The road safety charity, Brake are campaigning for safer roads and the rights of road victims. As part of Road Safety Week, we take a look at their work and why it matters.
Everyone should be confident to travel safely
“There are far too many incidents in which cyclists are injured,” says Cycle-SOS consultant solicitor Paul Darlington. Most of us travel every day and, however short the journey, we should be able to do it safely and healthily. This is at the core of the work that Brakes does. “We want a world where everyone is free to move in a safe and healthy way, every day,” Paul continues. “We work to stop road deaths and injuries, support people affected by road crashes and campaign for safe and healthy mobility for all.”
While cycling to work has been associated with lower stress levels, nearly every bike commuter will be able to share a story of a near miss that shook their confidence or a confrontation with another road user that left them fearful. Getting to work shouldn’t make you feel anxious or at risk.
Support for victims of road collisions
Road collisions are sudden, catastrophic and often tragic. There is no preparation time and victims and their families are often left bewildered by what needs to happen next. The police are required under their official rules to hand out printed copies of Brake’s guides for bereaved people and Brake provides victims and their family with vital support when they need it most. From legal support to grief counselling, Brake are there for families in the immediate aftermath and in the long term.
As Paul Darlington explains: “The costs of an injury collision in human, social and economic terms are staggering. If the collision is the stone thrown into a pond the ripples will have the potential to touch the victim, their family, friends and relations, witnesses, the Police, Fire and Ambulance services, the NHS, the benefits system, consultants and therapists, insurers, accident investigators, lawyers and the courts. The ripples may take years before they finally vanish. Sometimes, if the victim has been maimed, they never do. These costs are borne by the taxpayer, the insurance premium paying public and the victim and their family. The causes of these collisions are a combination of inattention, impatience, lack of anticipation and recklessness.”
Legal help after road accidents
For many people bereaved or seriously injured in a road crash, expert legal advice is essential. It helps with things like wills, probate, and claims for damages. It is always vital to choose a solicitor with the correct expertise, which is why Brake helps victims get in touch with the right solicitor for their needs. Brake has established a Brake’s Solicitor Code of Conduct for supporting road crash victims, which Cycle-SOS are proud to have signed-up to. A solicitor has an important role to play in supporting their client, not just in their claim but in the practical and emotional process by providing empathetic professional advice. As cyclists ourselves, we understand cycling and have seen the trauma and distress experienced by people affected by road death and injury.
Working for change in driver awareness
Brake believes that safe and healthy mobility is everyone’s human right and that no one should be killed or seriously injured on roads. They campaign to persuade those in positions of influence to implement evidence-based policies and investments that progress us towards safe and healthy mobility, for all. Brake also campaigns to raise awareness nationally and in local communities.
“The five main circumstances of collisions involving cyclists are roundabouts, junctions on the left, oncoming vehicles turning right, overtaking (or more accurately, a failure to overtake) and vehicle doors opening,” Darlington outlines. “If the vehicle driver had only been content to extend their journey time by the time needed to, for example, take another observation, make a shoulder or mirror check or allow traffic conditions to change, then the majority of collisions with cyclists would be avoided. The extra time involved is minimal. Cyclists, along with other vulnerable road users, must be given that second’s chance.”
But what can be done to improve driver awareness, Darlington has some suggestions. “The current driver licensing and training regime is clearly not working. The death toll from collisions in Autumn 2021 is staggering. Many have involved single vehicles with multiple occupants colliding at speed with an immovable object, usually a tree.
“There is a fatal correlation between age and inexperience, speed and KSI casualties. How absurd is it that immediately upon passing a driving test the new driver is limited in their selection of vehicle only by cost? 100+mph motoring (with commensurate acceleration) is available from a couple of thousand pounds upwards. Motorcycle licensing is based on an age (16-24) scale depending on engine size and power. How about cars?”
Reduce speed to save lives (and the planet)
No one can be unaware of the danger of speed and, increasingly, local communities are campaigning to have 20mph and 30mph zones extended, Darlington points out an interesting historical observation: “During the 1974 fuel crisis a blanket 50mph limit was temporarily imposed. In the environmental crisis that now looms, lower limits on all roads, of at least B-class and below (where the National Speed Limit of 60mph currently applies), would save lives and the planet and reduce the consequences of collisions. If those limits were enforced, revenue would be raised and the less responsible drivers removed from the roads. Everyone benefits. There really aren’t any losers.”
Playing our part in road safety
As drivers, cyclists and citizens we can all play our part in our own behaviour on the roads and in campaigning for greater protection for vulnerable road users and greater safety awareness. No one should have to worry that when a loved one leaves the house on a routine journey that they might not come home. No one should feel they are risking their life to cycle to work or that their child cannot safely walk to school. If you feel the work of Brake is important you can sign up to support them HERE.