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It is time to stop the killing on our roads

It is time to stop the killing on our roads

This year has seen an upsurge in the number of people dying on our roads, sadly those with the power to change things don’t seem to be interested, so we need to send them the message: It is time to stop the killing on our roads!

Our roads are not a war zone, this is not the fog of war, people dying on our roads are not some poor buggers who have wandered into their covering fire, they are not collateral damage. They were just ordinary people going about their business who died needlessly before their time. Now is the time to make it stop, we can do something about it, but it needs political will. Throwing money at dualing roads won’t save lives. Lowering speed limits, better infrastructure to protect vulnerable road users, strengthening the law and enforcing it, these are things which save lives. It is not rocket science, there is much we can learn from just across the North Sea. We can make our country a better place to live for all, Active Travel IS a matter of social justice. Here are some Manifesto suggestions for Active Travel, let’s push our political representatives to take them seriously. After all, they are there to serve the people.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2013

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2013

Today is the annual World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) there are 1.24 million road traffic deaths every year and Road Traffic Accidents (RTA) are the number one cause of death among those aged 15-29 years. However, it is the young and the elderly who are most vulnerable on our roads.

Here in Scotland I recently discovered that there is a framework for road safety in Scotland, which was drawn up in 2009. As part of this framework there is a 0% casualty target for the year 2020. Sadly in Scotland over the last four years there has been a rise in the number of vulnerable road users killed or seriously injured, which suggests that the strategy currently in place is failing badly and needs to be revised.

Here are a few headlines from the last few days. This is not an extensive list, just a short snapshot:

Girl killed in lorry accident named
Woman killed in two-vehicle crash
Motorist dies day after car crash
Woman seriously injured in A9 crash

An open letter to my MSPs

An open letter to my MSPs

Dear MSPs,

There’s a short window of opportunity to gain a modest one-off boost to Scottish cycling investment. The Scottish Government is to receive £279m for capital investment projects as a result of the UK Chancellor’s Spring Budget.

The reasons for spending a significant proportion of this money on cycling infrastructure should be obvious: active travel is a great idea as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer), it reduces congestion in towns and cities, and it is good for the economy as people who arrive by active travel are more productive (the smart companies, like Google, are relocating to city with good cycling infrastructure for this very reason), and it reduces peoples reliance on expensive fossil fuels.

This extra money gives the chance to try something different, how about using £20m to set up a into a special award fund to which councils could bid for a large sum, so that Scotland could implement two or three ‘exemplary projects’ providing high quality European-style cycling infrastructure in an area of a city or town, and including at least one main-road corridor. This is an opportunity which really should not be missed, the potential return on investment is huge, as has been shown south of the border where the cycle demonstration towns showed returns of 19:1!

However, time it short please press John Swinney and Keith Brown to cease the day, Carpe diem!

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding, Bsc, MPhil

———————–

So far I have had one reply to this letter:

Thank you for your email.

The vast majority of the £279m comes from allowing the Scottish Government to administer funds arising in Scotland from the state-backed mortgage plan. This is why it has been derided as ‘funny money’ by John Swinney, as you may have seen in the media. There is a robust exchange in progress between the governments over how much flexibility there should be over this money. I would certainly be supportive of additional funding for sustainable and active travel, and in particular your suggestion of a flagship community approach is an interesting one – provided of course that there is a local authority keen to bid for it. If there is sufficient flexibility this should be a very strong contender for funds.

There is also however a cut of £103m to year-to-year funding. This includes a £50m+ reduction in the budget for the financial year starting the week after next, when a budget has already been set. Services that have to absorb this cut may well argue that they should be at the front of the queue for any flexibility in the capital funding if that can be used to offset the effect of these cuts.

Yours
Marco Biagi (SNP)

———————–

Addendum:

Next reply –

Thank you for contacting me about this important subject. Increased investment in cycling would help us address health and environmental issues. It is affordable, and without a significant increase in funding for cycling and walking, the Government will be unable to meet its obligations under our world leading climate change legislation.

