ROAD safety education programmes face being axed and stripped back, despite new figures showing serious smashes at a seven-year high.

Oxfordshire County Council is today bidding to cut £100,000 out of its road safety department each year as part of £119m of savings across the authority.

It comes as new figures show the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) last year rose to 396, the highest since 481 in 2003 and a leap from 345 in 2009.

Cycle helmet promotions and pedestrian lessons are set to lose out, as well as the Yellow Ribbon campaign aimed at educating teenagers about dangers on the road.

Other programmes such as seatbelt safety would only be given on request. The council pledged to help schools and parents deliver programmes instead.

Last night road safety charity Brake described the move as a “false economy”.

A council report said: “Bearing in mind the financial circumstances faced it clear that a modification of the historic service delivery model is required.”

Anita Webb, whose 19-year-old son Neil was killed when the Citroen Saxo he was a front-seat passenger in collided head-on with a BMW in Ardley last October, hit out.

She said: “If the Yellow Ribbon Campaign had been available when my son was at school maybe he would have thought twice about getting into a vehicle that was being driven at speed.”

Ryan Naylor, the Saxo’s driver, was jailed in June for 32 months after admitting causing death by dangerous driving.

Neil’s father Jeff said: “If this person had education and information perhaps this tragedy would not have happened.”

The Yellow Ribbon programme was given until recently by fire officer Bob Paterson, who lost his 13-year-old son Dale in a car accident in 2005.

Southampton-based StopWatch Theatre Company has worked in Oxfordshire for about 20 years and makes about 30 annual visits to schools.

Producer Adrian New said: “We believe performances by ourselves and other companies have played a significant role in the reduction in casualty numbers achieved over that time.”

Oxford Spires Academy headteacher Sue Croft pledged to continue programmes with school cash, but said: “We have got many competing things to spend money on.

“It puts us in a very difficult situation because there will be something else we would not be able to afford.”

Ellen Booth, a senior campaigns officer at road safety charity Brake, said: “As well as the human costs, every death on the road costs the wider economy £1.6m so, in the longer term, making financial savings by cutting road safety education services could be a false economy.”

Council spokesman Owen Morton said the theatre cut will not affect important road safety messages being delivered to children as the issue is taught by schools.

He said: “Many of the other schemes have been developed and are now available electronically for schools to use themselves, rather than our staff delivering them.”

Mr Morton said the council would continue to use its large number of volunteers to educate.

The Government gave the council a target in 2000 to cut KSI collisions by 40 per cent by 2010 from the mid- 1990s average of 544.

The council has only managed a 27 per cent cut. It tried to cut child KSIs by 60 per cent and managed 57 per cent, with 23 killed or seriously injured last year.