Concrete commitments to road safety

A further 20 UK organisations have signed the European Road Safety Charter, committing themselves to specific actions intended to help cut the number of people killed and injured on the roads.

Many of the new signatories intend to improve driver training and raise safety awareness among their employees, but other activities include publicity and education programmes aimed at young people and other target groups.

The British Red Cross will run a 'Help a Mate' campaign that will train 'peer educators' to teach roadside first aid to young people, who are most at risk from road traffic collisions.

British Gas has a wide-ranging programme that includes a young driver safety initiative, recognising that young apprentices driving a van not long after passing their test in a small vehicle are particularly vulnerable.

Speaking at the signing ceremony in London, Isabelle Kardacz, head of the European Commission's Road Safety Unit, praised the UK for its road safety record, comparing its annual rate of 43 fatalities per million people with the EU average of 80.

There are now 115 UK signatories to the Charter, and over 1,450 across the European Union. Each makes a three-year renewable commitment, in the last year of which they analyse the benefits generated by their actions.

Kardacz described them as "members of a club", urging them to "use its facilities to exchange best practices".

The European Road Safety Charter forms part of the Road Safety Action Plan, which was launched by the European Commission in 2003 with the ambitious goal of halving the number of deaths on European roads by 2010. While that goal is unlikely to be met, fatalities have fallen from 54,000 a year at the starting point to 39,000 in 2008.

Charter activities focus on three areas: vehicle safety, infrastructure safety and improving behaviour.

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