I wholeheartedly share your desire to see the Scottish Government spend a substantial proportion of the £279 million allocated for capital spending in the recent UK budget on improvements to cyclist and pedestrian infrastructure. When the Danish Cycling Embassy visited the Scottish Parliament earlier this year, I asked what steps were taken to achieve the high number of commuting cyclists in Copenhagen where almost 40% of citizens cycle to work and education. In response the Cycling Embassy representative said that investment in a project that clearly demonstrated the many benefits of a segregated cycle way was key. With this in mind, I along with fellow members of the Cross Party Group on Cycling, Jim Eadie MSP and Claudia Beamish MSP, wrote to Keith Brown outlining a proposal for introducing a competitive award for an urban on-road segregated cycle lane project design. In Mr Brown’s response (attached) he reiterates his pledge to make a strong bid for cycling infrastructure funding should more money become available. Now that more money has become available, I intend to do everything I can to ensure he honours this commitment. It is vital that the Scottish Government delivers the levels of funding required to encourage people to take the affordable, active and environmentally friendly option of cycling in the Lothian Region and across Scotland.

Please be assured that I will continue to push the Scottish government at every available opportunity for more funding for cycling, and to target the funding at the projects that will have the most positive impact on cycling in Scotland.

Best wishes

Alison Johnstone (Green)
———————–

Next Reply –

Dear Kim

Thank you for writing again following the UK Government’s recent budget and the allocation of new money to Scotland for capital projects.

I well appreciate your support for further investment in active travel, particularly cycling and I am happy to draw your comments, as well as those of others who would also like to see the Scottish Government focus more on cycling infrastructure rather than road spending.

I will be back in touch when I have a reply from Keith Brown MSP as the current Transport Minister but if there is anything else that I can do for you, in the meantime, as your Regional representative in the Scottish Parliament then just let me know.

Again, with all best wishes.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour)
———————–

A further update from Sarah Boyack, with a reply from the Minister for Transport Keith Brown –

Dear Kim

Keith Brown MSP has replied to me arising from your concerns about the Scottish Government’s opportunity to provide more investment toward cycling infrastructure. His response, as Transport Minister, as you will see unfortunately does not provide any additional resources to enhance the cycling experience all over the country, even though its benefits to the nation’s health and environment are well-known.

I am sorry that the Scottish Government was not minded to prioritise cycling for additional resources within its augmented spending capabilities but I thought that you ought to see the terms of the official response nevertheless, given your interest in the issue.

As ever, with very best wishes to you.

Yours sincerely

Sarah Boyack MSP (Labour)

And the reply to Sarah from the Minister:

Dear Sarah,

Thank you for your letter of 26 March on behalf of a number of constituents, regarding additional spending on cycling infrastructure as a result of the UK Chancellor’s spring budget.

The Scottish Government is to receive additional funding for capital projects as a result of the UK Government’s spring budget. However, as the additional capital is for financial transactions (i.e. loans and equity investment), which must be repaid, we are severely restricted in the use of this money.

Investment in cycling is paramount if we are to increase the numbers of people using bikes and realise our shared vision of 10% of all journeys being made by bike by 2020. Over this Spending Review, this Scottish Government will invest almost £58 million on infrastructure, training and road safety projects through Sustrans, Cycling Scotland and local authorities. I hope these commitments reassure your constituents that this Scottish Government is committed to investing in cycling infrastructure to make Scotland an active and safe cycling nation.

Kind regards

Keith Brown MSP (SNP)
—–

A reminder that Pedal on Parliament 2 is on the 19th May, meet at 15:00 on the Meadows, the more people who join this protest ride, the louder our voice calling for change will be.

How much space should you give a cyclist when overtaking?

How much space should you give a cyclist when overtaking?

Some time back I wrote a post called Give cyclists room. I have noticed over the following years that this post gets regular traffic, from people coming with search terms such as “How much space should you give a cyclist when overtaking?”. So I thought, as an ex-driving instructor and a regular cyclist, this would be a subject worth revisiting.

