Lethbridge primary school will tomorrrow be having a day long tribute to little Tyrese Hannah, the seven year old boy killed on Drove Road in March by a car that mounted the pavement, as he walked his dog alongside his mother.
My son was at one time in the same class as Tyrese. Every day I pass the tragic roadside shrine where family, friends and neighbours have marked the site of their terrible, inconsolable loss. As a parent of a child the same age, who goes to the same school, it is deeply moving, and scary. Obviously our heart goes out to Tyrese’s parents, and it has been a big shock to the whole community.
Every month in the UK there are three children killed on the roads, many more are seriously injured. In 2002 there were 59 fatal car accidents or accidents involving very serious injury for every 100000 people.
In 2005 when I stood for election I looked into this. In just one small area of Swindon, Pinehurst, there are 14 children knocked down by cars every year. About 90 people on average are killed or seriously injured every year in traffic accidents in the Swindon area, and a further 500 are less severely injured in car accidents– mostly these are caused by reckless driving and speeding. In contrast there were just 172 robberies – yet there is a greater fear of robbery than of being involved in a serious car accident.
There is obvious, understandable and necessary concern about paedophiles and child abusers. But the equally grave danger to our children from traffic is treated as if it is a force of nature that we can do nothing about.
So it is truly remarkable that Swindon Borough Council is threatening to remove all speed cameras from the town next year. The conservative council is complaining that it has to pay for the maintenance of the speed cameras but doesn’t see any £1.76m raised in fines from 30,000 drivers caught speeding in the town.
This is a rather dry technical dispute between Swindon Borough Council and the government about funding, because up until April 2007 Local Authorities received the fines income, and this paid for the cameras. Now the fines go to a national consolidated fund, and the councils receive back a grant from the Department of Transport for road safety, which is already in addition too the funding provided by the Local Transport Plan Process.
All of which is a long winded way of saying that on financial grounds, the council are making a big fuss about nothing. The mechanism of funding has changed, but they are not really out of pocket.
It is of course arguable that Speed cameras are not the most effective way of calming traffic, but that doesn’t mean they should be removed, as they can and should be used in parallel with other mechanisms.
What the Tories are doing is playing political football with peoples’ lives. A clear political message needs to be sent out that our high speed culture is irresponsible, wrong and dangerous. Instead the Tories are saying that road safety is a low priority for them.
It is far from irrelevant that Tory Leader of the councilor, Rodney Bluh, is himself a serial offender, who lost his own driving license for three months after gaining 12 points for speeding.