skilled, paid case workers, rather than volunteers, to deliver support to this highly vulnerable group.

We argue that people bereaved by road crashes, and indeed anyone who suffers the trauma of the unexpected death of a loved one, deserves immediate face-to-face support from skilled, experienced, committed workers who can deliver a consistently high quality service. This could come from a paid professional or a highly trained and experienced volunteer.

So we know what we want to achieve for this victim group, but our big problem now, in fact pretty much everyone’s big problem now is money, or rather lack of it. So how on earth are we proposing that the Government funds such as service now, given that the overwhelming focus at the moment is on cutting spending, and not increasing it?

Well, firstly, as was recognised by the Victims Commissioner Louise Casey in her report earlier this year, there looks to be a significant amount of wastage in the system as it stands at the moment.

According to the Victims Commissioner, Government funded support services are being offered to victims with much lesser needs than families whose loved ones have suddenly been killed – and to many victims who neither want nor need support. We believe therefore that there may be opportunity to re-divert Government funding towards victims with a greater level of need, and to create a much more targeted support service, and we understand that this is something the Ministry of Justice is looking at.

In addition to this, it’s worth emphasising that we what we are not proposing is setting up a completely new service from scratch. Instead, we are proposing that we consolidate and build on what we have already. At national level, we already have, Brake’s two bedrock care services for road crash victims, and we also have police FLO services provided to all road death victims.

On top of this, we also of course have around the country many specialist services for people who are bereaved, albeit offered on a patchy basis in some locations and not others, and in some cases with no clear and immediately obvious pathway that enables all bereaved victims to access these services.

So we have bereavement services offered in many hospitals, and we have numerous charities and agencies operating a variety of services around the country, some of them highly specialised and successful in supporting people who are suddenly and unexpectedly bereaved.

So our proposal, which was submitted to the Ministry of Justice a couple of months ago, is for a comprehensive national support scheme that builds on our bedrock national services, but also taps into these localised services around the country.

Specifically, we propose that the Government commissions our helpline to deploy immediate support workers, who we source from local bereavement services, organisations and support groups. They would be experienced, skilled and trained workers, who may be working on a professional or voluntary basis. We take them through our protocol, we get them up to our sign a code of conduct, and we provide them with specialist guidance on working with this victim group. We then deploy them to provide immediate, face-to-face emotional support for a period of 6-12 weeks. We anticipate that in the majority of cases, these workers would not need to be paid by us, since they would be delivering the service as part of their existing employment or role.

We would simply need to engage Family Liaison Officers, something of course that Brake already does across the UK, to get them to talk to families at the same time as handing over our support pack, about our helpline and the immediate support worker service – something we’ve already been discussing with ACPO.

Our proposal fits with the big society concept since we’re tapping into existing resources within communities, rather than attempting to set something up from scratch on a national scale. So to be clear, Brake’s proposed role would be as national coordinators, operating the helpline, deploying immediate support workers, providing specialist expertise, and monitoring and evaluating to ensure high standards of service.

As an aside, we do appreciate that many locally operating public and voluntary sector organisations – including the sorts of organisations we’re hoping to work with – are already overstretched, and worried about the future. Many people are saying that Big Society is a lot of hot air at the moment, and that the Prime Minister would need to put his money where his mouth is to enable these organisations to flourish and deliver work on the scale he envisages.

However, we believe that it is better for us to work to engage these organisations in delivering bereavement services, and possibly provide a national campaigning voice for the need for more investment in these services at local level, than for us to try to reinvent the wheel.

And this model does seem to work. We have already started, on a small scale, to deliver this service. In the past two months we have deployed seven immediate support workers to helpline callers who have been recently bereaved and who said that they would like face-to-face support. We’ll be closely monitoring their progress. We have also had endorsements from several local bereavement services for our proposals.

And we’ve just heard from ACPO that they will endorse this service, which is of enormous value in helping us to promote it to police family liaison officers around the country. We’re just waiting at the moment for that endorsement to come through in writing.

What we need now is a response from the Ministry of Justice on whether they will fund us to properly pilot the service with a view to rolling it out nationally.

Throughout this presentation, I have focused on catering to the needs of bereaved road crash victims, since this victim group has been our main focus at Brake historically. However, we are not blind to the fact that our services, and this model of support, could well be applied to other victim groups – particularly those bereaved by other causes of sudden death, many of whom also fall down gaps in support provision at present.

We have already started at Brake to broaden out some of our care services, where we recognised that others could benefit and where there are current gaps in service provision.

For example, this conference used to be targeted purely at professionals working with road crash victims. Now it is marketed to professionals working with people bereaved through all kinds of sudden death.

Our book for children bereaved through road crashes has been adapted so it can be used for children bereaved through all causes of sudden death. And now we’re looking at our book for adults bereaved through road crashes, Coping with Grief, which forms part of our support pack, and whether this can be adapted for and distributed to a wider audience.

We are from now on bringing these services together to be delivered through a new division of Brake and new brand name, Sudden.

So although our current focus is on achieving a comprehensive support service for road death victims, our vision is for a comprehensive support service to be offered to everyone bereaved through sudden death.

We are exploring ways we can work towards this vision at the moment in partnership with other organisations and practitioners, including by engaging with health services, police and charities providing support to specific victim groups.

And we believe this is a crucial time to be speaking out together on behalf of victims. These are without doubt challenging times for all of us with the huge spending cuts being made, but, we hope, there’s also opportunity for us to challenge the Government to ensure that services are targeted at those with greatest need, and to fill the gaps in service provision that currently so many bereaved victims fall through.

I would encourage anyone here today who thinks they may be able to work with us in moving towards our vision to please let us know. If you are able to offer an endorsement for our proposal, if you think your organisation can work with us to deploy immediate support workers, or if you have any ideas at all about how we might work together to make steps towards our vision for comprehensive support for the hitherto forgotten victims, then please do come and speak to me during one of the breaks.

Thank you very much for your time.

Road Safety Forum International Congress 2011 - Julie Townsend speech

Good morning to you all. I’d like to welcome you on behalf of Brake to our ninth annual Road Safety Forum conference. My name is Julie Townsend, campaigns director and deputy chief executive at Brake, the UK’s road safety charity.


We’re really pleased to have so many of you here today, given that the past year has been such a challenging one for many of us working in road safety here in the UK, and in many other countries. In the UK the hammer blow of spending cuts has fallen particularly hard on road safety, with huge cut-backs being made to education, engineering, and roads policing. Cut-backs that we have yet to see the full impact of.


But at the same time, the past year has been an exciting one for the global road safety community. We have welcomed the start of the first UN Decade of Action on Road Safety – an opportunity, we hope, to share knowledge and experience, and spur Governments, organisations and communities into action.


This conference very much fits with that ethos, bringing together international academics and practitioners to help us learn from each other at a global level, and explore the directions and approaches that we can take to save lives on our roads.


At this time of austerity, staying abreast of international best practice is without doubt more important than ever, enabling us to direct limited resources in the most effective way.


In recent years, in many parts of the developed world, including the UK, we have seen road casualties falling at an unprecedented rate. A recently published report by the European Transport Safety Council announced that eight European countries have succeeded in reducing road deaths by more than 50% in the past decade. Across the 30 countries it monitored, more than 100,000 lives have been saved in this time, with a monetary value of 176 billion Euros.


Indeed, there have been very significant achievements in the road safety field in many parts of the world. Achievements that have spared hundreds of thousands of families the trauma and heartbreak of a loved one being suddenly taken from them, and many thousands more the upheaval and agony of a life-changing serious injury.

Yet it remains the case that globally the road death toll continues to climb. Currently it’s estimated that someone is killed or maimed every six seconds on the world’s roads – that’s 100 more people during the short time it will take me to deliver this speech.


Even in countries like the UK, where road casualties have been falling rapidly, they remain a major social and economic burden. In this country, it remains the case that every day six families receive a knock on the door from a police officer to tell them that their loved one won’t be coming home today, or ever again. And every day, 70 more families must deal with a serious injury, many of them life-shattering.


And it remains the case, both in the UK and worldwide, that young, male drivers are involved in a disproportionately high number of these highly destructive and costly casualties.



Road deaths and serious injuries are particularly devastating for those involved precisely because they so often affect the young. Road crashes continue to be the biggest killer of young people in the UK and at global level.So what results in more young people being killed than anything else, globally and nationally, is something that is preventable - something that we have within our powers to address.


Young people are often the victims of road crashes, but they are also often the perpetrators. One in four road deaths and serious injuries in the UK involves a young driver. On a daily basis, young drivers are causing, through a combination of inexperience and risk-taking, horrific crashes that kill and maim themselves, their young passengers and other innocent road users. And as we are all aware, this is most common by far among young males.


Brake is today releasing statistics showing the horrifying level of risk faced and posed by young male drivers in Britain. Our analysis reveals that each year one in 60 male drivers age 17-19 is involved in a crash that causes injury or death. That’s the equivalent of one in every two school classes of young male drivers who will be involved in one of these violent events each year.


This appalling but preventable carnage means that taking action on young driver safety, particularly the safety of young males, is one of the most important things we must do during this Decade of Action. We must act to help young people drive safely, to protect their own lives, and the lives of others. And if we can achieve this, we not only address a factor in a huge proportion of serious casualties on our roads, but we also help to create a safer, more responsible road user culture for the future.


But can there be a straightforward solution to this huge problem of young males taking deadly risks, with such awful consequences?


This conference is testament to the array of incredibly useful evidence we now have access to, on the nature of young driver crashes, why they happen, and how we can best prevent them. It is testament to the vital importance of learning from each others’ experiences across the global road safety community, and acting to prevent these terrible crashes, deaths and injuries in the most effective and efficient way we can.


Brake believes that here in the UK we can particularly learn from countries like New Zealand, Australia and the United States, where, to help tackle young driver crashes, they have reformed their driver licensing systems and introduced Graduated Driver Licensing.


