Brake's Annual reception in the Houses of Parliament, Trustee Deborah Johnson's speech 21.1.09

A few weeks ago, Phil Peak, whose neck was broken and back was shattered in the most horrendous motorway smash, killing his two children Arron, 10, and Ben, 8, took part in our launch of Road Safety Week, with his wife and mother to his children, Amanda. Many of you will know the story - their lives have been devastated by a drunk, speeding footballer.

Phil and Amanda are with us here - thank you for coming tonight, thank you for your courage, and thank you for supporting Brake.

There are others with us here tonight who have been bereaved in road crashes, but most of us have not. Most of us here can only try to imagine what it is like for Phil and Amanda.

Most of the rest of the population of the UK, it is safe to say, have never even thought to take the time to imagine what it is like for Phil and Amanda.

Many of those unconsciously thoughtless people are young, male drivers, like that footballer, who will continue to kill and maim unless we can get through to them, and change them.

‘We’ means everyone. Everyone can do something. Legislators, fleet managers, road safety professionals, Brake volunteers, communities. From a teenager’s decision to run a road safety assembly in their school, to a company who decides to increase, not stop, their funding of Brake in a recession, to the civil servant who decides, finally, to start funding face to face support services for road crash victims. The last, I am sad to report, is still being promised and not delivered.

It is said that all big ideas are first of all ridiculed, then fought against, and then accepted.

Brake’s big idea for the past 13 years has been that no death on the road is acceptable. And that everyone bereaved or seriously injured in such an appalling, inhumane, untimely way should have government-funded comprehensive support.

So is this big idea being ridiculed, fought against, or accepted?

Brake has experienced all three viewpoints. We increasingly experience the warmth, commitment, understanding and team work of our dedicated volunteers, corporate supporters, and friends across the road safety industry and in parliament. At the other end of the spectrum, we have received hate mail from speed freaks.

Our support literature remains the only aspect of our support work that is Government funded, and we have had to work hard to retain even that. Bereaved familes value enormously, but need much more, than literature hand outs.

Our funding for road safety prevention work from Government remains a tiny proportion of our income. We will keep fighting for more.

But change is in the air. There are Government consultations about tougher driving tests and tougher drink drive laws. Satellite controlled speed limiters for vehicles are being given more widespread approval. But in many ways, regulation is easy. It’s getting the massive investment we need in more traffic policing, in more road safety TV adverts, and in supporting the bereaved and injured, that is not on the near horizon.

Research we conducted and released at Christmas showed younger drivers were twice as likely as older drivers to think there was no chance they would get caught drink driving. Brake’s initiatives are aimed at enabling individual actions to produce astounding results in areas such as drink drive education, through our volunteers giving presentations in schools and youth offender institutions. Or our volunteers working in other areas such as supporting bereaved families in their homes ?” a service we can still only provide in Yorkshire.

We have lost a significant amount of corporate support already in this recession. But we are left knowing who our friends are. Who the people are who passionately believe in what we are doing and its importance. Thank you to our corporate partners, our volunteers who work so tirelessly in their communities, and all our professional colleagues in the road safety industry, parliament and government working for road safety.

Let me, however, end my speech by thanking one person in particular. Let’s talk about Toby.

Toby Cope has delivered presentations on road safety to more than 700 people. He has organised road safety plays, road safety speeches by celebrities, and road safety patrols. He has organised a team of people to cycle 350 miles raising more than £5,000 for Brake. So who is Toby? Is he a road safety officer? A Brake fundraiser? A fire officer?

No. Let me tell you three facts about Toby.

Toby’s mother was killed by a drunk driver when Toby was 12.

Toby is still only 17.

Toby is a Brake Volunteer and winner of our Volunteer of the Year Award.

Please come up Toby and accept your award

Tags: brake