Kill somebody with a handgun and you go to jail. Kill somebody with a car and you may, if your barrister isn't so sharp, get a temporary driving ban. The diverse organisations in the Safer Streets Coalition - from CTC to the National Federation of Women's Institutes - have penned a letter to Alistair Darling MP demanding tougher laws to protect children, cyclists and pedestrians from the unthinking, selfish, downright crazy behaviour of the millions of motorists who routinely break speed limits in built-up areas.

Safer Streets Coalition urges transport secretary to force motorists to drive slower

There are 25 national organisations in the Safer Streets Coalition. The group letter to the transport secretary calls for measures to force motorists to drive more responsibly. Improved road safety is just as necessary as measures to fight crime and anti-social behaviour, the Coalition says.

Roger Geffen, CTC Campaigns and Policy Manager said: "We all stand to gain from the health, social and environmental benefits of encouraging more cycle use. Yet too many people are put off cycling by the fear of traffic. Cycle lanes can help but do not address the speed and dominance of motor vehicles. These are the key issues that must be tackled if we want to see more people cycling more often."

Speeding and speeds too high for the situation or conditions, are a major factor in the deaths of at least 1100 people on British roads every year.

Safety fears also force thousands more people off their bikes which means that the health benefits of regular exercise, which for many could be part of the daily routine, are lost, significantly contributing to increased heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

Geffen said: "It is time for the government to accept that responsibility for the safety of others will have to be forced on drivers who intimidate, maim and kill."

Here’s the letter:

Rt Hon Alistair Darling MP

Secretary of State for Transport

Department for Transport

Great Minster House

76 Marsham Street

London SW1P 4DR

Wednesday 5 February 2003

Dear Mr Darling,

We represent millions of people from around the country: young and old,

able-bodied and people with disabilities, from both urban and rural


We have become increasingly concerned about the impact of traffic – and

particularly people driving too fast – on our quality of life. Speed is

a critical factor in road crashes: over 1100 people die every year in

road crashes in which speed is a major factor. Many more thousands are

seriously injured as a result of excessive speeds.

People who drive too fast also intimidate other people on our streets,

reduce people’s freedom to enjoy walking and cycling (beneficial to both

our health and the environment) and blight both towns and villages

through noise, air pollution and community severance.

As the Safer Streets Coalition, we call on the Government to take more

action to deal with this issue. We urge the Government to move quickly

to review speed limits across the country, and in particular to deliver

a 30mph limit for every village and make much wider use of 20mph limits

in residential areas and on main shopping streets. We would like to see

better enforcement of speed limits through more speed cameras, more

resources for traffic police and stricter traffic law enforcement. And

we would like to see substantially more funding for well designed

traffic calming, traffic reduction schemes and other improvements that

take into account the needs of all road users.

Above all though, we ask for leadership from the Government on this

issue. With all the Government focus on the need to clamp down on

anti-social behaviour and the need to be tough on crime, it would surely

be hypocritical not to demand more responsible behaviour from car

drivers. After all, 3450 people died on British roads last year.

Government needs to convey this message and ensure that the matter gets

the priority that it should in terms of policy, funding initiatives and

awareness campaigns. As legislation to make our railways as safe as

possible is debated in the House of Commons, the Government should

strive for a similar attitude to be applied to safety on our roads.

We look forward to working with Ministers to rectify this situation and

to make our streets safer for all of us.

Yours sincerely,

Martin Bacon – Chief Executive, Civic Trust

Tom Bogdanowicz – Campaigns Manager, London Cycling Campaign

Paul Cann – Director of Policy, Research and International Development,

Help the Aged

Helen Carey – National Chairman, National Federation of Women’s


Brigitte Chaudhry – Director, RoadPeace

Kevin Clinton – Road Safety Adviser, ROSPA

Issy Cole-Hamilton – Acting Director, Children’s Play Council

Tom Foulkes – Director General, Institution of Civil Engineers

Tom Franklin – Director, Living Streets

Roger Geffen – Campaigns and Policy Manager, CTC (the national cyclists’


Robert Gifford – Director, Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport


Matt Grainger – Guide Dogs for the Blind Association

John Grimshaw – Director, Sustrans

Mike Hayes – Deputy Director, Child Accident Prevention Trust

Stephen Joseph – Director, Transport 2000

Tony Juniper – Executive Director, Friends of the Earth

Brian Lamb – Director of Communications, RNID

Paul Lincoln – Chief Executive, National Heart Forum

Gordon Lishman – Director-General, Age Concern

Paige Mitchell – Co-ordinator, Slower Speeds Initiative

Kate Parminter – Chief Executive, Campaign for the Protection of Rural


Ian Roberts – Professor of Public Health, London School of Hygiene and

Tropical Medicine

Nicholas Russell – Transport Policy Officer, RNIB

Carol Thomas – JMU Access Partnership and the Joint Committee on

Mobility of Blind and Partially Sighted People

Mark Whitby – Director, Whitby Bird and Partners Engineers

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