UK

Children's road safety TV adverts axed in England

Tufty and friends cross the road
Image caption Tufty the road safety squirrel was popular with children

Road safety adverts will no longer be shown on television in England because the Department for Transport has decided to "re-prioritise" its budget.

TV adverts have been shown since the 60s, with characters such as Tufty the squirrel and the Green Cross Code Man.

A DfT spokeswoman said the adverts would not be broadcast as a consequence of budget changes.

The Royal Society for Prevention of Accidents (Rospa) said TV campaigns "help save lives and prevent injuries".

As part of the coalition government's spending review, announced in 2010 to tackle the deficit, the Department for Transport has to cut spending by £683m.

'Financial burden'

At the time, the department said it was "reducing the resources allocated to road safety research and marketing, distributing more of the available money instead for use in local targeted initiatives".

Commenting on the cutting of TV adverts, road safety Minister Stephen Hammond said: "Road deaths are at a record low but we know that one death is one too many.

"We are working closely with local authorities and other partners to ensure our road safety messages are reaching children and teenagers in schools as well as providing educational resources to allow these important messages to be incorporated into the curriculum."

The department spokeswoman said that local authorities would continue to work with schools to promote road safety.

Figures released to the Mail on Sunday under a Freedom on Information request show that the road safety publicity budget was £19m in 2008/09, and had dropped to £3.9m in 2011/12.

The department's Think! campaign has a budget of £3.6m, with £78,000 of that spent on educating children about road safety.

Shadow transport secretary Maria Eagle said: "This government must take responsibility if these cuts mean more children are killed or injured on our roads."

Rospa, which introduced Tufty as a character, said TV campaigns had helped "to create a high level of road safety awareness over a long period, and are one of the reasons why Great Britain has been able to significantly reduce the number of people being killed on our roads".

Rospa's head of road safety, Kevin Clinton, said: "While road safety must face its share of cuts in public spending, road accidents are an enormous financial burden that the country can ill-afford.

"Investing in preventing road casualties, through measures such as television campaigns, makes a significant economic contribution and helps to save lives and prevent injuries."

'Worrying cut'

On average in the mid-1990s, 260 children were killed on Britain's roads every year; by 2011, the number had fallen to 60 children, he said.

"However, that was an increase from the previous year, which is very worrying, and we need to ensure it is not the start of an upward trend in child road deaths and injuries," he added.

Road safety charity Brake said it was "extremely disappointing" that television adverts were being cut.

"We have been calling for more prime-time advertising for some time. It's very worrying that they are being cut, because we still have a high child pedestrian accident rate. This is going to have an impact and lives are going to be lost," spokeswoman Sarah Fatica said.

She added that broad measures to educate children, including through parents, carers and teachers, was still important, and welcomed continuing funding for local authorities, but said it was "still a concern" that TV adverts were being cut.

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