We have recognised, from international evidence, the way in which Graduated Driver Licensing allows new drivers to develop skills and experience gradually, while limiting exposure to risk. It is a staged approach, including a minimum learning to drive period, and novice driver period with restrictions on high risk driving situations, like night time driving and carrying young passengers. It is a very different approach to the one we have currently, where a full driving licence can be attained within a matter of weeks after turning 17, following just a handful of lessons.


Graduated Driver Licensing has had great success in cutting deaths and injuries in countries where it has been introduced. And we have evidence that the same would be true here in the UK. A study by Cardiff  University predicted that no fewer than 200 lives would be saved annually. Thousands more would be spared a serious injury.


The fact that Graduated Driver Licensing constitutes international best practice has now been recognised by the World Health Organisation. It will be promoting Graduated Driver Licensing as part of its work to spur action towards safer roads during the Decade of Action. We believe that the UK must be on that list of countries that has signed up to this crucial step towards safer roads.


We’ll be hearing more as the day goes on aboutGraduated Driver Licensingand other approaches that can be employed to tackle crashes among young and male drivers.

But before we do, I want to take a minute to consider the other side of the coin, the terrible cost and burden of road casualties.


In recent years, those of us working in the road safety field have become increasingly aware of the economic cost of road casualties. The Department for Transport estimates the average value to society of preventing each road death in Britain to be £1.6 million. Last year, the Department’s use of both police and hospital data to calculate injury numbers meant we could put a much more accurate figure on the total cost of road casualties in Britain for the first time – it’s now thought to be in the region of £33 billion per year.


While it may sound crude to some to put these casualties, which cause such pain to individuals and families, in financial terms, I would argue that this is increasingly what we must do in these austere times, to fight for continued investment in road safety. Brake has been working hard in the past year to get the message out that road safety cut-backs are a false economy, and I would urge you to do the same. We have been promoting this message alongside our ongoing work to speak out on behalf of the bereaved and injured victims we support, telling their stories, to convey the terrible human cost of road casualties, as well as the economic one.


Because we must, in these challenging times, shout louder than ever about the consequences of road crashes. We must not be afraid to tell the world the awful truth about those families whose lives are torn apart and who must face up to their worst nightmare. We must not be afraid to talk about the burden these casualties pose to health and emergency services, and society as a whole. And we must continue to term these casualties as the preventable, and therefore unacceptable, tragedies that they are.

Speech by Brake trustee Deborah Johnson to Brake's parliamentary reception, 19.01.10

Tonight I want to talk about need. The word has to be one of the most inappropriately used in the English language when it comes to cars. People say they need their cars for work, for shopping, for holidays, to get to schools. Yet the meeting can be by phone. The shopping can be delivered. We can get to our holiday by train. We can choose to walk our children to school.

Instead of making right choices, we destroy lives, the planet, and make communities miserable with polluting, speeding traffic. Our children are obese. We see driving as a right and the default mode of transport.

10 children are killed or seriously injured on foot and bikes every day.

This is the one statistic I want you to remember tonight, to help urge you to take part in Road Safety Week 2010 this November, the theme of which is Kids Say Slow Down. Get planning now.

Real needs remain unmet.

Take the need for road crash victims to have immediate practical and emotional support from a trained support worker.

Time and again Brake has watched with increasing scepticism while our government issues announcements about more funding for victims of crime, funded through speeding fines.

Yet not a penny extra is given to road crash victims, and the tiny amount Brake gets, which enables us to just fund the production and distribution of support guides for bereaved adults, has been cut back and we are awaiting news whether it will be raised again.

It remains deeply unjust that you can have your house burgled and get face to face support, but your family wiped out by a drink driver and get only the Brake support pack.

Then there’s the need to rid our roads of drink drivers who cause 1 in 6 road deaths and drug drivers who are thought to cause a similar number; the theme of Road Safety Week last year. While other countries have trace-only drink drive limits, electronic roadside drug drive testing, and enforcement so comprehensive they can check 1 in 2 drivers every year, Britain remains in the stone age. We check under 2% of drivers and offenders know it and risk it. We are only now considering reducing our drink drive limit from a shamefully high limit, only just considering making drug driving illegal, and still haven’t approved drug testing devices.

And then there’s the need to protect young drivers who are so much more likely to cause death and injury, often their own. While other countries introduced restrictions on young drivers years ago, our government has been consulting but is yet to decide.

And then there’s the need to stop speeding. We have the satellite technology to limit vehicle speed in different zones. Yet so many roads are still without even speed cameras or a 20mph zone. Why, when there is so much evidence that the faster we drive, the more people we kill? The answer is lack of national urgency, combined with political cogitation. It can’t be the money – funds spent on road safety are more than recouped in savings to the NHS.

Who knows what the future will hold with imminent elections. Wherever the power base lies, humanitarianism must win over crazy libertarianism that puts motorist freedoms above someone’s right to live.

So the message to politicians and civil servants tonight is - thank you for the words and the thinking and the planning; now let’s see the action, confirmed in a strong 10 year strategy. Or in simpler terms, put your money where your mouth is.

The actions of many of you in the room tonight over the past year must be commended.

The companies who have supported Brake’s work with donations, sponsorship and actions to reduce road risk in your fleets. The volunteers, schools, universities and nurseries who have worked so hard campaigning for road safety locally and fundraising for Brake. The politicians in ministerial and back bench roles and civil servants who are progressing the measures we are so urgently calling for. The emergency services supporting road crash victims and local government employees promoting road safety.

And all of you who support Brake year in, year out, giving us stability in difficult times. People like Toby, our volunteer of the year last year, who this year is planning an amazing trip across Costa Rica with 7 mates to raise funds for Brake. There are so many other awe-inspiring examples. Which brings me on to our volunteer of the year this year.

Dominic was just 18 when he was killed by his friend, a drink and drug driver. His mum Nova Storey has kept his name alive in the best possible way through her volunteering with Brake. There seems to be nothing that Nova won’t do. She runs our 2young2die workshops for young people about the dangers of driving, gives TV interviews, helps train police officers about the needs of bereaved families, and even done a hair-raising zip slide for the charity. The list could go on.

I invite Nova to come and accept her award, and I urge you to show your appreciation.

I am also pleased to announce the winner of our 2young2die competition, which invites young people to campaign for road safety. Ana Santos from the University of Leeds created a hard-hitting advert warning of the dangers of driving while on a phone which she got shown in a local cinema.

I invite Ana to accept her award, and can you show your appreciation.

I am now pleased to welcome to the stage Steve Treloar from Direct Line and Paul Clark, Road Safety Minister, who will present our Parliamentarian of the Year Award.

Speech by Brake's CE Mary Williams, 20.10.09

Speech made to the UK conference of road safety partnerships, Manchester

My opening premis is as such – “Road crashes, and inadequate support of bereaved road crash victims, are among modern society’s biggest social ills.”

For this reason, it would be peculiar if the voluntary sector wasn’t present, active and vocal. But on what basis does Brake claim that these two issues are among society’s biggest social ills?

The 5 over-arching reasons paint a fairly bleak picture of where we stand.

Firstly, road crashes remain widespread yet ignored. Only this weekend the BBC’s headlines included a report of two children seriously injured in a house fire. Yet as we now know thanks to the Government’s admission this month that they need to include hospital admissions in their casualty data, someone is hurt on UK roads every 39 seconds. If that level of casualty happened in any other transport type, it would be shut down.

Secondly, due to lack of public consciousness and arguably consequential lack of status among government priorities, road crashes remain largely a hidden concern, not addressed to any degree of significance in our education system, in the media, or in workplaces. It is fair to say that the average driver still drives with their destination and personal and professional concerns upper most in their mind, not with a sense of enormous responsibility and risk and hazard awareness.

Thirdly, worldwide, 2 in 100 people die in a road crash, according to the World Health Organisation, with the problem being worst in middle income countries where road development has progressed without appropriate facilities for pedestrians or cyclists such as off-road paths and crossings and low speed limits. Road deaths are among the top 10 causes of death, and the fourth biggest cause of death after heart conditions, lung conditions, AIDs and diarrohea. Road deaths are the only cause in the ‘top 10’ that is not due to a medical condition. In other words, it is the most common way that human beings kill other human beings or kill ourselves due to mistakes – significantly more common than war, murder, or death by fire, drowning or other ‘accidents’. Across the world, the poorest are most at risk, those who do not use cars are most likely to be mown down.

Fourthly, road deaths are among the most devastating deaths faced because they are sudden, violent and, most pertinently, often kill young; ripping apart families by killing children, young adults and young parents. In the developed world, 70% of deaths happen over the age of 70, compared with 21% in the poorest countries. So when a young death happens in the developed world it is against the natural order of things and the trauma, due to its unexpectedness and our lack of preparation, is grave. Yet, bizarrely, and again, I would hypothesise this is because of the lack of public consciousness of road deaths and consequential lack of government sense of urgency, families bereaved by road death receive next to none of the UK’s government’s budget for victim support, with it being instead directed to the more juicy types of deaths more favoured by the national media, including murder, manslaughter, rape, burglary. Brake makes the point time and time again that someone whose child has been killed in a road crash is much more in need of support than someone whose house has been burgled, and our cries continue to fall on deaf ears. We will not stop crying out for the rights of road crash victims.

Fifthly, and perhaps most critically, road deaths are caused by a cultural obsession in the developed world. A sense that it is a right, not a privilege to own and drive a car regardless of the enormous damage caused to our climate as well as risk posed to others. At least a quarter of carbon emissions in the UK are from motor vehicles, with more than half from cars. Yet most people in their personal or work lives feel no sense of moral incentive to consider other, safer, transport options or not make the trip at all. There appears to be much more moral debate about the damage caused by flying to a foreign holiday than whizzing around the UK on a daily basis in our cars. Time and time again I observe families who have many ethical principles, from recycling to holidaying in the UK, but who feel no need to even reduce their car usage. It’s too convenient. Too acceptable.

