Sister of Moortown mum killed in tragic crash backs Leeds Council's Vision Zero road deaths strategy
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The Leeds Vision Zero 2040 masterplan first launched in October 2022 in response to concerning data – showing a spike in the number of serious and fatal crashes in Leeds – with an ambition to make Leeds “the safest city in the UK”.
Of those, 1,512 were classed as serious and fatal (21 per cent), and 93 people died as a result.
Crucially, the number of serious and fatal collisions on Leeds roads had gradually fallen every year, the data shows, from 302 in 2017, to a five-year low of 212 during 2020, when Covid-19 lockdowns were enforced.
However, this figure rose to 344 - a 62 per cent rise year-on-year - in 2021, the latest dataset available according to Leeds City Council.
Tragically, the number of people who died in Leeds crashes in 2021 nearly doubled when compared to the previous year, from 11 to 19.
In order to cut the number of serious crashes on the city’s roads, several different strands are now being planned under the new Vision Zero strategy.
Known as ‘pillars’ of the strategy, one focuses on considering speed limit reductions on faster roads to 50mph, with the exception of motorways.
Laura Wilson, who lost her sister in a tragic crash in the Leeds village of Thorner, has thrown her weight behind the strategy and said that cutting speed limits on certain roads would “save lives, literally”.
Mum-of-two Victoria Wilson, known as Tori, and friend Sacha Holmes, died after the car they were travelling in collided with a tree on Carr Lane.
The crash happened on October 29, 2020 and their deaths prompted an outpouring of sadness and tributes from the community.
Tori, from Moortown, described as “a gentle soul”, tragically celebrated her birthday just days before the collision.
Her sister Laura, now also 30, said the death of her sister had “absolutely devastated” the family.
“I spent a lot of time with her growing up and in my adult life, and it’s been very, very difficult,” she told the Yorkshire Evening Post.
“It took some time, I think, to hit me because I was with her all the time.
“And I was kind of fooling myself, as if she was still alive, like I would still pull up outside the house and sit there and wait for her to come out.
“She was the glue to the family. She was just there, all the time for everybody, for anybody.
“And obviously without her, there’s a massive missing piece. She is missed dearly by family, friends and anyone who has come into contact with her.”
Tori was a passenger in the car which was travelling on a country lane when it collided with a tree in 2020. Laura said she believes the speed limit on that road should be reduced significantly.
Between 2017 and 2021, speed was recorded as a contributing factor to the serious injuries of 188 people in Leeds, some of whom died, according to Vision Zero data.
Laura said: “You could go into Thorner and speak to the whole village and they would tell you the same: ‘That road [Carr Lane] is a death trap’.
“Even with somebody dying there, we still haven’t been able to get that road [speed] reduced.
“The Thorner village has had endless meetings about that road and nothing’s been done of it. So if the council could get onto that road, that’d be brilliant. It would save lives, literally.”
Alongside plans to re-think speed limits, Vision Zero outlines proposals to rely more on speed cameras.
Laura said the council’s pledge to reduce road deaths to zero by 2040 is a “really good thing”, but said she thought human behaviour was a factor.
“Regardless of when it is, it needs to happen,” she said.
“I think they could reduce it drastically by putting measures in place but there's always people who do try to drive dangerously or do get into a car intoxicated.
“Unfortunately, you have no control over the people behind the wheel.”
Speaking to the YEP, she said: “It's gonna be very, very difficult. But it is possible to change behaviour and it's possible to change attitudes.”
Coun Hayden said she could remember the backlash when seat belts were first introduced but said now most people wouldn’t think to drive without them.
“People will not like it - and they will see it as an infringement of their freedom,” she said.
“But just like seat belts, just like drink-driving, just like smoking inside, which is a really really relevant example of behaviour change, it can happen but it does take time.”
While Vision Zero is still in its early stages – and it could be years before any enforcement comes into effect – it has already been criticised for being overly-idealistic.
In response, Coun Hayden said: “We should be held to account if we didn't have this ambition, if we thought it was okay for people to die on our roads, these are preventable deaths.
“It should be everybody's ideal and it is completely achievable. We can make this the safest city in the UK.”
There are five ‘pillars’ forming Vision Zero:
Safe behaviour and people: finding ways to reduce seatbelt offences, driving under the influence, distracted and careless driving.
Safe speeds: working with partners such as West Yorkshire Police to enforce speed compliance. There is also a consideration to reduce speed limits on faster roads to 50mph.
Safe roads: looking at design of streets to ensures that they are safe for active travel and pedestrians.
Safe vehicles: exploring how technology and design features can help to prevent crashes.
Find out more information about Leeds Vision Zero 2040 via the website.