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.

Tags: traffic speech