Formula One attacked over road-safety 'hijack'

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The Independent Online

A leading road safety expert has launched a scathing attack on Formula One and the car industry for attempting to "hijack" global road safety policy.

Professor Ian Roberts from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine said the creation of a Commission for Global Road Safety by the car lobby – to set the policy agenda for road safety in poor countries – is tantamount to asking the fox to look after the chickens.

Figures published last month showed that the number of deaths and serious accidents involving motorcyclists leapt by a quarter in the first three months of this year in the UK. There was also a 14 per cent rise in children dying or seriously injured in accidents, the Department for Transport said.

The commission was set up last year by a charitable foundation established by the Federation Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), the governing body of motorsport, to encourage the G8 countries and international donors to invest more in road safety.

But although it has succeeded in raising the profile of road safety, thanks to Formula One's ability to influence leading political figures, its solutions are biased towards motorists, ignore the needs of pedestrians and cyclists and will harm the environment, Professor Roberts said.

Members of the commission include a director of General Motors, a board member of Bridgestone Corporation, the international tyre maker, the president of the Russian Automobile Association and the Grand Prix racing champion Michael Schumacher. Its patron is Prince Michael of Kent, a former racing driver. Professor Roberts said: "Working through the commission, the FIA and the car lobby have manoeuvred themselves into a leading role in global road safety. They aim to set the policy agenda for road safety which would give them considerable influence in global transport policy. They do not intend to fund road safety efforts themselves but will dictate how other organisations spend their money and in particular how development money is spent." His views are published in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.

The FIA Foundation dismissed the claims as "totally false". It said the foundation funded a wide range of road safety activities and was not working "against the interests of vulnerable road users". It said the commission had 12 members including a medical professor, an economist and an expert in road safety.

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