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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

 

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