Safety campaign continues, 10 years after the tragic loss of Eilidh

Much has been achieved to make our roads safer in the decade since Eilidh Cairns was tragically killed by a lorry, but there is still lots to be done.

Thursday, 7th February 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Thursday, 7th February 2019, 17:16 pm
Kate Cairns has campaigned for mandatory safety improvements to be made to lorries.

February 5 marked 10 years since Eilidh, 30, from Ellingham, died after being knocked off her bike by a heavy goods vehicle while she cycled to work in London.

Her sister, Kate, has since campaigned vociferously for mandatory safety improvements to be made to lorries, founding the See Me Save Me campaign, which calls for the elimination of death and injury under the wheels of lorries.

Eilidh Cairns

On the anniversary of Eilidh’s death, Kate, 46, has reiterated her vow not to give up until dangerous lorries with poor visibility, like the one involved in Elidh’s death, become a thing of the past.

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“A lot has happened over the last 10 years but I am still affected by her death, as are my parents and Eilidh’s friends,” said Kate.

“It caused enormous devastation and this campaign has been a way to try to bring about something positive.

“Nothing can bring her back, but what I can do is try to stop other people suffering what she suffered, it is just so sad that I have had to do it.

“My grief and pain is an indication of how strongly I felt about her and my love for her. I have learned that grief is just the reflection of the love you have for someone. That’s what has driven me.”

The driver of the lorry which struck Eilidh, Joao Correia-Lopes, was fined £200 for driving without corrected vision.

A condition of his sentence was to wear glasses while behind the wheel, but he was allowed to continue driving with just three penalty points imposed on his licence.

In 2012, at Isleworth Crown Court in London, he was jailed for causing the death by dangerous driving of 97-year-old Nora Gutmann, who he hit with his truck while she was on a pedestrian crossing outside Madame Tussaud’s in Marylebone Road, London. He was also banned from driving for six years.

The court heard that Correia-Lopes had been involved in at least three other collisions between Eilidh’s death and that of Mrs Gutmann.

Kate points out that HGVs are grossly disproportionate in cyclist deaths. They are involved in over 50% of cyclist deaths but make up only 4% of traffic. Twice as many pedestrians are killed by HGVs than cyclists.

She has brought about policy and legislative change at European, national and local level as well as instigated and driven a new industry standard, CLOCS (Construction logistics and community safety).

CLOCS looks at vehicles, drivers and operations and covers four key stakeholders – regulators, clients, contractors and fleet operators. It encourages best available vehicles and technology.

The industry CLOCS group was launched in 2013 with around 40 members but has now grown to over 650 promoting safer vehicles across the UK with clients and local authorities specifying the standard in their procurement and planning conditions.

A new London Direct Vision Standard will be introduced this year, which is a five-star rating. Those vehicles not complying will not be permitted to enter the capital.

“This is a world first direct vision standard,” said Kate, an engineer and mum-of-three.

“We’ve been to Europe and changed the law on cab design and want the new London standard to be rolled out across the rest of the UK too. It’s not just a London issue. There are more people killed by lorries outside of London than in it.”

Other successes include submission to the Houses of Parliament and the European Parliament; submitting written evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry to Get Britain Cycling; and instigating the adoption of CLOCS into Northumberland County Council Procurement Strategy.

“It’s not just about the vehicles,” added Kate. “We want the best available vehicles but it’s about the drivers too. If they’re drunk, tired, stressed or hungover, it doesn’t matter how safe the vehicles are.

“The frustrating thing is that there is a solution in the standards agreed by industry which I helped to instigate so now I want to see the infrastructure changed and for authorities to specify the CLOC standard to be in their procurement documents.

“It’s not about blaming the driver if he has been told to get across town as quickly as possible. There is a systematic failure. It’s the company culture within which these guys work. The incentives are such that they have to do their jobs in as short a space of time as possible.”

The profile and emphasis Kate has brought to policy makers and leaders in the construction industry means she is now a sought-after professional speaker.

She presents at corporate health and safety forums, leadership conferences and national industry events, brining a unique combination of her personal and professional expertise. She now advises organisations on their strategy, policies and procedures to manage their work-related road risk.

“When I tell my story and they see how it’s personally affected me and others, I really think it helps them to understand why they need to do what they should be doing in health and safety.”