With these five over-arching reasons in mind, it is no surprise to discover the spread of Brake’s support base. The support base is made up of four distinct groups – 1. People personally affected by road death, injury or risk in their community – including bereaved and injured families but also teachers, youth leaders, parent-led campaigns, local politicians, local journalists. 2. Companies who operate fleets of vehicles and therefore deal daily with road risk, affecting their bottom line and corporate image. 3. Road safety professionals such as yourselves in local authorities and the emergency services, or academia. 4. Trauma / bereavement care specialists supporting road crash victims.

In other words, those people who do already have road safety in their consciousness for either personal or professional reasons. This is a select proportion of society, but nonetheless a powerful body of people who do, and will continue to, effect change for the better in their communities and on a nationwide basis and can do so best of all in partnership.

The job of Brake, as an independent nationwide charity, is to serve the interests of our support base and the nation as a whole to achieve the goals of stopping road deaths and in the interim provide humane support at appropriately significant levels to road crash victims. That inevitably means education and professional development of our existing support base and campaigns to raise active engagement through their road user behaviour among what we can describe as the ‘dormant’ populace, who have occasional concerns about road safety, often ardent (right or wrong) opinions about road safety, but often continue not to prioritise road safety in their behaviour.

We do this by providing partnership-based services that aim to team up different parts of our support base, including: 1) Education, professional development, and information exchange (through Resources (websites, print resources, video/viral materials, ebulletins), Events (workshops, conferences, training), Research (driver behaviour and parent surveys)); 2) Campaigns (Media, Political (I’m not going to focus on this today but many of you will be aware of our vociferous campaigns for graduated driver licensing, ISA speed limiters, more enforcement of large vehicle safety, and ring-fenced central funding for more 20mph limits, to name just a few). 3) Direct support services including a helpline and support literature.

What I’m now going to do is spend the rest of my presentation focussing on Brake’s service delivery and in particular showcase one initiative aimed at fleet drivers but useable by all drivers – the Pledge2DriveSafely.

The Pledge2DriveSafely campaign by Brake has run for the past decade - and has been developed in light of principles of driver psychology. I’m going to come on to explain what the campaign’s about in a minute but a good way to explain some of the underlying psychological principles behind the campaign is to consider the campaign in light of the principles outlined in the currently very-popular ‘Nudge’ philosophy which aims to improve decisions of health and happiness largely through campaigns of encouragement.

How many people in this room are familiar with Nudge? If you are not, it’s worth looking at the philosophy’s blog on their wordpress site.

Campaigns of encouragement such as Nudge can work in a number of ways and I outline three on this slide:

One way to encourage people is by attaching value to intangibles, such as health, love, community, relaxation (not driving in a fast, stressed state), rather than tangibles such as big, fast cars. A slower car journey can be a more enjoyable car journey. A train ride can be more social, and productive work-wise, than taking the car.

Another way is through enabling people to make public statements of intent – for example by pledging to drive safely as we do in this campaign – rather than just personal statements, made only to themselves and often therefore easily broken. Psychology studies tell us that attitudes and planned behaviour often don’t equate with actual behaviour. Awareness slips, and people are tempted or distracted.

Another way is through the public or more controlled shaming of people who don’t comply – for example, flashing neon signs that tell you your speed and show a sad face if you are breaking the limit, or public displays in company communal areas showing drivers who have had complaints made against them or praise given to them through freephone How’s my driving? numbers, or more enforcement-based measures such as corporate HR policies that mean drivers who commit traffic offences receive formal warnings and can be sacked.

The objective is to put egalitarianism at the centre of encouragement campaigns such as the Pledge2DriveSafely. That is, affirming and promoting equal political, economic, social, and civil rights for all people. Need I add that in these tightened economic times, such principles are beginning to come more naturally to many who can’t succumb to more materialistic temptations. An ideal environment to be pushing road safety and travelwise campaigns. The unemployed marketing executive is perfectly placed to start walking his kids to school.

The Pledge2DriveSafely itself is based on 7 golden rules as listed here on a form that drivers can sign either on line or on paper and are:Sober up (covering alcohol and drugs), wake up (don’t drive tired), buck up (don’t drive stressed or angry), check up (your vehicle, eg tyres), belt up (and adjust head restraints), shut up (don’t interact with any phone based technology or sat nav) ; and slow down (particularly on rural roads, and 20’s plenty in towns).

It’s snappy, it’s straight forward, and drivers won’t follow it - unless driver psychology principles are considered and appropriate measures put in place to address this.

Making a pledge is however a start, as I’ve already said. Actually putting pen to paper virtually or actually, and having that on your employment record is a step in the right direction.

The campaign then works through inculcation. It aims to effect behavioural improvements among drivers through inculcation of simple messages relating to 7 golden driving rules. We do this by various means.

Through one day workshops that we run across the country, we train fleet managers in workshop environments to use the Pledge website; this includes giving them background advice on driver psychology and pressures on driver psychology as indicated here on this slide that led to the development of the campaign.

The training also includes exploring fleet managers’ knowledge of how to successfully lead discussions among their drivers in group settings through helpful facilitation rather than lecturing, and one to one coaching sessions, to achieve a positive culture to road safety that their own drivers engender through their own solution-finding and their own weeding out of inappropriate views through group discussion.

We support this training with an online manager’s guide, which also talks about additional measures companies can implement aside from the resources we make available for them, ranging from better recruitment procedures such as including psychometric testing, to driver monitoring through black box technology.

In addition the Pledge2DriveSafely website has numerous resources for drivers ranging from quizzes to discussion starters to videos featuring bereaved people telling their stories and giving road safety advice. Any fleet managers can access these by joining our Fleet Safety Forum or coming on a Pledge2DriveSafely workshop.

Kidd’s Distribution in Scotland has branded its vans with Pledge messages. Their managing director says that although the drivers understandably are affected by the sombre nature of their vehicles’ branding, they are proud of their vehicles, the evident display of social responsibility of their employer, and say that their own behaviour as drivers is improved as a result of the daily reminder to themselves on their vans.

We are very keen on easy access to our services. Our subscription services for professionals are cheap and of course not for profit, but the services we provide are high quality while complementing those offered by trade associations and government. In particular and of relevance to most of this audience, we pride ourselves on running an academic team providing up to the minute information from around the globe relating to research, initiatives, and services to inform busy professionals.

For example, our Road Safety Forum costs £40 a year to join and provides access to: - Fortnightly ebulletins of global road safety research, which can be hard for UK based road safety professionals to easily reach without trawling through academic bulletins from around the globe - ‘Meet the expert’ regional workshops led by key transport academics such as Lisa Dorn and an annual conference - Access to our own driver behavioural research based on interviews with thousands of drivers conducted in partnership with Direct Line - An emerging online library at providing easy access to studies and initiatives on a wide range of road safety topics - Updates and opportunities for publicity involvement in our UK-wide PR and event-led campaigns, such as Road Safety Week (23-29 November this year – only 34 days away), and our Giant Walking Bus for primary schools (16 June 2010) - Access to bereaved and injured Brake volunteers and the powerful messages they bring

Our services for the public - in particular road crash victims but also schools and parents - are free and access encouraged through close links with the police and other agencies. For example our road crash victim support literature is distributed as a requirement of ACPO within its guidance to family liaison officers and as part of OCJR’s commitment to victims. It’s just a dreadful and shaming pity that this literature is the only thing the government funds for road crash victims.

For the public, we have a constantly evolving set of websites providing easy access to up to date campaign news and Brake opportunities to get involved, including through Please do get involved in the Week in whatever way you can, whether it’s issuing a press release or giving us a quote for a press release we can issue in your area, or buying a low-cost Road Safety Week banner to display in your area.

The posters we have developed this year for Road Safety Week for schools – available for free and thousands order them - are another example of partnership work with bereaved and injured families.

To give you a small taste of the other side of our work, BrakeCare, which supports road crash victims, we are also able to use this particular communication skill to the full in this division. On this slide you can see a cover of a book about to be published by the Amy & Tom project, which is an initiative by Brake to help all children suddenly bereaved by any cause – it has come out of a smaller project we have run specifically for children bereaved by road deaths.

This project, funded by the coop funeralcare following initial funding from children in need enables us to spread our expertise and benefit all suddenly bereaved children, whether their a parent has died of a sudden heart attack, a sibling has died of meningitis or someone has died in a road crash.

You might find this strange to begin with, but I’m going to end with this picture of a zebra zip sliding.

Trust me I have worn this outfit of Brake’s mascot Zak the Zebra in front of a classroom of kids and that was bad enough, so whichever commendable idiot did this in aid of raising funds for Brake has my sincere admiration.

This is, but it isn’t just, an opportunity for me to plug the great fun you can have fundraising for Brake. You don’t have to wear the zebra suit, you can climb a mountain, do a cycle ride or fun run, or sit in a bath of baked beans for all we care as long as we get the cash. We need it. About 90% of the costs of running our small team from our head office in Huddersfield comes from public donation or corporate giving, the remainder coming from charitable and government grants. Times are particularly tough in terms of corporate giving, so please do come up and see me at lunch if you would like to explore ways you can have fun and raise funds for Brake.

It’s also an opportunity for me to mention the wealth of local public campaigning Brake undertakes across the country – communities hire out Zak to be pictured in their local paper campaigning for drivers to slow down outside their schools. When Zak goes out, we tell the relevant Local Authority that he is coming so it can get involved as it considers fit, again creating opportunities for team work. This is of course in addition to our ongoing national campaigning in Parliament and Government for more funding for road engineering, enforcement and education which have not been the focus of my speech today but which take up significant time and are undoubtedly a very key role of an independent charity.

Zak’s zip sliding activities here also provides me with an opportunity to mention again how engagement in road safety can be helped by making it desirable, and socially acceptable, harking back again to the Nudge philosophy. Showing you this slide gives you an opportunity to think for a moment about how a team of people at work, or in a community, or in a school, are going to feel about their road safety behaviour if they have invested in time and effort to fundraise for Brake and our services for bereaved families. The fundraising element helps build their awareness and hopefully influences their behaviour. It’s all part of the same thing, that shift towards egalitarian concern and a hope for a better future.

