Each year around 3,500 people are killed on our roads and 40,000 are seriously injured. In total, there are over 300,000 road casualties every year. That is an enormous toll of lives shattered, hearts broken.
I have received countless letters from parents, brothers, sisters, friends of those killed and injured on our roads. Every one tells of a family devastated, lives blighted, of pain, sorrow and anger and the waste of it. And every one is painful to read.
Just before last Christmas I met a delegation of children, parents and campaigners to talk about road safety. Many had travelled a considerable distance to tell me why they thought we should make road safety, and particularly child safety, a priority.
I was very moved by their experiences and their commitment. And I promised that we would take action.
Which is not to say we have a bad record on road safety. Britain has had remarkable success in reducing road casualties and we now have one of the best records in Europe, and indeed the world.
But a good record isn't enough.
That is why we have announced demanding new targets for reductions in the number of people killed and seriously injured on our roads.
And a particularly ambitious target for children.
By 2010 we will aim to have achieved:
* a further 50% reduction in the numbers of children killed or seriously injured;
* a further 40% overall reduction in the numbers of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents; and
* a further 10% reduction in the slight casualty rate.
Although our overall record for child safety is relatively good, our child pedestrian record is poor in comparison.
Last year, 103 children were killed as pedestrians on our roads - 103 too many.
This is why we are setting a specific, much tougher target for children killed or seriously injured in road accidents.
And drivers are far more likely to kill if they are travelling at speed.
We will expect local authorities to take action to control speeds in areas where children are most vulnerable, particularly around schools.
Our strategy is to target the problem and take effective action to deal with it. So:
* we will ensure all local authorities conduct a child safety audit. I expect local authorities to introduce many more traffic-calmed 20mph zones, as a result, focussed on schools, on where people live and on children's routes to school;
* we will improve the way we educate our children to be safer when using the road. It is not only about drivers taking care, or slower speeds, it is also about helping children and others to understand better the risks they face and how to deal with them;
* and we will do more to target those who are particularly vulnerable - children in deprived areas, and children changing from primary to secondary school.
Much has been said about speeds and speed limits. Research shows us that speed, more than anything else, is what is killing people. So controlling speed is at the heart of our strategy.
When you realise that 85% of pedestrians hit at 40mph will die, compared to 45% at 30mph and 5% at 20mph. Speed kills just as effectively as drink driving. These are impressive and telling figures.
Speed can make the difference between life and death.
Speed limits are there for a specific purpose.
With local authorities, we will take a long hard look at how we design roads and at the limits we set.
To check that local authorities get speed limits right, we will provide detailed guidance.
And we will take tough new steps to enforce speed limits and discourage dangerous driving, with tougher penalties set out in the major new review the Home Office is carrying out with the DETR.
Our new strategy is a key element in our drive to improve transport safety generally. It has my very strong personal support. I believe it is possible to achieve the new casualty reduction targets. There is no doubt that measures taken in the last few years have had an effect. Our strategy will focus especially on speed. By working in partnership we can make a difference. With your help Britain can be a safer and more civilised place for everyone.