Somerset motorists are being urged to reduce their speed to 20mph in built-up areas, in a bid to cut the number of people killed and seriously injured on the roads.
The message comes from road safety charity Brake, as it reveals every week nine adults and three children (age 0 to 17) are run down and killed or seriously hurt when on foot or bike in the South West.
Each year the charity dedicates one week to raising awareness of road dangers. The theme for this year’s Road Safety Week, which gets under way today, is ‘Slower speeds = happy people’.
Brake is calling on drivers to slow down to 20mph around homes, schools and shops. This, the charity explains, will save lives, as it gives motorists a good chance of stopping in time in an emergency.
Brake will also be raising awareness of the importance of making it safer for people to walk and cycle in their community.
In the South West last year 26 people were killed on foot and 349 were seriously injured. Of these victims, 28 per cent (105) were children: three child pedestrians were killed and 102 suffered serious injuries.
Meanwhile 10 cyclists were killed and 233 suffered serious injuries. Of these victims, 12 per cent (28) were children: two child cyclists were killed and 26 suffered serious injuries.
In 2011 pedestrian deaths and serious injuries rose significantly across the UK, and for the first time in 17 years. Pedestrian deaths increased by 12 per cent, while serious injuries climbed five per cent.
While cyclist deaths decreased by two per cent in 2011, serious injuries increased by 16 per cent.
In March 2008, seven-year-old Tyrese Hannah from Swindon was hit by a speeding driver as he walked his dog with his mum. He later died from his injuries.
His mum Caroline Hannah is helping to launch the GO 20 campaign during Road Safety Week. She said: “My beautiful Tyrese filled my time with love, laughter and life. He had a fearless energy and a kind spirit.
“But my wonderful son was killed by a speeding driver. What I really want is for all drivers to realise the difference they can make through the simple act of slowing down.
"The children you read about in the papers being killed and injured on our roads are real children, yet so many drivers just don’t make the connection and continue to drive too fast.
“By slowing down to 20 in communities, you’re helping to avoid tragedies and making our communities safer, better places. Please remember Tyrese and get behind the GO 20 campaign.”
Supt Ian Smith of Avon and Somerset’s Roads Policing Unit said: “We are committed to reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.
“Speed is one of the main factors in fatal road collisions and slowing down just a few miles an hour can mean the difference between life and death.
“Drivers need to adhere to speed limits, and always take extra caution in residential areas or near establishments like schools and hospitals.”
Franki Hackett, campaign coordinator at Brake, said: “Everyone in the South West should be able to walk and cycle in their community without fear or threat: it’s a basic right, and GO 20 is about defending that.
“The 2012 Games helped us all realise the importance of being able to live active lifestyles. Critical to this is making our streets and communities safe places we can use and enjoy.
“Anyone who drives can help bring this about: pledge to GO 20 in communities, even where the limit’s still 30 - you’ll be doing something good for people around you, and you’ll hardly notice the difference to your journey.
“We’re also calling on national government and more local authorities in the South West to recognise the need for 20mph, and the huge demand for safe walking and cycling, and GO 20.”
To find out more about Road Safety Week, visit www.roadsafetyweek.org.uk.
To read about the benefits of 20mph zones, click here.