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The County Surveyors' Society (CSS) may not sound the kind of organisation likely to lead the war against death and injury on the roads. Yet it was at a seminar hosted by the CSS in Birmingham that the UK government announced a major policy initiative that could lead to a breakthrough in efforts to enhance road safety in that country.
The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions is, it seems, undertaking a wide ranging review of national speed policy. In launching the review, Transport Minister Lord Whitty said that cutting vehicle speeds “would save lives, cut accidents, lower vehicle emissions and lead to more efficient use of roads”.
These words were music to the ears of safety advocates. That sounded like an unambiguous commitment to cut speeds. But politics is never that simple.
Whitty continued, “The effects of speed are highly complex and felt beyond the vital area of road safety. To create a comprehensive and successful speed policy we need to see how it affects the economy, how much it will reduce vehicle emissions and improve peoples' quality of life. Only by taking account of all these elements will effective speed management help develop a successful integrated transport system”.
So the government's enthusiasm for road safety is apparently tempered by all manner of other considerations that will exert an unpredictable influence on the outcome of the review. Because the subject is “highly complex”, the necessary radical policy shift to reduce traffic speed is a depressingly remote prospect. Antispeed lobbyists—including the injury prevention community in the UK—cannot afford to be complacent.
The review will be completed towards the end of 1999. Send your views as soon as you can on the potentially lifesaving benefits to both pedestrians (especially children and the elderly) and drivers of reducing traffic speed to the Transport Minister, Eland House, Bressenden Place, London SW1E 5DU, UK.