Scottish roads still cut short far too many lives

Floral tributes...have become all too commonplace on the Scottish road network but the statistics here do offer some hope for the future.
Floral tributes...have become all too commonplace on the Scottish road network but the statistics here do offer some hope for the future.

The death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in August 1997 prompted RoadPeace to designate August as National Road Victim Month.

She was killed on August 31, the very same day the world’s first motor vehicle victim, Mary Ward, was killed in Ireland in 1869.

Britain’s first road death also occurred in August; Bridget Driscoll was killed in Crystal Palace on August 17, 1896, with the coroner pronouncing “this must never happen again”.

Sadly, it has continued to happen – more than 500,000 people have been killed on the roads in Great Britain since Bridget’s death.

In 2017, there were 9391 road casualties in Scotland, 1514 (14 per cent) fewer than 2016 and the lowest number of casualties since records began in 1950.

But one stark fact remains – 33 people are still killed or seriously injured on Scottish roads every week.

When the worst happens, there are two organisations in Scotland on hand to help – RoadPeace Scotland and Brake. Both offer a helpline for victims and their families, advice and information on the justice system and campaign for changes in the law.

And together their vision is a united one: a time when there are zero casualties on our roads.

Joshua Harris, director of campaigns for Brake, said: “Every road crash is preventable, tragic and causes devastation to the families of those affected.

“We owe it to them to ensure we learn from the lessons of the past and eliminate the tragedy of road death.

“The 2017 figures show encouraging progress in the safety of Scottish roads and this trend should hearten all road safety campaigners.

“Any reduction in casualties is to be welcomed.

“However, tragically 33 people are still killed or seriously injured on Scottish roads every week, so our work is far from done.

“Brake’s vision is a world of zero road deaths and serious injuries and this can only be delivered through strong and bold leadership.

“We urge the government to build on its momentum and implement policies which will trigger the next step-change in road safety.

“We need safer speeds in towns and rural areas, we need Graduated Driver Licensing to protect novice drivers and we need far greater investment in cycling and walking infrastructure.”

It would be fair to say Brake is the first point of contact for road victims and their families, as Police Scotland’s liaison officers provide the group’s details as a matter of course.

However, RoadPeace Scotland is hoping a similar arrangement can be reached with Police Scotland in the near future.

The UK charity was founded in 1992 by a mother whose son was killed by a red light offender.

But the Scottish arm of the charity was only founded in September last year.

Leading the charge here is Joan Strachan, who had her own personal reasons for championing the charity.

She explained: “My sister Moira Ward died in a road crash in Northumbria in June 2008.

“She was a children’s nanny and was only 43 when she died so the whole family was traumatised.

“At the time, we didn’t seek answers to the causes of the crash but, with the help and support of RoadPeace, we finally discovered that she had a heart attack.

“A lot had been said about Moira and her driving skills prior to that but after six long years we finally got the answers we were looking for.

“That is really what inspired me to help other people who may find themselves in a similar situation.

“The Scottish support group is still very much in its infancy but we meet every two months at the Watermans office at 9 The Shore in Leith.

“We’re also meeting with Police Scotland in the near future in a bid to ensure our information leaflet and helpline details are given out to victims and their families.

“But we are already working to help victims and families across Scotland.”

Joan is now organising the second RoadPeace Scotland Remembrance Service at St Andrews and St George’s West Church in George Street, Edinburgh, on November 18 at 2pm.

Families of fatal road crash victims and people who have been seriously injured on Scotland’s roads are invited to attend.

To find out more about RoadPeace and its work in Scotland, call the RoadPeace helpline on 0845 4500 355, Monday to Friday from 9am to 5pm or visit http://www.roadpeace.org.

Brake’s accredited, expert helpline – operating Monday to Friday from 10am to 4pm on 0808 8000 401 – supported 633 families last year alone. The team can also be contacted via email at helpline@brake.org.uk.

To find out more about Brake’s work, visit http://www.brake.org.uk.