LOOKING at the annual ACT road toll, it could be possible to form the conclusion that death on our roads is not a major concern. Deaths so far this year are still in single figures. Last year there were 12 deaths.

Of course, any death is one too many, but those figures mask a wider trauma; a blight on our community that leaves dozens maimed, disfigured or badly scarred for the rest of their lives, hundreds of families torn apart by tragedy, and thousands of workmates, friends and businesses left mourning a loss or injury.

Accidents happen, but alcohol, drugs, speeding, fatigue and inattention are behind too many of them. Studies by the NRMA Road Safety Trust have also shown that Canberrans are over-represented in single-vehicle crashes, and fatigue- and speeding-related fatal crashes on major routes across NSW, particularly at weekends and during holidays. Those figures are not reflected in the ACT road toll, but show many Canberrans are being injured beyond our borders.

The biggest tragedy, of course, is that most of the death and misery is preventable. Which is why the Sunday Canberra Times launches today, in co-operation with law enforcement and emergency services, a campaign to cut the toll this Christmas. In coming weeks we will look at where Canberrans are crashing, what causes those accidents and, importantly, what we as a community can do to minimise the misery on our roads.

As we paint a picture of the true extent of the problem, we ask our readers to join us in efforts to keep Canberrans safe these holidays.

Police can swamp the streets with speed cameras and breath- and drug-testing patrols, and hit bad drivers with heavy fines and double demerit points during high-traffic weekends. But the biggest weapon they have in making the roads safer is the co-operation of the community in taking greater responsibility for their own behaviour and using their influence over family, friends and colleagues to avoid taking unnecessary risks behind the wheel.

As we explore the statistics, talk to experts about the impact and consider ways of reducing the carnage during summer, we ask our readers to join us in this campaign to make our roads safer, and share their thoughts on ways this can be achieved.

There can be no greater gift to the ACT community this Christmas than a fatality-free holiday period. Delivering it, however, will be up to all of us.