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Three simple steps you can take to ensure you travel safely as the lockdown eases

No one sets out to cause a crash when they take to the road, yet an easing of Covid-19 restrictions last weekend was marred across Devon and Cornwall by a series of serious injuries and deaths on the region’s highways. Now partners committed to making Devon and Cornwall’s roads safer are urging motorists to take some practical steps to ensure they have a trouble-free journey and to relieve pressure on the NHS.

South West Peninsular Road Safety Partnership (SWPRSP) members remain very concerned about the number of serious collisions that have taken place in recent weeks and the change in traffic patterns as lockdown regulations are eased.

Over five days immediately after the easing of restrictions there were six people either killed or seriously injured on the roads in Devon and Cornwall.

The partnership has asked road users to do the following:

Check your vehicle – your vehicle may not have been used for several weeks. There are a number of simple checks which you can make to avoid a breakdown. The acronym FORCES, which stands for Fuel, Oil, Rubber, Coolant, Electrics and Screenwash, will remind you of the important areas to look out for. For more detailed advice see motoring organisations’ websites.

Take your time – if you have been out occasionally then you may have become used to roads that are considerably quieter than usual. Data compiled by the partnership shows that the number of vehicles going 15mph or more above the speed limit has increased when the roads are quietest. Your driving skills might also be rusty.

Be more observant – Traffic levels are increasing once again and more people are walking and cycling than usual. Ensure you are not distracted from the task of driving and look out for these vulnerable road users - they are more vulnerable and need your help to remain safe

The partnership is made up of a number of organisations, from air ambulance trusts to local authorities and emergency services, who are committed to cutting the number of deaths and serious injuries in half in the next decade.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highway Management, said: "It's always shocking to hear of fatal and serious injury collisions on our local road network, but even more so during this pandemic when the roads are quieter than usual and you think they would be safer. The gradual easing of lockdown restrictions has seen more vehicles returning to our roads and traffic levels are now around half the usual amount for this time of year.

"We're reminding everyone to think about whether you need to make your journey, but if you do need to drive, please slow down, drive safely and consider other road users. There are more walkers and cyclists around and we’re trying to improve road space to support people who are choosing active travel on their return to work as well as for daily exercise. If you slow down, drive safely and take extra care you can protect the NHS and save lives.”

Alison Hernandez, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon, Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, chairs the partnership and is the national lead for Road Safety for the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners.

She said: “Far too many people are killed and seriously injured on our roads nationally and in Devon and Cornwall. The only way we can tackle this in the long term is by working together across the range of organisations and alongside our community.

“If the trend continues there will be more tragedy on our roads before the next review of the lockdown on June 1. We are asking people to make sure it is not them or their families who are affected.

“Ultimately we need the help of the driving public to solve this problem. In the next few days we can all do our bit to ensure that the easing of restrictions does not go hand in hand with yet more tragedy on our roads.”