‘Too many’ deaths on North Devon’s roads

Council leader calls for action after grim statistics reveal the number killed and injured on local roads in just six months.

AN alarming toll of death and injury on North Devon’s roads cannot be allowed to continue, according to the leader of North Devon Council.

Councillor Brian Greenslade is calling for action to curb the carnage after recent figures showed a significant rise in the number of people killed or injured by traffic accidents on local roads in just six months.

In North Devon and Torridge, figures provided by Devon and Cornwall Police show there were nine people killed and 43 seriously injured on the roads between April 1 and October 31 last year.

This is an increase of 12 casualties or 30 per cent when compared to the same period in 2011.

Yesterday (Tuesday) Mr Greenslade was bringing the issue up at the council’s executive committee to seek its support to lobby the various agencies involved in a bid to bring down the death toll.

He said that while figures showed a drop in other parts of the region, such as Plymouth and Cornwall, there was a sharp increase of 43 per cent in North and West Devon.

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“It is a deeply concerning trend and we cannot continue with this rate of accidents,” he said.

“It is not simply all those people, it is bereavement, disruption to the lives of local families and the loss of dedicated bread winners.”

He is also concerned changes to policing in 2011 could well have added to the accident statistics, following the absorption of the police traffic unit into the general emergency response service.

“The school of thought in the police service is that getting rid of the road traffic division was a mistake, although I think it is too easy to say the rates have risen simply because the unit has been disbanded,” said Mr Greenslade, who is a former chairman of Devon and Cornwall Police Authority.

“It might not be fair on the chief constable, but it almost seems that when the structure changed the rate of road accidents rose.”

Inspector Richard Pryce, professional lead for road policing, said the increase in collisions was a disappointing turn, but he said the long term trend in numbers was still downwards.

“But we do recognise there have been some slight increases and we are trying to combat that with enforcement initiatives through the main areas that cause serious collisions: excessive or inappropriate speed, drink driving, not wearing a seat belt and distractions such as mobile phone use,” he said.

“It is incredibly difficult to substantiate from pure casualty statistics whether or not the re-organisation within Devon and Cornwall Police has had any impact on the collision rate.”

Mr Greenslade has written to Tony Hogg, the new police and crime commissioner for Devon and Cornwall under the system which replaced the police authority, raising his concerns.

Mr Hogg said he was very concerned at the number of deaths and serious injuries on local roads.

“The figures vary considerably across the force area, so it’s difficult to accurately attribute the underlying reasons for this,” he said.

“I am aware people are extremely worried about road safety, particularly in areas where the most recent figures have shown an increase in serious incidents. I am keen to investigate ways in which these numbers can be reduced.”

Devon County Councillor Stuart Hughes said the incidents were deeply distressing for those involved and the council was committed to helping to reduce both the number and severity of injuries on the roads.

“We will look carefully at why 2012 was so different to previous years - throughout which Devon has seen a steady reduction in casualties - and ensure that our support for the most vulnerable road users remains targeted and effective,” he said.

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