Alastair Dalton: More must be done to save lives on roads

The human cost of road accidents is reflected in the almost daily headlines. Picture: John Devlin
The human cost of road accidents is reflected in the almost daily headlines. Picture: John Devlin
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THE 1,700 people a year killed on Britain’s roads is the equivalent of the Germanwings crash happening once a month.

In Scotland, the 172 annual deaths may be the lowest since records began, but the downward trend has been reversed for those in cars, riding motorbikes and cycling – with the first increases in deaths for seven years.

But the issue is far more than just statistics, with the far-reaching human cost of crashes reflected in the almost daily headlines from court cases triggered by deaths on the roads.

It is a key area for the Scottish Government, as transport minister Derek Mackay acknowledged this week when he repeated: “As I have said many times before, even one death on our roads is one too many.”

Scotland has pioneered safety measures which are expected to cut the casualty toll, from lowering the drink-drive limit to deploying average speed cameras over 100 miles of the A9.

But everyone using the country’s roads has to be continually reminded to have safety at the forefront of their minds – whether it’s not using mobile phones at the wheel, keeping to the speed limit or ensuring their children are correctly secured.

Police Scotland would say they do that every day, but an important focus could be during the annual Scottish Road Safety Week. It took place last week. Did you notice?

The theme this year was to keep child safety “at the forefront of peoples’ minds”. But it appeared to have been an opportunity missed – no national campaign, just a series of local events, some of them routine such as checking child seat fittings.

The week runs in parallel with United Nations Global Road Safety Week, aimed at tackling the world’s “road safety crisis” of more than one million deaths a year.

Thankfully, Scotland doesn’t have a challenge on the scale of many countries, but it could use Road Safety Week to think equally big.

Road safety campaigners are faced with the problem of having to get what is essentially a repetitive message through to those on the roads. Hence the need for innovative thinking to produce compelling messages.

Road Safety Scotland has devised arresting campaigns in the past, such as using “thought graphics” like those in the BBC’s Sherlock to highlight the dangers of rural roads.

That kind of flair should be used to give Road Safety Week a lasting resonance with the public. It’s far too important for half measures.

A Scottish Government official has accused this column of being controversial for the sake of it when criticising official shortcomings. That has never been the case, especially on this subject.