A DRAMATIC rise in road casualties has prompted a safety message from the chief constable of Sussex.
Think safety on the roads, whether using them as a motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, urges Chief Constable Giles York.
The message from Sussex Police calls on residents and visitors to take care on the roads and to think how the way they drive, cycle and walk could put them or other people in danger.
Over the last six years the number of people being killed on Sussex roads has more than halved, from 69 in the first 11 months of 2008 to 33 in the first 11 months of this year.
But this year has seen a dramatic rise in the total number of people being killed or seriously injured in the county. The figure stands at 927 between January and November – more than in any of the previous six years.
This has been followed by seven fatalities on the roads this month.
Bad weather has been a contributory factor in some of those crashes, but officers are concerned that driver, cyclist or pedestrian behaviour has been more to blame.
Mr York witnessed first hand the bad behaviour of motorists while attending a drink-drive checkpoint with roads policing unit officers in Storrington on Sunday.
A number of people were arrested on suspicion of driving while under the influence of drink or drugs during the operation, and officers dealing with that operation and a number of other serious collisions saw motorists putting other people in danger.
Mr York said: “Some of the drivers’ behaviour that I have witnessed in recent weeks has been awful.
“On three different occasions I have seen cars overtaking on blind bends on country lanes that was so dangerous it was frightening.
“I’ve just about seen cyclists wearing dark clothing on their bikes with no lights in dark lanes. I’m not sure they know just how invisible they are. They need to do more for themselves to be seen.
“As drivers, cyclists and pedestrians we all have to take responsibility for making the roads safer.
“I have been on two of our Christmas drink drive road checks and am really pleased with the professionalism of the officers and the high numbers of drivers that are being stopped for their own safety and the safety of other people.
“I am really disappointed that there are still people who feel they are beyond the law, whether because they are persistent offenders or because they believe they are immune to arrest.
“Officers tell me they often stop mothers driving their children to and from places. Last Saturday, our safest option was a Sussex Police officer giving a group of children a lift home from a night out because their mother had been arrested on suspicion of drink driving.
“Collisions are not just happening because of bad weather, as the weather hasn’t been particularly bad. It isn’t that the roads are bad. It is simply that many people are behaving like idiots by driving dangerously and thinking that it won’t happen to them.
“Too many families in Sussex are spending this Christmas mourning family and friends who have been killed on the roads of Sussex this year, or will spend it in hospital with loved ones because of the selfish actions of others.
“Please take care on the roads and make sure you – and everyone you meet – gets where you want to go safely.”
Superintendent Jane Derrick, the head of roads policing in Sussex and Surrey, said: “A lot of people on the roads are putting more emphasis on rushing to get to their destination instead of making sure they get there in one piece.
“We are doing all we can to stop those who are putting other people in danger but we need road users to take some responsibility for their own actions.
“Make sure your vehicle is in a good condition before you use it. Slow down, drive appropriately to the conditions and be aware of other road users.
“No one else can dictate how you drive. It really is up to you to decide at the start of every journey whether you are going to drive responsibly or whether you are going to put yourself and other people at risk.
“Every death on the roads is tragic and we have had a number of them already this month in Sussex. Think about how it would affect your family and friends if you were killed in a collision - or how the loved ones of your victims would be affected.”
Motorists are encouraged to check their vehicles are roadworthy before they start journeys, including making sure their windscreen wipers and lights are working and that their tyres are properly inflated and have plenty of grip.
They are also being urged to reduce their speed, increase their stopping distances and to be alert for how other road users are being affected by the conditions.
Cyclists are being encouraged to make sure they can see and be seen on the roads, to check their bikes are in a good condition and to be aware of other road users.
Pedestrians are being asked to take extra care on slippy pavements and when they are crossing the road, including giving vehicles extra time to stop.
If you see a vehicle being driven dangerously call 999. To report a vehicle being driven antisocially text 65999 or report it at www.operationcrackdown.co.uk