Saturday, November 12, 2005

An Open Letter to Alan Milburn MP

Dear Alan,

You are doubtless aware that the Road Safety Bill will shortly be entering the House of Commons. As a regular cyclist, I am concerned about the Government's proposal to lower the penalty for "marginally" exceeding the speed limit from 3 points to 2 points ; the Government has suggested that "marginal" could mean driving at 39mph in a 30mph area. Small differences in speed can make a huge difference to the severity of the injuries suffered by injured pedestrians or cyclists. I would urge you to oppose this proposal.

On the positive side, the Safer Streets Coalition has drawn up a number of proposals that will make our roads safer for all road users. I do hope you will be able to support these, particularly the first two in the following list, which are of particular concern to Darlington Cycling Campaign. I am sure you are aware that Darlington has recently been awarded funding as a Cycling Demonstration Town. It would surely be an appropriate response from the town's MP to send a clear signal of support for this important initiative by supporting the following proposals.

* Introduce a default 20mph speed limit for most urban and residential streets.
* Change the law on drivers' insurance schemes, to make it easier for non-motorised users to claim injury damages from drivers who hit them.


A pedestrian struck by a car traveling at 20mph has a 95% chance of survival, but this drops to 50% at 30mph. Properly enforced 20mph speed limits have been shown to reduce casualties by 70% amongst child pedestrians and 60% amongst other vulnerable road users. Casualty figures could be slashed if the vast majority of built-up roads had 20mph limits, as two-thirds of casualties occur on these roads. Darlington Cycling Campaign has been calling for more 20mph zones in Darlington for some time.

If a driver hits a pedestrian, cyclist, equestrian or disabled person, the non-motorised user is far more likely to be injured. Therefore, drivers ought to have a greater duty of care for non-motorised users' safety, but this is not currently recognised in law. The law on driver insurance schemes should therefore be amended so that non-motorised users can claim injury damages from drivers who hit them - unless it can be proved that the non-motorised user behaved recklessly. This is a standard approach in a number of EU countries, and has encouraged car drivers to be much more aware and careful in relation to cyclists.

The Safer Streets Coalition is also calling for:

* Lower "default" speed limits: 30mph for villages, with a 40mph or 50mph limit on non-built-up single carriageways.

* Speed camera detectors: the proposed ban should cover all such devices, including those GPS devices which can only detect but not interfere with speed cameras.

* "Black box" event data recorders: in the event of a collision, they would provide clear evidence about the driver's speed. Black boxes currently used by some police forces are only able to store 40 seconds of data at a time, and this data is only accessible if the vehicle is involved in a collision.

* Mobile phones: the Government's proposed increase in fines should be for hands-free as well as hand-held phones, as the evidence shows they are just as distracting when used whilst driving.

*Drink-driving: a reduction in the blood-alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg per 100ml of blood in line with the majority of EU countries.

*Bad driving offences: we await the Government's proposals to iron out the discrepancies in sentencing powers which lead the courts regularly to issue derisory sentences for drivers who kill and maim.

The full briefing on the Safer Streets Coalition's proposals is available at www.ctc.org.uk/resources/Campaigns/0412_SSC_RS_Bill_briefing_(final).pdf.

I hope that I can count on your support for Darlington Cycling Campaign's agenda. I would be grateful if you would advise me which measures you will be willing to support.

Yours sincerely,


Richard Grassick
Chair, Darlington Cycling Campaign

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