CALLED ON: Make road deaths a public health issue
The comments came during a meeting of Leeds City Council’s number of serious road accidents in the city
A former Leeds MP has called on deaths due to road crashes to be made into a public health issue.
An inquiry into Leeds road deaths heard heartbreaking personal stories from the parents of children, who called for more to be done to reduce the number of those killed and seriously injured on Leeds’s roads, known as the KSI number, to be reduced to zero.
The comments came during a meeting of Leeds City Council’s number of serious road accidents in the city, which had increased in the run-up to the pandemic.
Coun Paul Truswell (Lab), who now represents Middleton Park on Leeds City Council, told the meeting: “Up to 2010 the figures for KSI were declining, therefore the targets set reflected that. Since then the figures have at worst increased and at best plateaued.
“We are all aware that the number of KSI has declined during the pandemic for reasons that are pretty obvious, but I don’t think any of us are living in any kind of fool’s paradise that that is likely to remain at that level unless serious steps are taken.
“I would probably agree that it should be seen as a public health issue, and I don’t think that has been taken to account in the past.”
Ian Greenwood is a road safety campaigner who lost his young daughter Alice in a road traffic collision back in 2008.
The crash took place on a country road when a recently-qualified driver was racing with his friends at night, before losing control of the vehicle and crashing into the car of Ian and his family.
He told the meeting: “As well as death, devastation and the impact on people like me and my family, there are thousands of other people who are affected by this every single year.
“There are other impacts as well, pressures on hospitals and mental health, and links to crime and antisocial behaviour, congestion, people being put off walking or cycling.
“These are not ‘accidents’,” he added. “They are mostly preventable crashes.
“After the worst of the global pandemic, we have a real opportunity to move everybody forward.
“It’s too late for Alice, and for others, but I really do think you can make a difference and stop this happening to anybody else, because it is shit.”
While the number of casualties overall reduced between 2016 and 2019, the number of serious and fatal injuries increased from 333 to 356, with a high of 26 deaths in 2018 alone.
One of those to lose their lives on Leeds roads in 2018 was Paula Knight’s 19-year-old son Declan, following a road traffic crash in Horsforth back in 2018.
Declan was in a car with five of his friends on the way home from a party. Because of the weight in the car, the driver lost control of the vehicle before crashing into another motorist.
Ms Knight said: “I suffer with PTSD, and I know I’m not the only one. No matter how old your child is, I’m his mum, and to lose somebody you bring into this world, it does not feel right.
“Had they made a decision to pay £5 in a taxi, things would have been different.”
She added that many schools have been hosting events to warn teenage students about the dangers of irresponsible driving.
Jill Walshaw lost her son Matty, who was in the car as Declan.
She said: “You see the knock on the door in films, and you never think it will happen to you. Three years on, I still feel like I’m in a film.
“I feel as though I’m watching this woman who is dealing with this, and I don’t think it’s real. I do believe perhaps if there had been speed cameras down that road, I would be making my son’s favourite tea tonight.”
Coun Jonathan Taylor (Con) said: “When these crashes happen, we need to understand there are consequences that happen for their families when they need to pick up the pieces.
“We need to hear about how officers are going to respond to this, and we need to make solid recommendations to take forward.”
A Leeds City Council officer told the meeting: “It is absolutely right that we should have that ambition. It is looking at the whole system and whole process of what’s involved with road safety, and requires everybody to play their part.
“This is about persuading manufacturers to design cars right, to make sure housing estates are designed right, that residents in their behaviour go about their business in an appropriate manner and consider how they travel.”
The inquiry into road casualties will continue into the new year.
Words: Richard Beecham, Local Democracy Reporter
Watch the channel on TV