Motorists are being urged to be extra vigilant now that the clocks have gone back and the nights are getting longer.
Road safety charity Break is keen to remind anyone using the roads that those travelling on foot and by bike are particularly vulnerable at this time of year because they are less visible to drivers.
Statistics show improvements, but more needs to be done
According to ‘Reported road casualties in Great Britain 2013’, which was released by the Department for Transport (DfT), the number of overall road deaths was two per cent less than in 2012. While this represents the lowest figure since national records started in 1926, it still means there were 1,713 fatalities on Britain’s roads last year.
Some 518 people were killed and 8,345 seriously injured while walking or cycling in 2013, which highlights just how dangerous Britain’s roads can be.
In a bid to cut the number of casualties on Britain’s roads, Brake has joined forces with Autoglass and has launched its so-called Bright Day initiative.
The idea is that community groups, schools and anyone interested in helping to protect pedestrians and cyclists dresses in bright clothes for the day to raise money and awareness for the charity.
Anyone who decides to wear fancy dress has to donate a pound to Brake.
In addition, the charity is campaigning for the clocks to be changed for good, so that it is lighter during commutable hours when the majority of people are on the roads.
Brake estimates that by putting the clocks forward by one hour all year-round (to GMT+2 in summer and GMT+1 in winter) 80 deaths would be prevented every year. This, it states, would save the NHS £138 million annually.
The Lighter Later campaign sees the charity work with other interested parties to call for the government to make the changes.
In 2011, a YouGov poll suggested that the majority (53 per cent) of Britons were in support of moving clocks forward an hour on a permanent basis.
Brake asks motorists to GO 20
Brake is also asking for motorists to join its GO 20 campaign. It suggests that drivers should drop their speed to 20 mph or below when they are near private residences, schools and shops.
This is particularly important when visibility is poor or when the road is wet or icy, as these conditions mean it will take longer to react to potential hazards.
Many modern cars have an indicator to tell drivers when the temperature has dropped below a certain point. If this happens, or if it is icy outside, Brake advises drivers to drastically cut their speed. The same advice applies when taking corners or if the view ahead is obscured.
The DfT reports that breaking the speed limit or travelling too fast for the conditions were a contributory factor in over one-quarter (28 per cent) of fatal crashes in the UK in 2013.
A study conducted by the Transport Research Laboratory entitled ‘Speed, speed limits and accidents’, revealed that cutting speed works. It found that for every one mph reduction in average speeds, there was a drop in crash rates of five per cent, on average.
Individuals can make a difference
In addition to motorists taking more care on the roads, it is important to advise youngsters not to wear headphones on their journey to school and to remember to always be vigilant when crossing the road.
Visibility also an issue for motorcyclists
Motorcyclists are another group that is in danger of not being spotted on the road. Results of an AA-Populus poll of 17,629 drivers revealed that 85 per cent believe motorcyclists are hard to spot.
Over half of those questioned (57 per cent) admitted that they were often “surprised when a motorcycle appears from nowhere”.
The message is clear, visibility is vital for staying safe on the roads.