In a speech to the conference, minister for transport Jim Fitzpatrick outlined how the government plans to make Britain’s roads safer

One of the key issues we in government and you as motor insurers face today is that young drivers are being killed and injured on our roads in unacceptably high numbers.

But it’s not just them. Because I’m sure we all agree, there is no acceptable level for deaths and injuries on Britain’s roads, for any category of driver, passenger or pedestrian.

One accident is one too many, and we all have a responsibility to make sure that we are doing what we can to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads.

Britain is better off than many countries in having some of the safest roads in the world, but that still translated into 3,173 fatalities in 2006.

That’s a huge number of utterly pointless deaths and that’s why we need to keep working hard to drive these numbers down.

The government is committed to regularly re-evaluating how we tackle the issue.

The second three-yearly review of our 10-year road safety strategy, published in February, highlighted the fact that drink-

driving, speeding and seat-belt wearing are key issues that we need to keep working on.

The review also highlighted that some groups remain more at risk, especially young drivers, motorcyclists and those who drive for work. As a result, the Department for Transport is hard at work on a raft of new initiatives to target all these areas.

For example, the Think! campaign group launched a high profile scheme to focus on people driving to work, to highlight the dangers of distractions such as eating and drinking, reading maps or talking on a hands-free phone.

This is being backed up with messages designed to show that proper journey planning can cut out a lot of these distractions, for example, by making time for proper breaks.

We have new media campaigns on child safety, and we’re rerunning a hard-hitting TV advert about rear seat belts. It is a sickener – hard hitting is an accurate description if you’ve seen the ad.

On top of that, we have the safe and fuel efficient driving programme and the driving for better business scheme we’re conducting with RoadSafe.

I’ve met the Motorcycle Action Group, the British Motorcycle Federation and the Motor Cycle Industry Association, to examine where we can make a difference.

Driver training

As many of you will already know, we will be consulting on plans to reform the entire driver training and testing programme.

You know as well as I that young drivers are statistically far more likely to be involved in an accident. It is vital we rethink the approach to training for new drivers and lifelong learning.

The driving test was first introduced in 1935 and despite a number of updates over the years, it is now ready for a radical overhaul.

As such, I hope that everyone here will take the opportunity to share your thoughts on how best to approach those changes when the consultation gets underway.

In the meantime, we need to keep hammering home the message about speeding. As you may have seen in the newspapers last week, part of that involves another consultation on graduated fixed penalties.

My hope is that we can find a way to separate those who drive recklessly fast, from those who may just lose concentration for a moment and creep over the limit.

Core message

However the consultation pans out, we cannot lose sight of the core message – speed kills – and we have to make drivers understand the impact of their actions if they ignore the speed limit. In the New Year, we will also be launching a consultation on proposals to tackle drink-driving.

Enforcement remains a pivotal issue and one that I know you in the industry are always keen to highlight. Having been out with a Vehicle and Operator Services Agency team recently, and from having talked to the DVLA and various police authorities, I can tell you that there is no lack of commitment from any of the enforcement agencies.

In fact, when I attended the DVLA enforcement conference in October, it was perfectly clear to me that there was a real drive to build partnerships and share information to make enforcement more effective on issues like uninsured drivers, unlicensed vehicles and unsafe foreign lorries.

The insurance industry was well represented at the event and I’m pleased to say that my subsequent visit to the Motor Insurance Bureau headquarters in Milton Keynes last week proved to be very positive and encouraging.

It is in all our interests to tackle these issues and working in partnership we can achieve far more than any one organisation can individually. A case in point is the new system of continuous insurance enforcement, for which I have to thank the insurance industry for its extremely helpful attitude.

In particular, the industry has done a great job in ensuring that the insurance database is accurate enough to be used for enforcement and compliance purposes.

This is essential, because when the system is fully operational in spring 2009, it will be an offence to be the registered keeper of an uninsured vehicle, and up-to-date records will be crucial to our enforcement efforts.

This policy will send a clear and unambiguous message that we are not prepared to tolerate uninsured vehicles on our roads. But further, this initiative represents a shared will to tackle the problems that affect us all.

Maximising the use of technology will also be vital in ensuring that we can work together effectively in the future.

Electronic certificates

On that theme, I am now in a position to give an update on the consultation that took place earlier this year on the electronic delivery of motor insurance certificates.

I’m pleased to say that the response was very positive and I can announce that I have instructed departmental lawyers to begin drafting the necessary legislation to allow this programme to go ahead. This again highlights that we are open to any ideas that can help us operate more effectively.

I’m sure that this spirit of co-operation will continue as we develop and refine policy, toward more accurate, reliable data frameworks across the whole of the licensing regime, because there are many issues where we share common objectives.

We in government want to reduce the numbers of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. So do you. We want to get uninsured vehicles off our roads. So do you.

We want to make sure that the drivers on our roads have the appropriate skills training and awareness. And so do you.

So whether we are talking about automatic number plate recognition, speeding, electronic chips to identify vehicles, foreign vehicles, or the driving test, I’m sure that we can continue to work together to develop new ideas and work toward a safer, more secure future.”

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