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OBE recipient calls for change in law to cut deaths caused by reversing HGVs

Christopher Hanson-Abbott, who was recently awarded an OBE for his services for vehicle road safety, is calling again for the mandatory fitment of reverse warning systems on commercial vehicles in a bid to cut the number of fatalities caused by dangerous manoeuvres.

According to current HSE statistics, “nearly a quarter of all deaths involving vehicles at work occur during reversing”. Not much has changed since Hanson-Abbott introduced the reversing alarm to the UK in the 1970s as figures from the HSE at the time revealed that 25% of deaths were as a result of reversing and that over 40% of those fatalities could have been prevented if reversing beepers had been used.

Nearly 40 years later a large proportion of vehicles – both on and off highway – are fitted with reverse warning equipment but, crucially, regulations still omit to make this mandatory.

Having taken almost 40 years to prove his point, demonstrated by the award of an OBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours’ List 2014, Hanson-Abbott is once again calling on the Department for Transport/HSE to take proactive action by legislating for all work vehicles to be equipped with movement safety systems.

However, reversing is not the only hazardous manoeuvre that needs addressing, stresses Hanson-Abbott. Traffic densities have increased since the 1970s with a higher proportion of vulnerable road users, especially cyclists. This means that interventions are now needed to address the problem of blind spots and left-turn manoeuvres in order to improve road safety overall. According to charity Sustrans, every year in the UK around 19,000 cyclists are killed or injured in reported road accidents. The problem is particularly acute in London where 14 cyclists were killed in 2013 – nine involved HGVs.

“It is initially important to make commercial vehicles safer on the road,” says Hanson-Abbott. “Mandatory fitment of reversing alarms would be a positive start –but we also need to address all potentially dangerous vehicle manoeuvres by addressing blind spots etc to make the roads safer for all road users, such as cyclists, the blind, elderly and the young.”

“The law does not go far enough when it comes to preventing reversing accidents. This This urgently needs to be reviewed bearing in mind that the UK is recording the same number of reversing accidents involving a vehicle at work as it did in the 1970s. We also have to recognise that many commercial vehicle manoeuvres are hazardous and it is vital that we highlight this to all road users.”

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