Let’s start with the basics, as a driver you should first ask your self two questions before overtaking: “Do I need to overtake?” and then “Do I really need to overtake?” Many drivers don’t seem to have the ability to consider their journey as a whole, instead they merely concentrate on the next 100 metres of road (if that much). Let’s be realistic, yes that cyclist might be going slower than you, but is it really worth putting their life at risk to get to end of that queue of stationary traffic waiting at a red light 10 seconds earlier? Most of the time the cyclist will probably catch up, pass you while you are sitting waiting for the lights to change, so what have you gained?

Likewise, on a rural road that group of cyclists might only be travelling at 20 mph and you may have to wait behind them for a mile before you can find a safe place to pass them. But in terms of your overall journey time, it will probably delay you by less than a couple of minutes. Therefore, unless your journey is genuinely part of a life and death emergency, there is probably no real need to overtake at all. They have just as much right to use the road as you do, and yes they are allowed to ride two abreast. When riding as a group, it is generally safer for all concerned if cyclists ride two abreast than than be strung out in a long line. If the road is clear and it is safe to overtake, then treat them as if you were overtaking a large vehicle which can not move out of your way.

Having decided that you are going to overtake, it is very important that you make make sure that:

  • the road ahead is sufficiently clear
  • other road users are not about to overtake you, and that
  • there is a suitable gap in front of the road user you plan to overtake

This is all laid out in Rule 162 of the Highway Code, which then goes on to say in Rule 163 “Overtake only when it is safe and legal to do so. You should: … give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”

Give vulnerable road users space

This is followed up in Rule 212 which states “When passing motorcyclists and cyclists, give them plenty of room (see Rules 162-167). If they look over their shoulder, it could mean that they intend to pull out, turn right or change direction. Give them time and space to do so.” So the advice in the Highway Code is clear. However, it is just that, advice, the Highway Code only tells drivers that they should give vulnerable road users space on the roads, not that they must. This is an important distinction, because where the Highway Code uses the word must, it is indicating the Rule is a legal requirement and there is a penalty if the Rule is disobeyed. Where the word should is used, failure to comply with the Rule “will not, in itself, cause a person to be prosecuted, but may be used in evidence in court proceedings to establish liability”. It is perhaps unfortunate that the Highway Code isn’t a bit firmer on this, but this is what we have, unless Parliament can be persuaded to change it.

Many drivers consider themselves “good drivers”, some even consider themselves to be “advanced drivers”. However, before we go any further, I would like to make it absolutely clear that driving fast or simply being a member of the “Institute of Advanced Motorists”, does not make you in any way an advanced driver (although some advanced drivers may do these things). Advanced Driving is about recognising hazards in good time and responding to them appropriately, which generally means slowing down. Rather than trying to explain how this would work in real life situations, I have found these videos which show clearly how it should be done.


At the end of the day, it is important to remember that roads are not for cars, but are for people, however they choose to travel. Holding a driving licence confers on the driver no more right to the road than that of any other road user, but does permit them to operate potentially lethal machinery in a public space. This is a privilege and not a right, and one that comes with responsibilities.

Addendum: This post was accidentally lost and recreated from Google’s cache.

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World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2012

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2012

Just in case you didn’t know today is World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2012. It is commemorated on the third Sunday of November each year – to remember the many millions killed and injured on the world’s roads, together with their families and many others also affected, as well as reflect on the tremendous burden and cost of this daily continuing disaster.

Why do we need such a day? Well death on the roads is now so common it doesn’t always get reported in the press and it is not taken seriously in our courts (a president set after the death of Bridget Driscoll in 1896). It has been estimated that over 1% of people alive today in England and Wales have lost a close family member in a fatal road traffic crash, since 1971. This includes 131,399 parents who had lost a child and 107,384 offspring who had lost a parent. The authors of the paper these figures came from concluded that “this may imply a greater public health burden of road traffic crashes than previously estimated”. Yet out elected leaders still don’t want to take it seriously. They could clamp down on driving offences, or take practical steps to make our roads safer, such as lowing and enforcing speed limits, and providing safer infrastructure. It is time we called an end to this carnage, we have to stop drivers getting away with murder, manslaughter, unlawful killing, or death by misadventure, these deaths are not mere “accidents”, that all tragedies.