Thank you for listening.

Speech by campaigns director Julie Townsend at Brake's annual reception, 19.01.11

Good evening to you all.

I think it’s fair to say that this is a critical time for road safety and for Brake.

Road safety is undoubtedly moving up the global political agenda – and certainly not ahead of time. 2011 marks the start of the UN’s Decade of Action on Road Safety, an event that aims to raise awareness about the appalling scale of road deaths and injuries across the globe, and to galvanise governments, agencies and NGOs in acting to tackle this epidemic.

[PAUSE for 6 seconds] During that brief pause, which lasted six seconds, someone else, somewhere in the world, will have been killed or maimed on the roads. By 2020, it’s forecast that the annual road death toll globally will stand at 2 million – that’s the populations of Birmingham, Leeds and Manchester combined.

The UN’s Decade of Action will primarily focus on reversing the increase in casualties in developing nations. Here in the UK, thankfully, casualties have been falling for more than two decades. Thankfully, we are part of a nation that’s regarded as a world leader in road safety, with one of the lowest road death rates.

And yet, it would be very wrong for us to spend tonight merely congratulating ourselves on the successes we have seen in road safety.

Because it remains the case that every day in the UK, six people leave their house, to go to work, or school, or to the shops, and never come back. Instead, their families receive a knock on the door from a police officer bearing the impossibly awful news that their loved one is gone forever, killed suddenly and violently on our roads.

And it remains the case that 70 more families each day must deal with the aftermath of a serious injury on our roads – many of which change their lives forever.

And it remains the case that many communities across the country live in fear of dangerous traffic, afraid to let their children walk or cycle in their own neighbourhood, impeding their health and development.

For these reasons, we must continue to strive to make our roads safer, and bring casualties down. They are devastating to families, and they are also, it is worth remembering in the current climate, an enormous economic burden. Yet they are preventable, and therefore, ultimately, we shouldn’t accept any number, except zero.

Last week Brake attended a Government consultation seminar on the development of a new road safety strategy, to take us beyond 2010, when the last strategy expired. The contents of this document are, of course, critical. The contents, we would argue, are major determinants of whether we continue to bring casualties down, and whether we bring them down as rapidly as we possibly can as leaders in road safety, or whether we let them increase once more, based on a complacency that we are already doing enough.

In other words, lives are staked on this piece of paper – and I believe it’s justified to put it in those stark terms.

Because of this, we believe it’s essential that this piece of paper sets out challenging targets for reducing casualties over the next decade.

We believe it’s essential that it includes key national policies which evidence shows will helps us to achieve these targets: actions, during this Decade of Action on Road Safety.

And, at its heart, we believe this strategy should contain a long-term vision for reducing road deaths and serious injuries to zero.

Over the coming weeks we will continue to push these points to Government.

But at the same time as engaging policy makers nationally, Brake continues to work on the frontline, with your vital support, to care for those families devastated by a road death or injury.

We are proud to say that now, as well as being the national provider of Government-funded support literature for bereaved families, we are also deploying immediate support workers via our helpline. This is a vital service, offering face to face emotional support for families in their darkest hours, plugging a desperate gap in the support available to those in the immediate aftermath of a bereavement.

Although we are in need of funding to roll out this service more widely, and will be lobbying the Ministry of Justice in the hope of achieving this, we are starting to offer this service on a small scale, with backing from the Association of Chief Police Officers, and with the crucial assistance of police forces around the country.

We also continue, with your vital support, to work with communities around the UK to spread road safety awareness, and to help schools, families and individuals fight for safer roads. Road Safety Week, our main forum for supporting grassroots action on road safety, continues to go from strength to strength, engaging thousands of schools, communities and organisations each year. I know many of you in the room were involved in making last year’s event a success, and I am certain that you’ll all be involved in this year’s.

I would like to finish by reiterating Deborah’s words on just how important you all are to this relatively small, but incredibly determined, passionate, and rather loud, charity. Our frontline work, which I have just touched upon briefly, simply would not happen without you.

And I’d like to urge you all to use tonight, as well as an opportunity for networking and enjoying the wine and canapés, to think how you can best support Brake in 2011. We’re in January, a time for resolutions, and we’re at a time when your support is really critical to the charity.

Please take the opportunity to chat to our fantastic Brake team here tonight about how you can help us and work with us this year for the benefit of road safety.

Thank you for your time.

Speech by deputy chief executive Julie Townsend at Brake Annual Reception, 11 January 2012

Good evening to you all.

This time last year, I spoke at this reception about road casualties falling at an unprecedented rate; I spoke about how many lives had been saved, injuries prevented, and the achievement this represented for everyone working in road safety.

I said it was a critical time for road safety; and I welcomed the fact that this vital social issue was moving up the global political agenda. But I also warned we must not rest on our laurels here in the UK on the basis that we are already a world leader in road safety - given that so many are still needlessly bereaved and inflicted with life-changing injury.

This warning was justified. The first half of 2011 saw, for the first time in a long time, a significant rise in road deaths in the UK, following a period of steep decline. Six months worth of data is too little to confirm a long-term trend, but we are not just talking numbers. We are talking about people’s lives being unnecessarily ended, prematurely and violently, futures and hopes dashed, families distraught and traumatised. 

The M5 crash in November was a terrible reminder of the horrifying reality of road crashes. The magnitude of this event meant it made the front page of every newspaper, was subject to a parliamentary debate, and sent shock-waves across the country. But while the scale of this tragedy was exceptional, sadly the suffering inflicted on the bereaved and injured victims was not. In terms of numbers of deaths, the equivalent of the M5 crash happens on our roads every 32 hours.

Our roads are among the safest in the world. But while we can make favourable comparisons like this, we must come back to the stark facts. Every day, five UK families will learn their loved one will never be coming home, will never smile or speak to them or hold them again, because they have been suddenly killed in a road crash. A further 65 families have to come to terms with the turmoil and pain of a serious injury, many permanent and life-changing.

Each one of these casualties is devastating for the families involved, as devastating as the M5 crash – Brake bears witness to this through our support services. Each one costs society dearly, through the awful consequences inflicted on individuals and families, and the burden placed on health and emergency services. And each one results from man-made and preventable circumstances.

Brake continues to campaign, in government, parliament, and in communities, to stop more families suffering in this way, and to ensure there is justice and support for those who do.
We are pleased to see progress by government in some key areas. This spring, an expert panel meets to explore improvements in drug driving law, something we have campaigned for long and hard.

We hope to also see this year improvements to the government’s guidance on setting speed limits, to enable local authorities to more easily implement life-saving 20mph limits. We will continue to engage government on this key issue, and support communities trying to persuade their authority to make this vital change. 

We will also be putting forward our views for the government’s forthcoming victims’ strategy and we hope this will pave the way for all bereaved and seriously injured crash victims to get the support they desperately need and deserve, but still don’t always get.

But in other respects, we are desperately concerned not enough is being done. So we will continue to push for a system of graduated driver licensing, to help tackle the appalling number of young driver crashes on our roads, and we will continue to push a zero tolerance approach to drink driving – policies that are internationally evidenced to prevent road carnage.

And sadly, over the coming months, we will also be working to oppose proposals that are likely to result in an increased death and injury toll if they are introduced - in particular, speaking out against the desperately inhumane and senseless policy of 80mph speed limits on motorways.

Across all these campaigns, we continue to draw on the invaluable and inspiring support of our volunteers, who speak out so bravely through the media and at events, to policy makers and the public, to build support for change and raise awareness about the devastation of road crashes. I would like to say a particular thank you to our volunteers who have been personally affected by death and injury on roads, some of whom I’m delighted to welcome here tonight.

We will also continue to work as hard as we can engaging government, parliamentarians, organisations and the general public to make things happen. The last decade was proof of how much can be achieved in road safety. We need to ensure this coming decade, which is the UN’s global Decade of Action on Road Safety, sees more action and more progress, towards safer and greener roads and communities, fewer people needlessly killed and injured, and justice and support for all those who are.

I will finish by stressing that everyone in this room can play a crucial role in this, and many of you already are. So please take the time this evening to speak to the Brake team – there are a number of us here tonight – and our fantastic volunteers, about how you can continue working with us to achieve these goals. I thank you all – volunteers, sponsors, partners, campaigners and fundraisers – for the support you have given Brake in the past year, and I thank you in advance for working with us in 2012 and beyond.

I’m very pleased now to hand you over to Maria Eagle MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Transport, who has kindly offered to say a few words. Thank you.

Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake

The forgotten victims: support for road crash victims, Brake Parliamentary reception supported by Leigh Day & Co solicitors, 4 July 2012

We are all very different, and yet almost all of us will answer the following question the same: what is your worst fear? No matter who you are and how you live your life, the chances are your worst fear will be about the same: suddenly losing someone you love, or seeing someone you love suffering pain and anguish.

It's a prospect that fills us all with horror. It's hard to imagine not just the repercussions, but how life would go on, should we be thrown into the nightmare of a sudden, violent bereavement or serious injury.

Tragically, some people in this room, Brake's courageous volunteers, need not imagine. They have had their worst fears realised.

They have opened the door to a police officer, come to tell them the unbearable news that their loved one will not be coming home today or ever again, because they have been needlessly killed in a road crash. They have gone through the shock, anger, despair, grief and emptiness that follows. They have wondered how they will cope, how they will ever lead a normal life again. And their lives will never be the same.

The bereaved families here today were supported by Brake. They received comfort and understanding in their darkest hours. They turned to us for information and guidance, to help them through bewildering practical issues and procedures, including contact with the criminal justice system.

And we did everything in our power to help them.

They are among thousands of bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims supported by Brake each year. Brake's two primary care services, our national helpline and support packs, are often described as a life-line, a rock, something reliable and understanding, when everything else has been turned upside down.

Bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims have acute and wide-ranging support needs, and we aim to meet these needs directly – through listening, comfort, information and advocacy – and through referral to other specialist services, such as group support and counselling.

But hard as we work to ease the suffering of road crash victims and reach as many as we can, we cannot currently be there for everyone who needs us. ____

Every day in the UK, five more families face the devastation of a loved one being violently killed in a road crash. Another 66 must deal with the pain and trauma of a serious injury, many life-changing and debilitating, such as paralysis and brain damage.

Last week came the terrible news that road deaths and serious injuries have gone up in Britain for the first time in 17 years, meaning even more families experiencing their worst nightmares come true.

All these families suffer terribly as a result of violent, man-made, preventable circumstances, many stemming from law-breaking behaviour. But despite this, they remain in many ways the forgotten victims.

Last year, then Victims' Commissioner Louise Casey recognised that people bereaved through road death suffer similarly to people bereaved through homicide, and have similar support needs, and yet many road death victims fall down the gaps in available support. She said "the Government should make it a high priority for those bereaved by culpable road death to receive a similar...offer... [to] those bereaved through homicide."

This was an important recognition of the unjust inequality of victim support that we have seen for so long: road death victims have been long neglected in government funding, while millions have been invested in supporting victims of crimes where no one was hurt or killed, many of whom neither want nor need support, according to the Victims Commissioner. The result is a lot of wastage, while some of the most vulnerable and acutely suffering victims are left out in the cold.

If your house is burgled, you will automatically be offered government-funded face-to-face support. If your loved one is killed suddenly in a road crash, you will receive no such offer.

In 2011-12, the government invested just £274,000 in specialist support for road crash victims, split between Brake and some other charities here today. To put this in context, we can make a comparison with the amount invested in support for homicide victims in the same year. It was more than ten times as much - £2.75million - despite there being about three times as many road deaths as homicides.

This £274,000 was actually a big increase in what was previously invested by government, so warmly welcomed and desperately needed – but we remain a long way off being able to offer comprehensive support across the country that road crash victims need and deserve: in particular face-to-face emotional and practical support during the period immediately following the crash.

It remains that the only support automatically offered to all bereaved road crash victims is Brake's packs, and there's no automatic offer of support for serious injury victims at all. So there is no clear pathway for crash victims to take, to access help they need at the outset, and then the right support over the months perhaps years that follow, as appropriate to their needs. Therefore many victims find themselves lost and bewildered, not knowing which way to turn.

But I am pleased to say, we have a rare opportunity now to plug this unacceptable gap at no extra cost to the taxpayer.

On Monday, the Ministry of Justice announced an extra £50million will be invested in supporting victims, with priority given to those most grievously affected, although the priority list I'm afraid to say did not specifically name road crash victims.

A large part of this funding is being generated by an increase in fines for driving offences. We believe it is absolutely appropriate to use revenue from drivers who risk causing devastating crashes, to support people whose lives are torn apart by these events.

This announcement came as part of the Ministry of Justice's response to its consultation, Getting it right for victims and witnesses. We were pleased to see in this the government acknowledging the need to further develop road crash victim support. But we remain concerned a large proportion of crash victims look set to continue being excluded from government funding.

The Ministry of Justice only funds support for victims of crime and The Department for Transport will not fund support for crash victims at all. Because many crashes are not followed by criminal prosecution, either because no crime occurred, or because someone who committed a crime was killed, many crash victims fall down the gaps in government funding criteria.

Brake continues to support these families as best we can through sponsorship and fundraising.

However, we believe all victims of road death and serious injury are entitled to specialist support funded by government.

All bereaved road death victims and most of those very seriously injured come into contact with the criminal justice system because these crashes are followed by police investigation. Many fatal crashes – about 500 a year – result in successful prosecution. But many more may involve criminal behaviour, yet will never be recorded as a crime, where the person who committed the crime is the sole victim.

In cases where no crime's occurred, these families still suffer terribly, as a result of preventable circumstances, and a failure by government for not ensuring our roads and communities are safer.

We believe all bereaved and seriously injured road crash victims should be able to access a clear pathway of specialist, comprehensive support. This should be funded by government, across departments if needed, and automatically offered following a crash, so suffering families know help is there. If we are to get it right for these victims, this support should be available across the country, to all who need it, without discriminating against those who suffer the same but where no crime is recorded.

We're determined to make to this happen, and we look forward to continuing to engage with the government, and to work with you to bring this about.

I urge all the parliamentarians here to pledge your support to this campaign, by having your photo taken and signing an EDM. Other organisations here, please do chat to us about how we can work together to get it right for the forgotten victims.

Thank you in advance for your support.


Speech by Nicole Taylor

At a Brake Parliamentary reception on support for road crash victims, kindly supported by Leigh Day & Co solicitors, 4 July 2012. 

Good Afternoon my name is Nicole Taylor. I have 5 mins to talk about the life changing impact sudden road death had on me and my family.

But before I share my personal experience, I would like you to spend a few seconds thinking of someone you love, maybe a member of your family, your partner, son, daughter, maybe a close friend...(count to 5)

Now imagine a normal day at work and being unexpectedly taken away from what you a doing and led to an office to be confronted by two police officers in their bright yellow fluorescent jackets and being asked to sit down...then being told that your daughter has been killed in a fatal road traffic collision. That was the moment that our lives changed forever...shattered and broken...

Now go back to thinking about your loved one and just try for a moment to imagine the pain you would feel. Believe me it is imagine coping with this life changing event on your own, with no professional you think you could cope without any support?

On September 9th 2008 I lost my beautiful 18 year old daughter Beccy. My natural instinct was to be with Beccy, however I couldn't even do that as the car she had been driving had burst into flames and the Police told me she was so badly damaged I could not see her. My next priority was my family. We live in Northampton and my other daughter (Jess) was at school, my husband (Chris) and son (Nick) were both in London.

Of course the police family liaison officer's immediate focus is to ensure family members are informed as soon as possible, so they had phoned Jess' school to tell them we were on our way, but instead of the school waiting for us to arrive, they had already called Jess out of her lesson and I literally collided with her in reception and had to whisk her away to an office to tell her that her sister, who had driven her to school that morning, was dead.

I had asked if the Police could go to my husband's place of work and then take him to my son's flat. Instead my husband got a message that 'the Police are with your wife and to come home'. As my husband caught a train home, I was receiving phone calls from him that I could not answer. He had already rung Beccy's phone and had worked out why the Police were with his wife. I confirmed his worse fears as he arrived an hour and a half later at the train station. Our next priority was to get Nick home from London. However, unbeknown to us, without our permission, Jess' school had

announced Beccy's death and this news had been posted on Facebook. My husband arrived at Nick's flat literally minutes before he received a phone call from one of his friends to see if he was okay. By 9 O'clock we were all home....but without our Beccy.

With no one to look after us we had no idea what to do next, we were totally bereft and lost. So we went to church to say prayers where our priest tried to give us some comfort. Afterwards I needed to go to the hospital mortuary to at least get as close to Beccy as possible and then around midnight we took flowers and candles to where she had died.

Our police FLO visited us the next day to explain what would happen over the next few weeks and left us with Brake's handbook for the bereaved, the only practical support we received – Brake's booklet was something we would refer to on numerous occasions over the following weeks, months and years.

It took 11 days for Beccy's body to be identified. Being unable to see Beccy was very difficult for me. I have no locks of her hair, no kisses goodbye. I could not wash and dress her one last time. The bond of love I have for Beccy cannot be broken. Because the love I feel for her cannot die, there can be no respite from my grief. Losing Beccy is so devastating it is simply unimaginable, nearly 4 years on I still can't believe she will not come home and whilst you can sympathise with me, you cannot really imagine my pain. Words like "recovery" have no meaning.

With no support from anyone it was up to me to ensure Nick, Jess and Beccy were looked after. Over the following days, weeks and months I had to make numerous and often very difficult phone calls, having to explain each time that I had lost my daughter in a sudden road death. If my family had had a support worker assigned to us we could have been protected from further anguish and received appropriate support to prevent further distress, which looking back now, I know severely affected my own ability to return to work.

I had to ring the police to ask why there were delays to receive toxicology and autopsy results...if we had had the right support, I would not have had to make these desperate calls myself, compounding my fears she was still alive when the car instantly burst into flames.

In the following months as the grief took hold within us life began to break down. I had assumed that professionals within the education system would look after my son and daughter...but no-one took responsibility. It was left to me to ring round agencies to find counselling for my children. Should it be left to members of a family to ensure they are all receiving appropriate care following the sudden loss of a loved one?

Sadly, Jess, who had returned to start 6th form 2 weeks after her sister's death, by January began to fail at school... It was me who had to ensure she didn't leave, I, a grieving mother whose dead daughter had died on her way back from that school, had to battle with teachers to instigate an Individual Education Plan and provide a safe place for her to go in school for the times she couldn't cope...If we had had the right support, this could have been avoided. Instead my pain was being intensified.

Meanwhile my son returned to University, as we had all been advised to return a normal routine. We had assumed he would receive emotional and academic support; after all he had suddenly just lost his sister! But again he received none of this, instead he struggled through his second year and unsurprisingly failed his end of year examinations and unfortunately the rules would not allow him to resit the year. If we he had had the right support, this might have turned out differently.

I was unable to return to work for 9 months. Not only was I trying to come to terms with the sudden loss of my daughter, I was also trying to look after my two remaining children, my husband, my extended family, as well as deal with the lack of information from the police investigation to enable me to understand how my daughter died. With no support worker to look after me, I had to chase the police for information, contact the Coroner's court, organise my own return to work and counselling.

The Ministry of Justice will only fund support for victims of crime. Whether or not a crime has been committed, families who experience the unnatural and untimely loss of a loved one need both emotional and practical support.

