Britain is lagging behind the rest of Europe in its efforts to reduce road deaths, according to a new survey.
According to the European Transport Safety Council's report, around 40,000 people a year die on roads in 27 European countries. The European Union (EU) set a target of reducing the number by half between 2001 and 2010.
However, the recorded drop in road deaths between 2001 and 2005 is only between 17% and 18%, sparking fears the EU target will not be met.
While France has recorded the highest drop of the 27 nations analysed, with road deaths falling by a massive 35% between 2001 and 2005, the UK ranks just 20th, recording a paltry 7% drop in the same time period.
That reflects all the more poorly on the UK, because even countries with previously very good records, such as Sweden and Switzerland, have still managed to reduce deaths consistently throughout the survey period.
UK poor for speed and alcohol
The key factors relating to road deaths are said to be speed, alcohol and whether vehicle occupants are wearing a seatbelt.
Deaths have been reduced by strong government initiatives, promoting the benefits of wearing a seatbelt, education programmes, drink-driving legislation and changes to infrastructure, such as increasing the number of roads with lowered speed limits.
The UK fares particularly badly in the survey's analysis of deaths caused by drink-driving, ranking 22nd of the 27 member states after recording a 2.5% rise in the number of deaths between 1996 and 2005.
The mean speed on UK roads also shows an inconsistent pattern. While there has been a 9% drop in speeding on roads with 30mph limits and a 3% drop on motorways, the number of motorists recorded speeding in 60mph zones has risen by 9%.
It's not all bad news
More promisingly, the UK ranks fifth of the 27 nations in a poll recording the percentage of motorists who wear a seatbelt, with more than 90% of UK motorists complying with the law. The UK is second only to Germany in terms of the number of passengers who wear seatbelts in the rear of a car.
Despite this gloomy forecast, the UK's roads still remain some of the safest in Europe. The number of deaths per million in the population in 2005 is just over 50 - placing the UK sixth of the 27 nations ranked.
The figures do not take into account likely improved UK driving standards following the passing of the Government's Road Safety Act last year.
Under the measures, motorists face tougher penalties for using a mobile phone while driving, sterner penalties for causing death by careless or inconsiderate driving or causing death while unlicensed, disqualified or uninsured. Repeat drink-drivers also face having their cars fitted with an alcohol lock.
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