A few images of the “Quality Bike Corridor” Edinburgh

A few images of the “Quality Bike Corridor” Edinburgh

I my last post I gave a few thoughts on the “Quality Bike Corridor” in Edinburgh, but I forgot to add any images. So here are a few, just count the number of parked cars…

Quality Bike Corridor?
Note the way the cycle lane takes cyclists around the outside of the parked cars and down the left side of queuing traffic which may turn left at the lights. There is no way this can be considered to be best practice.

Quality Bike Corridor?

Quality Bike Corridor?

Quality Bike Corridor?

Note that only two of the motor vehicles shown above are parked legally, the one in the first picture and the yellow car.

The Quality Bike Corridor (QBiC) does have a 20mph speed limit along only a short section:

Southern end of the 20mph limit:
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking south (end of 20mph)
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking north (start of 20mph)

Northern end of the 20mph limit:
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking south (start of 20mph)
Edinburgh's new 20 mph Zone
^looking north (end of 20mph)

It is worth noting that at the northern end of the 20 mph zone stops short of an existing accident black sport, so not the best place to encourage drivers to accelerate.

Yet the roads with the highest rates of Road Traffic Accidents (RTAs) are not given 20mph speed limits:
RTAs south Edinburgh
From ITO road casualties UK.

Thoughts on the Quality Bike Corridor

Thoughts on the Quality Bike Corridor

This post first appeared on the STV Edinburgh website, as part of a series of articles for Bike Week. I have slightly rewritten and expanded it here.

As I have said before, cycling is a good thing, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion, it can boost local economic activity. It is healthy – active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer and make fewer calls on the NHS. In addition, people who use active ways of travel to get to work are more productive, it is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save money (the future savings in health costs alone make worthwhile). Apart from all that, over distances of up to 10Km cycling is fast and efficient, it is also fun and increasingly fashionable. So it is no wonder that many people want to be able to use bicycles to make short journeys. Surveys have shown that up to 60% of ordinary people would like to be able cycle for transport on short journeys, at least some of the time. So what is stopping them? The answer is simple, they don’t feel it is safe to ride on the roads, and this is the major barrier to increasing cycling rates across Scotland.

When I first heard about the proposed Quality Bike Corridor between the King’s Buildings and George IV Bridge, I thought this was a great idea. I have been cycling in Edinburgh for nearly 20 years and must have ridden parts of this route thousands of times, starting from when I was a student at the King’s Buildings. Over the years I have noticed a number of changes around the city. In the early years there were the new, and then controversial, cycle lanes painted red at the side of the road, then the introduction of Advanced Stop Lines (ASL) at traffic lights. Over that same period, the annual counts of commuter cyclists carried out by the SPOKES Cycle Campaign, have risen steadily.

However, cycling as a share of all means of transport for all short journeys remains low. Why isn’t utility cycling taking off, when cycling is apparently booming and the City of Edinburgh Council has committed 5% of its transport budget to cycling? Part of the problem is the “dual network” approach. This is based on the idea that people will start off on the “family network” which is “catering for less confident cyclists” and then, as they gain confidence (and maybe have some training), they will “graduate” to using the “Quality Bike Corridors” as part of the “cycle-friendly city”. According to the council’s Active Travel Action Plan this is to “include on street cycle facilities such as cycle lanes, enhanced cycle parking/loading restrictions and marketing” [sic]. Here is the central flaw, this “cycle-friendly city” is aimed at “confident cyclists” who are happy to ride on the roads with the existing motor traffic. These are the people who are already cycling, not the ordinary people who want to cycle but don’t at present because they don’t feel safe. If the aim is to create a truly cycle-friendly city, then there would be no need for a “family network”, all areas of the city would be accessible by people riding bicycles, as almost all Dutch cities and many more cities across Europe are.