In our case, there was no criminal prosecution, so no crime was recorded, meaning we do not fit with the Ministry of Justice's funding criteria. But we still had to navigate the criminal justice system, and the numerous other complicated procedures that follow a death on the road. There was a police investigation, which left us with many unanswered questions. There was a long Coroner's Inquest, through which we received no support. It was only from the Inquest that we were able to gain any understanding of Beccy's death: it concluded that flooding caused by a blocked drain had caused Beccy to lose control.

Families bereaved in road crashes need an advocate to ensure they are treated with respect, to help them understand what is happening, and to help them get answers to their questions. This is not a role performed by the Police, CPS or Coroner and most bereaved families do not have sufficient emotional resilience or know-how, to navigate their way through the Criminal Justice System.

Nearly four years on, I know that if our family had received the comprehensive support we needed: someone who looked after our interests, who understood the complicated procedures that followed, and who could provide and refer us to the right kind of emotional support, then we could have been left to focus on dealing with losing Beccy. Instead I had to battle so we could return to some kind of normal life.

Do you think families like us do not deserve the same level of support as other bereaved families who are victims of crime? Do you think it is right that those who have died in a road collision have no automatic offer of specialist support?

I stand here today very proud of how Nick and Jess have made fresh starts. But I am only standing here today because of Beccy. It is she who gives me the strength to campaign for those families who do not have this resilience.

I would like to take this opportunity to personally thank Brake for all the support they have provided.

Speech to Speed Congress 2010 by Mary Williams OBE, Brake CE

Is there a safe speed at which to crash a vehicle into someone on foot or bicycle? Is that speed 6mph? 4mph? Imagine blindfolding a child and telling them to run at 4mph into a lamp post. Commonsense tells us there is NO safe speed at which to crash. Crashing at any speed can result in death.

[SLIDE] History agrees. The earliest vehicles travelled at little more than walking pace but still caused death. As we know, when Bridget Driscoll, Britain’s first known person to die, was killed in 1896 it was by a car described by witnesses as travelling at a tremendous speed: 4mph. At any speed, an impact between a soft human body and something much harder, generally made out of metal or at best dense plastic, can be lethal or cause paralysis or brain injury. It is also critical to remember that the potential damage caused by impact is only part of the story. Vehicles crush as well as impact. Any vehicle, whether it is a one tonne car or a 32 tonne truck has the potential to kill through its crushing power, either because a victim has gone under that vehicle’s wheels, or because the vehicle has flipped over on to the victim. Picture the toddler in a buggy crushed under the wheels of a slow moving but left turning vehicle that mounted the pavement.

This is of course all basic stuff that you and I know. But the point is not to teach you to suck eggs, but to help us all think about inadequate driver perceptions of the killing power of vehicles and speed, and how that translates into poor driving attitudes to speed and drivers driving far too fast, particularly, in the context of this session, in towns and villages.

[SLIDE] Today Brake is releasing findings from our most recent survey of about 900 random UK drivers’ speed behaviour. Almost three quarters (72%) drivers surveyed admitted driving at 35mph or faster in a 30mph zone. Half of these offenders (36%) admitted doing this daily or at least once a week. And as we have heard this morning many UK drivers also break posted 20mph limits in areas where enormous and commendable efforts are being undertaken to communicate and enforce these limits. So why do so many drivers still think it’s OK to break even a 30mph limit let alone a much more appropriate 20mph limit? It is highly likely that in the UK many drivers still have a dangerous and false perception that driving ‘a few’ miles faster – for example 35mph in a 30 - is only breaking the limit by ‘a little bit’, and that this won’t make much difference to their safety.

[SLIDE] Understandably, Britain’s government-run Think! campaign focussed significantly in the past on countering this false perception through the arguably over simplistic and potentially misleading strap line on posters that ‘at 35mph you are twice as likely to kill a child you hit as at 30mph’. Unfortunately, this strap line can wrongly infer that it is OK, or at least significantly ‘better’ to hit a child on foot at a collision speed of 30mph. Hit at this speed a child is still likely to die or be seriously maimed as I will demonstrate later. Most importantly of all, this strap line certainly doesn’t address the need for drivers to think about stopping distances and the over-riding importance of stopping in time to avoid crashing, rather than crashing at a slightly slower, but easily still fatal speed. In addition, the strapline leaves the door open to criticism from people that must not be given such easy opportunities. The despicable pro-speed group Safe Speed says on its site: “It isn’t true that you are twice as likely to kill a child by driving at 35mph. (It is true that you are twice as likely to kill a child in a 35mph impact as a 30mph impact. But very few pedestrian impacts take place at free travelling speeds.)” I presume by free travelling speed they mean in this context the speed of travel prior to reacting to any hazard. What’s insidiously wrong with Safe Speed’s statement is that, like the Think! campaign, it implies that it is OK to hit a pedestrian at a lower speed – by this I mean, and presumably Safe Speed means, the residual, or impact, speed that a vehicle is travelling on impact after the driver has reacted (or thought), and then braked (if indeed there is time to do so). Safe Speed do not of course explain that the impact speed of a vehicle originally travelling at 35mph or 30mph that hits a child at a defined distance can still cause death and catastrophic injury. They do not explain that the faster you go, the more you are likely to be involved in a collision (see University of Adelaide reports et al).

[SLIDE] The Think! campaign more recently has addressed the issue of impact speeds. A more recent statement on the Think! website says: “At 30mph, if a child stepped out 25 metres ahead of you, you’d hit them at 19mph. At 40mph, you’d hit them at 38mph – twice as fast.” This is surely a step in the right direction, but far from satisfactory. It can still be implied from this statement that an impact speed – in this case 19mph - is acceptable. Is hitting a child at 19mph in any way OK? Absolutely not. Another problem with this statement is the choice of the 25 metre marker: this is far too great a distance (about six car lengths) for safety in communities. Less than half this distance, the 12 metre marker (about three car lengths), is a far more appropriate perameter. For anyone who knows their stopping distances chart this is of course the distance within which a very vigilant car driver with fast reactions would hopefully stop if driving at 20mph or lower.

[SLIDE] Stopping distances are of course made up of time taken thinking and then braking. You will know that as speed increases, thinking distances increase at a proportional rate as you can see from the chart. For the purpose of the stopping distance chart in Britain’s Highway Code, the thinking distance of 0.67 seconds has been used. It should be noted that by anyone’s standards this is a fast reaction time and must therefore be considered a bare minimum. While thinking distances increase at a proportional rate to speed, braking distances increase disproportionately at a much greater rate than speed. The easiest way to explain this to any member of the public with a GCSE in maths is that braking distance to a full stop is proportional to the square of the initial speed, not the initial speed.

[SLIDE] As this slide shows, it’s also worth noting that a vehicle travelling at any initial speed will still have about 70% of its initial speed when it is half way through its braking distance. Using the example of a car travelling at 20mph on this slide, you can see the lack of any drop in speed during the six metre thinking time, followed by a convex curve for the following six metres, which shows that at the nine metre marker – half way through the braking time – the speed is still above 13mph with only three metres to go before stopping completely. You get the same shape of line for any speed you plot. Yet another way of explaining the importance of stopping in time. Those playing ‘devil’s advocate’ may argue that it is pie in the sky to think that urban speed campaigns should focus entirely on stopping in time, rather than crashing at lower speeds. Brake disagrees, along with anyone else who takes a zero tolerance approach to crashes.
Using the 12 metre marker as our maximum stopping distance in towns and villages (obviously with a shorter stopping distance being even better), we can do some interesting mathematical calculations that can help the public understand the importance of stopping in time, as I will demonstrate.

[SLIDE] If a car is travelling at 30mph, rather than 20mph, then that car’s impact speed at the 12 metre marker is still about 27mph. The car will hardly have slowed down at all because three quarters of the 12 metres will have been taken up with thinking or reacting time, as of course the stopping distances chart shows you.

[SLIDE] Why the famous picture of Jacko? We can use this impact speed of 27mph to calculate the height that a child would have to fall to attain that speed, using the equations of motion under constant acceleration. This can help gives the public a very real sense of the danger being posed.

[SLIDE] Using the average acceleration due to gravity as measured at the surface of the earth, a child falling backwards out of a third storey window, or from the top of a gabled roof of a two storey house, would hit a concrete pavement at about 27mph. Clearly an event likely to cause death or serious injury. I say falling backwards to emphasise the vulnerability of the head, but also to indicate lack of any opportunity for the victim to control the nature of the impact. I say a concrete pavement to indicate the contrast between soft flesh and hard vehicles.
So, in plain English, if you drive at 30mph, and a child runs out three car lengths ahead of you, the damage you will cause that child is the equivalent of them falling backwards out of a third storey window (and that’s not counting the damage your vehicle or someone else’s vehicle may cause by crushing the child to death).

[SLIDE] Now if we consider the same car being driven at 36mph, then that car’s residual speed at the 12 metre marker may not have reduced at all – the car would possibly have slowed down by 1mph to 35mph if the driver has good reactions, but nearly all, if not all, of the distance will be taken up with thinking rather than braking. (Certainly as speeds approach and then exceed 40mph there is absolutely no chance of the driver reducing their speed at all by the impact distance of 12 metres.)

A residual speed of at best 35mph is inevitably catastrophic to the human body. Using the same calculations, this is the equivalent of a child falling backwards out of a fifth floor apartment onto concrete. No-one would expect a child to survive that fall.

This clearly demonstrates the stupidity of Safe Speed when they say that ‘very few pedestrian impacts take place at free travelling speeds’. In fact, any driver choosing to drive at 36mph or above who hits a child 12 metres in front of them is almost inevitably going to be travelling at their so-called ‘free travelling speed’. Parents don’t let their children hang around on fifth floor window ledges. But many drivers in the UK, many of whom are parents, do drive above 30mph in their own communities. This is a comparison everyone can understand.

[SLIDE] This slide shows some chosen impact speeds at the back and the calculated height of fall at the front. You can see that as the impact speeds go up proportionally at the back, the calculated height of fall for these impact speeds is beginning to pull away and increase disproportionately.

