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Tragic loss of life on Devon and Cornwall Roads highlighted during BRAKE Road Safety Week

The tragic toll dangerous driving takes in Devon and Cornwall will be highlighted this week as a new road safety strategy for the region is launched.

There were 63 deaths in the Devon and Cornwall Police force area in 2017 – of which 15 were motorcyclists. There were 12 more than in 2016 when 51 people were killed. In 2015 there were 36 road deaths.

The public will have the chance to find out more about the strategy at an event in Princesshay, Exeter, today (Monday, November 19), the start of BRAKE Road Safety Week, where OPCC staff will invite them to make a road safety pledge.

There will also be the chance to test their skills on a Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service simulator and talk to experts in cycling and safer driving.

There were 63 deaths in the Devon and Cornwall Police force area in 2017, 12 more than in 2016 when 51 people were killed. In 2015 there were 36 road deaths. Of those killed last year a disproportionate number (15) were motorcyclists.

Nationally there were 1,793 reported road deaths in 2017, similar to the level in 2012 but fewer than those already killed this year. The decline in fatalities has slowed considerably since 2010 and there was no significant change in the number of fatalities between 2016 and 2017.

In response to these figures the Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Devon and Cornwall has released a Road Safety Strategy which recommends a ‘safe systems’ approach, greater enforcement of the law and improved driver training with the aspiration of creating the safest roads in the UK.

This year the OPCC has helped set up a ‘No Excuse’ roads policing team, funded tri-service officers for Cornwall, established community responders for Devon and bucked a national decline in police officer numbers by recruiting more constables.

The OPCC is also supporting the Honest Truth charity, which engages young people and wars them frankly about the dangers they face.

But Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez - the national road safety lead for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners – said all of this work was in vain without public support for improvement and is asking politicians, campaigners and the emergency services to unite in their call for drivers to take extra care so fewer lives are lost and serious injuries caused in the region.

“Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly are wonderful places to live and work but our safety casualty statistics make for grim reading,” she said.

“We’ve doubled the number of police officers in the roads team and I’m really encouraged by the results for the No Excuse team’s first month. In October they issued 274 tickets, made six arrests, breath tested 136 drivers, seized 52 vehicles and gave words of advice to 91 people.

“But with 12,500 miles of road across the two counties there’s simply no way that police alone can enforce our way out of this problem – it’s up to us, the driving public, to change our behaviour.

“For every death on our roads a family is torn apart and lives are ruined, yet tragically so many of them occur because of a simple error that might easily have been avoided, people driving while tired, sending a text or going just a few miles an hour too fast.

“With a few simple changes and a collective effort between emergency services, local authorities and driving educators I am positive we can make great strides in making our region a safer place for all road users.”

The road safety strategy has a particular focus on vulnerable road users; cyclists, motorcyclists, rural road users, young drivers, older drivers, pedestrians and business drivers.

There is also a focus on the five highest causes of fatal accidents; inappropriate speed, failing to wear a seatbelt, distractions, driving under the influence of drink or drugs and careless or inconsiderate driving.

A poll carried out over the summer by OPCC staff surveyed 5,000 residents of Devon and Cornwall and found that distraction driving was their biggest concern.

The strategy and focus on reducing deaths and serious injuries has been welcomed by road safety campaigners.

Exeter MP Ben Bradshaw said: “As a keen cyclist I am pleased to see that vulnerable road users are placed front and centre of the police and crime commissioner’s road safety strategy.

“Cyclists and motorcyclists are consistently over-represented in road casualty statistics. I’m afraid that on my daily rides around Devon I regularly witness poor driver behaviour, as well as plenty of safe and considerate driving.

“What we have to realise is that the price being paid for this in people’s lives is far too high and this document makes it clear that this is an issue that no one agency can solve alone.

“It’s vital that Government, both national and local, the police force and driving educators come together with the aim of reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on the South West’s roads.”

The OPCC is working to raise awareness of the ‘fatal five’ in conjunction with the Honest Truth.

The charity’s Chief Executive Annette Lloyd said: “We welcome the publication of the Road Safety Strategy which sets out an ambitious vision to be the region with the safest roads in the UK, and we are fully supportive of this.

“At the core of our work is collaboration and we look forward to working closely with the OPCC to deliver our unique road safety campaigns highlighting the key risky driver behaviours contributing to 94% of collisions.

“We also continue to develop our network of Honest Truth Driving instructors as we believe a successful way to effect behaviour change is to provide key messages to young learner drivers delivered by driving instructors. In this way, safe driving becomes the norm for new drivers.”

Mike Walton, of the Exeter Cycling Campaign, said: “The campaign welcomes the fact that Devon & Cornwall Police is beginning to take the safety of vulnerable road users more seriously with this strategy. People who walk and cycle bear the brunt of intimidating driving and poor driver attitudes: these causes of road harm need to be challenged.

“We support our local force’s aspiration for us ‘to have the safest roads systems in the UK’.  This means focusing police resource on those who drive inconsiderately, distractedly or too fast.  We need to make it safer for people of all ages and abilities to choose to cycle for everyday journeys.  Designing safe roads and policing behaviour and attitudes plays a key role in delivering this.

“Riding a cycle and crossing the road shouldn’t require bravery.”

The Road Safety Strategy can be viewed here.