The section of the Active Travel Action Plan which deals with cycling recognises that “safety, and perceived safety, especially on busy roads” is a barrier to cycling. However, given the rising rates of pedestrians and cyclists injured on the roads across Scotland as a result of collisions with motor vehicles (Provisional results from Transport Scotland for 2011), it is time for a change in approach. We need to look to best practice internationally. In the Netherlands, where 25% of trips are by bicycle, the risk of being killed or seriously injured is over seven times lower than in the UK. The “dual network” approach does not in any way fit with the Dutch approach, which is based on the concept of Sustainable Safety. In order to make cycling as a means of transport attractive to the greatest number of people, the routes available need to be direct, pleasant and safe. It should not be required to make a choice between direct and safe, however this is implicit in the dual network approach. Only on the “family network” is there any form of separation or traffic calming (i.e., on quite back roads, which are quiet because they don’t offer direct easy access to anywhere). This is the central flaw to the “dual network” approach, that it is designed to avoid making any changes to the road environment which might “inconvenience” the motorist. For this reason, we have painted bike lanes which go around car parking bays on the “Quality Bike Corridor” (aka QBiC or QBC), rather than removing the parking on main roads. In Paris before introducing their Vélib cycle share scheme 7000 car parking spaces were removed and cycle lanes introduced, the world did not end, the city did not grind to a halt.

I am not alone in being disappointed that the first “Quality Bike Corridor” has made no attempt to provide a separated on-street cycle lane, or cycle priority junctions (no, ASLs just don’t cut it). Many of the 3,000 people who Pedalled on Parliament feel the same disappointed that a more ambition approach wasn’t tried. There are cities in the UK which are experimenting with separated cycle infrastructure, among them Birmingham, Manchester, London and even Glasgow! Although none of these have cycling rates approaching those of cycle-friendly cities on mainland Europe. No, the Edinburgh approach is simply not good enough, we need change, we need to move forward and learn from our near neighbours across the North Sea.

Addendum: I have added a new post with images from the “Quality Bike Corridor”.

An open letter to Alex Salmond MSP on active travel

An open letter to Alex Salmond MSP on active travel

Dear Mr Salmond,

You may be aware that rather a lot of people are very upset with the proposed cuts to the proportion of transport spending that goes on active travel. Active travel is a great idea, as it achieves so many policy objectives: it is clean, it is green, it reduces congestion in towns and cities, it can boost local economic activity, and it is healthy (active people, such as regular cyclists, live longer). In addition, people who use active ways of travel are more productive at work, take fewer sick days. Supporting active travel is relatively cheap and therefore has great potential to save everybody money (the future savings in health costs alone make worthwhile).

In your 2011 Holyrood SNP manifesto, you told us that your party was committed “to increase the proportion of transport spending that goes on low-carbon, active and sustainable travel”. I assume that you did actually read this document before adding your signature to it, so it is only reasonable to expect you to stand by the commitments you and your party made in it.

However, your Government’s current spending plans show that funding to enable more local journeys to be made on foot or by bike is set to be cut by a third. This will make it much harder for Scotland to achieve its transition to a low carbon economy, decarbonise our transport sector and ensure 10% of all journeys are made by bicycle by 2020. These aims have cross-party support, as they have great potential to bring additional social, environmental and economic benefits.

You are on record as saying that Scotland should be regarded as a Nordic nation, and you frequently hold up other small nations in Europe as examples of what an independent Scotland could be. So why not learn lessons from the Nordic countries on active travel? Denmark, Sweden and Norway clearly show the way, they are actively investing in this concept and are reaping the rewards. It is not just the Nordic countries, The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland are also embracing the benefits of active travel. These projects have been shown to have the highest Cost Benefit Ratio of all forms of transport investment.

I know that you consider the Scottish economy to be of prime importance, but poor air quality, poor public health, congestion and road safety are all major drags on the Scottish economy. The costs associated with all these ills can be reduced with a relatively small investment in active travel. So, go on, why not put your money where your mouth is?

Yours sincerely,

Kim Harding
A Scottish voter.

Reply from Marco Biagi MSP

Reply from Marco Biagi MSP

Following my letter to Marco Biagi sent by e-mail (sent via WriteToThem.com) on the 2nd November 2011, I have now received this reply, which I give below.