[SLIDE] A word on pedestrian protection measures. It is often the case that pedestrian protection measures, such as so-called pedestrian-friendly bumpers, are mentioned in the same breath as car occupant protection measures. In many ways, these two sets of measures are far from comparable. An occupant is in a contained space and can be protected in that contained space by air bags. A pedestrian is outside and can fall any which way, including under the wheels of the vehicle that has hit the pedestrian, or, indeed, a different vehicle.

To quote EuroNCAP’s website, “although it is possible to control the point of impact of the bumper against the pedestrian’s leg, it is impossible to control where the dummy’s head will subsequently strike.” While Brake would not argue that development of pedestrian protection measures, particularly very soft ones such as exterior air bags, is pointless, there are so many variables for pedestrians that their effectiveness will always be variable too. Such protection measures will be most effective at the slowest speeds, and even then will not counter the damage that can be caused by being crushed by a vehicle. It’s also worth sparing a moment to consider the argument that better brakes in modern vehicles means stopping distances are shorter. There are a lot of variables here. Stopping distances can be affected by weight and loading of a vehicle, and the maintenance as well as the design of the brakes. They can be affected by variations in drivers’ reaction times and by weather conditions such as wet or icy roads. Any driver who buys their vehicle on the basis that it has the best possible braking technology is doing pedestrians a favour, and could be charitably thought to be buying that vehicle partly for moral reasons. That moral high ground flies out the window if that driver then treats their brakes as a licence to drive faster. Anything we can do to decrease stopping distance – whether it is driving slower or buying a great car – should be done. It’s not an either / or deal as the objective is to stop in time to prevent a crash.

Thinking a moment further about driver campaigns, there have been many campaigns in many countries that have chosen, based on research, to focus on motivators other than not killing someone. For example, campaigns that focus on the chance of being caught speeding and consequently losing your licence or your job.

[SLIDE] Most recently, the Think! ‘Live With It’ campaign has chosen to refocus on the human devastation caused by speed by considering a driver who has to live with the knowledge that he killed a young boy. The over-riding concern of any crash is potential casualties, so Brake is pleased to see this direction which demonstrates perhaps a renewed hope that many drivers may at least be prepared to attempt to translate concern for their fellow man into changes in behaviour.

So what are the implications from this paper for Brake’s urban speed policy and our education and media campaigns and potentially yours?

[SLIDE] Brake will continue to advocate a default 20mph limit for all towns and villages with the objective of total prevention of all collisions with hazards that appear three car lengths or more ahead. We will press for continued roll out of speed cameras and, better, ISA to be introduced. This is the only and ultimate solution to law breaking speeders, and we must maintain the pressure on politicians – particularly in Britain during such turbulant political times and in light of a Conservative-led government that has stated in opposition its intention to halt speed camera expansion.

To encourage more flourishing and safe community space, we will push for more vehicle exclusion areas, where people can move freely around central community facilities and green spaces without fear of traffic. These are preferable to so-called naked roads where road signage and pavements are removed and space is shared between people and vehicles, which has come under so much criticism in particular from campaigning charities representing the blind.

We will use our education programmes in schools and companies, and our campaigns in the media, to talk more about the maths of speed, to help drivers better understand the need to drop speeds so they can stop in time, while also continuing to ensure that the stories of the bereaved and injured families are heard widely and loudly. We will continue to emphasise the vulnerablity of children, the disabled, elderly and cyclists in towns and villages, explaining that these people make up the fabric of communities and deserve the best possible protection and not the death penalty for their mistakes. The theme of this year’s Road Safety Week is Kids Say Slow Down. Need I say more.

The role of the voluntary sector and community campaigning in road injury prevention

Speech by Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake

For the Brain Injury Prevention Symposium, ISCoS (International Spinal Cord Society) Annual Conference, September 2012

In May last year the UN launched the first ever global Decade of Action for Road Safety. Events in more than 100 countries involving governments, celebrities, sports stars, muppets and NGOs, promoted a shared goal of stabilising and then bringing down numbers of road deaths and injuries through a global plan for road safety, with the aim of saving five million lives and many more injuries by 2020.

The Decade came about following recognition by the World Health Organisation that road injury is set to become the world's fifth biggest killer by 2030, rising from its current position as ninth in the rankings, if more is not done to improve road safety worldwide.

The WHO estimates there are 1.3million road deaths globally each year and some 20-50 million injuries, although we are a long way off having accurate figures for the latter. (Even here in the UK, where the government has collected this data for decades, there is an acknowledgement of a big discrepancy between its published road injury figures, collected by police, and hospital admissions figures.)

Unlike many of the biggest killers in the world, road crashes disproportionately affect the young, meaning many life years lost among those killed, exacerbated trauma for the bereaved, and long-term pain and upheaval for those who suffer debilitating injuries. Looking at these leading causes of death worldwide, road crashes rise to the top three if you look specifically at deaths among five to 44 year-olds, and they take the number one spot for deaths among young people – both globally and in many developed nations, including the UK.

And road crashes, you may note, stand apart from any other cause of death on this list, in that they are entirely man-made and preventable, again adding to the trauma of those affected, but also making it shameful that it should make the list at all, let alone be rising up it.

Or to put a positive spin on it, because crashes are entirely preventable, road safety presents a tremendous opportunity to save a lot of lives, and prevent a great deal of suffering.

Without exception road casualties have a devastating impact on those directly affected, and on society as a whole. Because they are unexpected, violent and man-made, road deaths and injuries inflict particularly acute suffering. Research has shown the long-term, acute psychological impact, and that this can frequently lead to further and ongoing health, financial and social problems.

Those who survive crashes but with catastrophic injuries often need many years of rehabilitation, and may find themselves living a completely different life to the one they led before, unable to do the same work, pastimes, or live in the same house, every aspect of their life affected. Some may need round-the-clock for the rest of their lives.

As well as the upheaval, pain and anguish experienced by injured victims and immediate family of those killed and injured, road casualties often have a terrible ripple affect across whole communities. One person killed or injured may mean scores suffering and traumatised.

Think, for example, of a 12 year-old boy knocked down outside his school during his lunchbreak. He is cradled in the arms of his best friend as he lies dying in the road, the rest of the school's pupils watching on from the playground. The driver is a teenager from the area whose family knows the boy's family. Tragically, this is not a made-up example nor by any means exceptional.

The economic cost to society of road crashes and casualties is also huge. Here in the UK, the government estimates the cost of each fatal crash to be £1.8million, and each serious non-fatal crash to be £200,000. It puts the total annual cost of crashes at up to £32bn, taking into account under-reporting. This includes human costs, as much as they are quantifiable, lost output, police and insurance costs, as well as of course the very significant costs to health services.

And it's crucial for us to also acknowledge the price society pays not just for road casualties, but also for the threat of casualties, for road danger.

We are increasingly realising this threat is one of the biggest barriers we face in developed nations like the UK to promoting and enabling active lifestyles. Parents, children and adults all say the threat from traffic, the lack of safe facilities, is stopping many of them from walking and cycling as a sustainable and healthy transport choice, and simply for their enjoyment and wellbeing. Recent surveys by Brake of adult commuters and parents show that a huge proportion say they would walk and cycle, or do so more, if there was a safer road environment.

And yet despite all of this, road safety is often not regarded and dealt with as a public health issue.

It was therefore a huge break-through in our view to see the World Health Organisation and United Nations launching the Decade of Action, recognising road safety as a hugely important public health issue – but we still have some way to go on this. This is a rare opportunity for me, to be speaking at an event for health professionals – but a very welcome one – as at Brake we are determined over the coming years to do more to engage public health and medical communities to work together on casualty prevention.


The challenges we face together in road casualty prevention are huge across all parts of the world. Vehicle ownership continues to rise rapidly, the vast majority of countries don't have adequate laws addressing the major risk factors, and we have an unclear picture of the full extent and nature of road injuries.

But perhaps the biggest challenge facing everyone working in road safety across the globe is the cultural one. Specifically, we might boil this down to firstly the widely-held view that road crashes are inevitable occurrences – hence the use of the term 'accident', which we believe is inappropriate for such catastrophic and preventable events – and secondly the prestige, glory and glamour that surrounds the activity of driving. The fact it's seen as a right, a pleasure, and glamorised through so many media outlets, makes it all the harder to persuade drivers to change their habits, and to persuade governments to implement restrictive or punitive measures that could be seen to unfairly target or penalise drivers.

Chipping away at and dismantling these cultural myths is vital if we are to persuade governments to legislate for safer roads and if we are to persuade people to abandon the behaviours that cause road injury. And this is a key role that NGOs like Brake can play, particularly through campaigning and community engagement and activation.


Brake was founded 18 years ago as a UK-wide road safety charity, with two main aims: making roads safer and preventing road death and injury and easing the suffering of people bereaved and injured in road crashes. We've grown to the modest size of 22 members of staff, with a turnover of just under a million pounds, and we're very proud that we make that little bit of money go an awfully long way. Incidentally, very little of our money comes from government: less than 10%, and all of that is for our victim care services. Our road injury prevention work is entirely funded through corporate and community fundraising, much of which runs hand-in-hand with educational and community engagement activities.

I'm focusing in this presentation on the casualty prevention side of our work, but it's important to briefly reference our care work, since the two are closely inter-linked. Our work supporting and assisting people who lives are torn apart by road crashes – including a national helpline and support packs - gives validity and weight to our work preventing these tragedies because we witness first-hand the devastation crashes and casualties cause.

And we find that many families who we support, later on, want to help us fight to stop other families going through what they have been through. Many come forward wanting to speak out in support of our campaigns, and tell their stories, and we are very proud to work with these courageous individuals – including some whose photos I showed a few minutes ago.


We use a range of means to campaign as efficiently and effectively as possible given our limited resources, and at the heart of that is media work. We don't have the money for national advertising campaigns, but we do have the expertise and means to deliver high-profile, high impact PR campaigns through engaging traditional media, and making use of social media.

