The national campaign has come in for criticism due to focus on polite requests rather than driver behaviour

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This year’s Road Safety Week (Nov 17-23) has come under fire as “patronising”, focusing too little on tackling dangerous driving and too much on polite requests which, some campaigners say, have little effect on behaviour.

Run by road safety charity Brake, this year’s “look out for each other” theme has been criticised for failing to call for better infrastructure, while organisations supporting the scheme giving hi-vis tabards to children has angered some.

Statistics quoted by Brake say every day 24 people are killed or seriously injured walking or cycling on UK roads.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “When drivers use roads without care for others the consequences can be tragic and horrific – people killed and badly injured, lives ruined forever, because of a moment of impatience or selfishness.”

“Ultimately, we’re all just human beings trying to get around, with equal right to use the roads, not competing tribes.”

The Road Danger Reduction Forum is among those critical of Road Safety Week. Dr Robert Davis, Chair of the RDRF, calls the campaign “patronising”. He said: “The idea that rule or law breaking which intimidates, hurts or kills can be dealt with by a polite request to ‘look out’ for potential victims is rather strange. Can you imagine a Health and Safety regime in industry, aviation, the railways or sea travel which relied on such polite requests?”

“We are all, as the saying goes, ‘in it together’. (‘…we are all people underneath just trying to get about’). Of course we are. It’s just that some (the motorised) have far more potential to endanger others than those that are not.”

Katja Leyendecker, chair of newcycling.org in Newcastle, says: “UK Road Safety Week is not welcome in its current format. It’s degrading and counterproductive in many ways. It is tackling a serious problem from a wrong angle and can be very hurtful to victims of traffic and road danger. Hiviz, ‘be seen’ and ‘looking out for each other’ have been messages we’ve heard for years, yet motor dominance has increased. If left untackled, it makes those patronising messages useless and redundant – in urgent need for reassessment of where road safety stands in the UK.

“Real road safety would start by asking what’s wrong with the system and how can we fix it, rather than slapping a hiviz tabard on people, only to then abandon them to dangerous roads.

“We have a long way to go in re-engineering and re-thinking our cities. But we must start the journey now without delay. We owe it to our children. Road crashes remain the most likely single cause of death for older children and young adults in the UK.”

Road Safety Week is backed by some big names, from rugby stars the Harlequins to Bridgestone Tyres and Specsavers, the latter two having donated thousands of hi-vis tabards between them to school children.

Philip Goose, senior community engagement officer at Brake, responded to criticisms. He said: “Our Road Safety Week campaign tackles head on dangerous driving and the risks that driver can and do pose to cyclists and pedestrians.

“We know that up to 95% of crashes are caused by driver error – that’s why we particularly urged drivers to protect people on foot and bike, slowing down to 20mph in communities, looking longer and taking it slow at junctions and bends, and giving people plenty of room and consideration.

“That is what we are calling on individuals to do as part of Road Safety Week. We have also been speaking about our specific campaigns to stop deaths on our roads; 20mph as the nationwide default urban limit, graduated driver licensing, zero tolerance drink drive limits, wider traffic policing and tougher penalties to deter dangerous driving – more information can be found at brake.org.uk/campaigns.

“None of our campaigns put forward the promotion of hi-vis as a solution to stopping deaths on the roads.”

Our vision is a world where the only acceptable number of deaths and serious injuries is zero. Alongside 20mph as a default urban speed limit, we support segregated cycle infrastructure and a significant increase in government funding for this.”