Mr Harding,

Spokes was kind enough to publish my original reply of 12 October to the many campaign emails I have received on this topic from Spokes members (http://www.spokes.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/1110-G-Raab-ANON-to-Marco-Biagi.pdf). In that I undertook to investigate further, and I have been doing so. I am however happy to reiterate the points made in the original email [to the SPOKES cycle campaign 12th October 2011].

I want to see a healthy, active and sustainable Scotland. As I said in my original email I depend on active and sustainable travel myself as I do not drive. There should be more that unites us than divides us on this issue.

The SNP manifesto promised to “increase the proportion of transport spending on… active and sustainable travel.” This includes more than cycling and walking, such as the Green Bus Fund, to which I referred previously. There is no basis to suggest that will decrease with the current levels of information on how much will go to active and sustainable travel from the £50m Future Transport Fund. It may also be that the proportion is being calculated over the three years of the spending review. It is therefore simply wrong to accuse the Scottish Government – or indeed, individual MSPs since we stood on that manifesto – of ‘reneging on promises’ without more clarity. I am still attempting both to secure information on this from the Scottish Government and to emphasise the importance of active and sustainable travel personally upon Ministers.

On checking the Scottish Government budget I found that what was described in your email and by Spokes as a dramatic increase in spending on trunk roads and motorways does is mainly made up of the Forth Replacement Crossing, an increase in winter preparedness funding and the ever-rising bill from Private Finance Initiative contracts signed by the pre-2007 Scottish administration. I do not therefore think it is a useful comparison.

Table of data

There is a very broad – though I appreciate not unanimous – agreement that the FRC is necessary. We can however all recognise that this is a single, one-off project. As this is such a distinct and one-off project I would argue that it deserves its own budget line rather than being brought in to a recurrent line such as Motorways & Trunk Roads.

I’m afraid we also disagree on the role of local government. As I pointed out in the first email, Scotland’s local authorities are currently responsible for local roads, pavements and cyclepaths. They contribute to attaining national objectives through the generous funding they receive in their annual grant. This core funding next year will total £10.02bn. They are already expected to meet ambitious national expectations using this funding in schooling, child protection, homelessness, waste management and a whole range of critical areas. If the people of Scotland do not think they are doing an adequate job of this they are entirely entitled to vote their local councillors out. My intention to engage with the City of Edinburgh Council on their local delivery, which I referred to in my original email, was based on this recognition of the state of affairs and my desire to live in a more sustainable city. It was in no way ‘cheeky’ as Spokes have suggested. Indeed, Transform Scotland’s ‘Civilising the Streets’ report from June 2010 highlighted both Stockholm and Freiburg as examples of good practice of substantial increases in cycling, and in both cases singled out strong local government leadership as crucial to this goal. Edinburgh has tremendous potential for increasing cycle uptake and I would hope to see this city become a similar example of good practice for other cities to look at and emulate.

Yours
Marco

Marco Biagi
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for the Edinburgh Central constituency
(Scottish National Party)
The Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh
EH99 1SP

 

While I welcome Marco’s desire “to see a healthy, active and sustainable Scotland”, I find his commitment to achieving this rather less convincing. The logic of his arguments given above is rather weak and to off load the responsibility of meeting targets set by the Scottish Government on to local government without providing the additional funding to achieve these targets rather feeble. It also sends out the wrong signal, that because we are now suffering the effects of past short sighted transport nothing can be done to give us a better future. If fail to learn the lessons of the past, we are doomed to repeat the a same mistakes.

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2011

World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims 2011

The United Nations has declared the 20 November 2011 to be a World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. According to the UN, “Road traffic crashes kill nearly 1.3 million people every year and injure or disable as many as 50 million more. They are the leading cause of death among young people aged 10–24 years.” Which is a sobering thought.

In October 2005, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution which calls for governments to mark the third Sunday in November each year as World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims. The day was created as a means to give recognition to victims of road traffic crashes and the plight of their relatives who must cope with the emotional and practical consequences of these tragic events.

WHO and the UN Road Safety Collaboration encourage governments and non-governmental organizations around the world to commemorate this day as a means of drawing the public’s attention to road traffic crashes, their consequences and costs, and the measures which can be taken to prevent them.

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