To generate widespread coverage, we use surveys into road user attitudes, behaviours and understanding, such as the examples I gave before on walking and cycling, plus freedom of information requests to police forces, government and local authorities to gauge the state of play in relation to different road safety issues, from morning-after drink driving, to child car seats, to penalties for driving offences. We link our results to constructive, clear and specific educational messages and messages. We often engage families who has been affected by a related type of crash in support of our media work, as I've just mentioned. Sometimes we might run an event or photocall to coincide with the release, and then we work hard to engage our contacts in national, regional and specialist media, and to disseminate the story ourselves via social media.

It's a formula that works incredibly well for us. Just to give a couple of examples, a press release we issued in January using freedom of information request data showed how traffic police numbers have dropped by 12% over four years. We put this out along with calls for traffic policing to be given greater priority and got coverage in five national and 23 regional press outlets, plus three national and 41 regional broadcast interviews. A few months later, we conducted a survey on the extent of mobile phone use at the wheel, which we put out alongside calls for people to drive smart by pledging to never use a phone at the wheel in any way. It was covered in 15 regional and seven national press and web outlets, and through two national and 27 local broadcast interviews.

Alongside this PR activity communicating educational and policy messages, we work hard to lobby government, calling for legislative change and investment in road safety, through direct engagement of government ministers and civil servants, working with MPs to help bring road safety to the fore in parliament, and through responding to new proposals and developments, such as answering consultations and putting out media statements. We are also, more and more, working to activate members of the public in lobbying, such as by enabling people to write to their MP using a bespoke app on our website.

Some of our main UK policy focuses at the moment include:

- calling for a system of graduated driver licensing, to ensure novice drivers develop their skills and experience gradually through a minimum 12-month learning period and then a novice driving period with risk-reducing licence restrictions like a late night driving curfew

- calling for a lower drink drive limit – in line with the fact that even small amounts of alcohol significantly affect driving – and improved drink and drug driving enforcement regime

- and we want lower speed limits and other measures to bring down traffic speeds particularly to make roads safer for people to walk and cycle – specifically we would like our urban default limit lowered to 20mph and lower limits of 50mph or below on rural roads, although with the government's current focus on localism, we're focusing on persuading them to enable and encourage local authorities to implement more lower limits at local level

Policy work is often slow-burning, but we have played a key role in seeing some key legislative change over the years, and in bringing some policies to the fore if not into fruition, yet. We have seen a ban on using hand-held phones at the wheel across the UK, lower drink drive limits have recently been announced for Scotland and Northern Ireland, many major towns and cities have implemented 20mph limits, and we have seen increasing interest in and support for graduated driver licensing – and we'll keep pushing for this.

And as a completely independent charity we are ideally placed to do this lobbying and advising and applying of pressure – especially as an organisation that sees the terrible aftermath of crashes, and that is constantly scanning international road safety research and best practice to inform both our policy work and our information services for road safety professionals.

We are also able to galvanise action across a variety of partner organisations, and are increasingly working to speak out alongside and in partnership with other transport safety, environmental and health NGOs. This is a recent example of that: earlier this year we built a coalition of organisations opposed to the UK government's proposal to increase motorway speed limits to 80mph, under the banner 'No to 80'. Together we drew on a range of evidence to highlight that 80mph limits would increase casualties, carbon emissions, and costs for taxpayers and drivers – so employing social, environmental and economic arguments. I can't yet tell you the outcome of this campaign, but since the government has gone rather quiet on the issue, and no formal proposals have materialised for consultation, we are hoping it was another success.


The other side to our campaigning and awareness-raising work to prevent casualties is at grassroots level: working to engage, empower and enable communities to take action on road safety in their area.

We offer a range of guidance and resources to communities to help them bring about change locally and make roads in their area safer. We have an online community campaign kit that tells you how to set up a campaign and build support and awareness – such as through petitions, social networking sites, local events, noticeboards, and engagement of local authorities. We also deploy our Zak the Zebra mascot, and carry out publicity around Zak-led campaign events, to help these communities gain publicity and attract interest in their campaigns.

It can take many years, but often these campaigns are successful, bringing about important road safety engineering measures like 20mph limits, crossings and paths, and helping to develop real passion and commitment for road safety within these communities.

Brake also coordinates initiatives specifically aimed at empowering pre-schools, schools, colleges and youth clubs to take action on and promote road safety locally:

Beep Beep! Day is an activity nurseries and pre-schools can run for under-8s. It's about teaching tots the road safety basics. But more than this, it's about getting the school or playgroup engaged in road safety, and promoting road safety to parents and the wider community. Brake provides resources, and carries out publicity around the events, promoting the message that by slowing down and looking out, drivers can help local families walk and cycle safely.

Our Walking Bus event, which takes place each June, involves hundreds of thousands of primary school kids marching for road safety. Again, it's an opportunity for schools to teach children about safe walking, but it's also about schools saying to their local community: we care deeply about children's safety, and we need drivers to help protect them. Through the publicity Brake does around the event, we are demonstrating support within communities for safer roads.

In a similar way, our 2young2die initiative is about young people speaking out to peers on the importance of road safety. We ask young people to develop road safety campaigns as part of a competition, and publicise the results. Again, we're engaging young people in road safety at the same time as demonstrating support for road safety in the community, rather than preaching to young people.

The same applies to our flagship event, Road Safety Week, which is now in its 16th year in the UK. Each year it involves thousands of partners, professionals, schools and groups running local road safety activities, alongside a national and regional media campaign by Brake.

The way we coordinate Road Safety Week neatly reflects our wider role as an independent NGO campaigning on road safety. We develop the overarching theme and messages, we promote involvement to communities and professionals, we provide information, resources and advice on getting involved (through our website and email action packs). We make a big splash during the week itself by coordinating a comprehensive media campaign – using research and case studies, again, to generate coverage nationally, regionally and online.

But the essence of the event is community engagement, and that comes from members of the public, community leaders, educators and professionals running activities locally, demonstrating that safer roads are vitally important to ordinary people everywhere.

So it is very much a partnership project that works because of the commitment and engagement of professionals and volunteers across the UK, many of whom get involved year in year out. It's a model we think is extremely effective, which we're starting to roll out internationally. Our first Road Safety Week New Zealand, coordinated by the newly-formed Brake NZ, was a big success in May this year. We are also developing our international Road Safety Week website to share information with practitioners worldwide. And we will be sharing our expertise and supporting the UN's global Road Safety Week in May 2013.

Back in the UK, this year's Road Safety Week kicks off on 19th November and our main theme this year is Slower Speeds = Happy People. So we'll be conducting a nationwide media campaign, and encouraging and helping those getting involved in the Week to shout loud and proud about the vital importance of drivers slowing down, and more authorities implementing lower limits – particularly to enable more people to walk and cycle in safety.

We will be riding the wave of enthusiasm for sport and active lifestyles created by the Olympics and Paralympics, pointing out that safer roads are crucial if we want a legacy of healthy, active communities.


Across all our community engagement and campaigning work, as you might have picked up from the last few slides, we are increasing using positive messaging to communicate the enormous benefits of and demand for safer roads, rather than finger-wagging and telling people NOT to do this that and the other.

The topic of speed is a prime example of that. Brake has campaigned vociferously on speed since our inception 18 years ago. What we want to achieve hasn't changed a great deal – lower traffic speeds across all road types, but particularly 20mph or below in communities, through lower limits, improved compliance, and better driver awareness. But the messages we communicate have shifted. We have moved away from simply warning of the consequences of driving too fast, to, more and more, promoting the positives of slowing down – pointing out the relationship between reduced speed and sustainable travel, healthy lifestyles, and the environment.

We have moved away from simply drawing attention to the fact that most drivers drive too fast. We instead focus on the widespread support from families, schools, and society for safer streets through slower speeds. It's a subtle change but an important one: from saying no to going fast, to saying yes to slowing down. From telling drivers off for speeding, to thanking them for braking.

We are striving, through our media work, through Road Safety Week, through engaging and activating schools, nurseries, young people and community groups, to build a sense that driving fast is shameful and anti-social, that slowing down is a compassionate and wonderful thing to do.

We are not moving away entirely from communicating the terrible consequences of risk taking, which remains important. As I have mentioned, engaging families affected by crashes continues to be a vital component in our campaigning. We are in no doubt these stories get people's attention, and make the public and policy-makers sit up and listen. Alongside this, we also use stark, simple facts about stopping distances and the physics of speed, and to draw on international research, to demonstrate how and why slowing down makes such a difference.

So across this broad range of community engagement and campaigning activities, we're chipping away at cultural myths that surround speed. The idea that driving fast is a glorious thing, synonymous with freedom and excitement. The sense that it is a right, a pleasure we should be allowed to indulge. And the myth that everyone likes and wants to drive fast, that this is the norm, and any impingement in this is nannying.

We are also, across all our community engagement and campaigning work, striving to dismantle the other myth I referenced earlier, that road crashes are an inevitable part of getting about, just 'accidents'. You may note this is a term we never use at Brake in relation to crashes, because it undermines work to prevent them in our view, and is offensive to many people bereaved or injured on roads.

We constantly refer to the preventability of crashes, and advocate the Vision Zero approach originally adopted in Sweden: where there is a long-term, ultimate goal of reducing road deaths and serious injuries to zero, in line with the fact these events are devastating and costly, but need not happen at all, so should not be accepted in any number.

We believe convincing people – the public and policy makers – on this point is critical in road injury and death prevention and I can assure you that despite the Decade of Action, despite the huge amount of progress that's been made in road safety in developed nations in recent years, getting this simple point across about the preventability of road casualties is a battle far from won.

So I urge all of you as health professionals, to pick up this mantle alongside the road safety community. We think that a huge amount can be gained by working together to empower communities, to persuade governments to act, to break down the myths surrounding road safety and to tackle road death and injury.

Please do get in touch with us if you would like to work with Brake towards safer roads and zero casualties. And thank you very much for your time.