Road Safety GB has published position statements on the following road safety issues:
Whilst the UK has generally a good road safety record when compared to other European countries the record for child road safety, especially for child pedestrians, has often been less good. As recently as 2015 the World Health Organisation placed the UK 3rd worst for child pedestrian fatalities in Western Europe.
In 2016, 69 child pedestrians aged under 16 were killed on Britain’s roads. There were also 2,033 serious injuries (Department for Transport).
Generally children under the age of 10 lack the life experience to accurately judge distance and speed of approaching traffic. Anything that can help children enhance their development of these skills is encouraged by Road Safety GB, including parents involving their children in the discussions around decision making at the road side and structured, practical pedestrian training.
Road Safety GB supports the government’s Child Pedestrian Strategy which lays the responsibility for child pedestrian safety firmly at the door of drivers; adults who control large, heavy objects. We also want to see effective practical pedestrian training available for all children. Road Safety GB also encourages parents to accept the responsibility of their children while out and about near the Highway.
Be bright, be seen
Road Safety GB supports the national Be Bright, Be Seen campaign and similar campaigns used by many local authorities. We urge all road users to make sure they can see and be seen more easily as a way to reduce their vulnerability. Pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and horse-riders will benefit from wearing fluorescent clothes during the day and reflective materials at night.
Drivers and riders should ensure their vehicles’ lights work properly and are kept clean, whilst pedestrians and other road users can use lights to attract the attention of drivers to their presence. In addition to the requirements in the Highway Code for the use of lights, strobe or flashing lights can be helpful by creating a sense of movement to attract drivers’ attention.
Road Safety GB considers cycling to be a healthy and environmentally friendly form of transport. We recognise also that cyclists have the same road user rights as all other road users.
As more people are encouraged to take up cycling, Road Safety GB is keen to help them do so as safely as possible. Our members are responsible for promoting and publicising cycling safety and most of them provide education, training and information to cyclists of all ages.
We would like to see all cyclists have the opportunity to receive appropriate training before riding on the roads.
Driver behaviour often places cyclists at greater risk so we urge drivers to share the road responsibly and considerately, e.g. ensure they slow down and give cyclists plenty of room when passing.
Road Safety GB would support the requirement for all adult cyclists (aged 16 and over) who ride on the public highway to have appropriate public liability insurance, either through their home insurance or separate insurance cover.
Cyclist safety helmets
Whilst wearing a helmet will not reduce the chances of being in a crash, we strongly encourage all cyclists to wear an approved cycle helmet to provide added protection in the event of a fall or crash, as well as to use appropriate high-visibility materials on their bike and clothing to enhance the ability of others to see them. Cyclists should also ride a well-maintained bike with the required lights used at the appropriate times and follow the Highway Code.
Road Safety GB encourages Government to scientifically investigate the value of cyclist helmets in terms of injury severity reduction and the affect that compulsory helmet wearing could bring in the long term.
We also support the need for compulsory training in preparation for purposeful cycling on the public highway (i.e. not for off-road play), where those aged 16 and over riding on the road at least complete an appropriate basic cyclist training course.
Daylight saving time
Road Safety GB supports efforts for the government to change over to Double British Summer Time giving an extra hour of daylight for people driving home from work and school in the winter months. Lighter evenings all year round would help all road users, as when the clocks change there is a measurable increase in crashes in March and October.
As well as other environmental benefits, research shows that every year this could save up to 285 injury crashes on the roads (Road Safety Analysis).
Driver / passenger safety
Road Safety GB’s advice to motorists is – If you drive, don’t drink and if you drink, don’t drive. Road Safety GB supports lowering the blood alcohol limit. As a first step, Road Safety GB wants the government to bring the limit down from 80mg in 100ml of blood to 50mg. This limit would then be in line with most European Union member states. Road Safety GB also supports routine breath testing at the scene of all road crashes.
Road Safety GB calls on the Government to carry out research into the extent of drug driving whether by illegal substances or prescribed medicines. Road Safety GB supports the introduction of approved road side drug testing equipment for the police as it increases the fear of detection amongst drug drivers.
More needs to be done to educate drivers of the dangers in taking anything which undermines their judgement, or ability to react appropriately behind the wheel.
It is illegal to use a hand-held mobile phone when you are driving, even if you are stationary at traffic lights or in a queue of traffic.
Drivers using hands-free mobile phones may be compliant with the law but are still at an increased risk compared with those who do not use a phone whilst driving.
It is the conversation element of the phone call and not necessarily the act of holding the phone that creates impairment for the driver. Using a mobile phone is not the same as a conversation with a passenger as passengers can contribute to helping a driver deal with an emerging or complex situation. Callers on a mobile phone have no idea of the driver’s situation or the developing problems and will continue to impair driver attention by discussing something unrelated to the driving event at that time. A further impairment to drivers using mobile phones is the human tendency to try and visualize either the caller or the subject they are discussing, this further impairs drivers attention for the road.
Road Safety GB urges drivers to switch off all mobile phones when driving and encourages the police to increase enforcement of mobile phone offences. Using a hands-free mobile phone can also distract drivers’ attention – the safest course of action is to divert calls to voicemail and switch off the phone or put it out of sight and reach. Road Safety GB supports the higher penalties introduced in 2017 for using a mobile phone while driving.
Driving for Work
About one-third of all road traffic collisions involve someone who is at work at the time, meaning up to 600 deaths every year and 450 serious injuries per week involve ‘at work’ drivers.
Employers have a legal responsibility to ensure the health and safety of all employees while they are at work. Road Safety GB urges employers to carry out risk assessments and develop effective policies for work-related driving activity, maintain company vehicles in a safe condition and not place inappropriate pressure on their drivers.
Employees should not be put at risk by driving long distances without time for appropriate breaks or be expected to use a mobile phone while driving. Employees should also have their driving day planned appropriately so that they have time to carry out their duties without breaking the speed limit or the need to drive carelessly or recklessly.
Young drivers (17-24 year olds), and young men especially, are over represented in road crashes; they are a small number of drivers and are involved in a larger amount of crashes. Younger drivers are up to seven times more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared with drivers over 25, and lack of experience is an important factor.
While welcoming what the government has already done to help address this issue, for example changes to the driving test and introducing the New Drivers Act, Road Safety GB believes the government could do more. In particular, Road Safety GB urges the government to develop graduated driver licensing in the UK based on the experiences from other countries.
We also wish to see the insurance industry being more positive towards new drivers and to find ways of encouraging them to take more supervised practice and post-test development.
Road Safety GB welcomes learners being able to practice motorway driving with an approved driving instructor in a dual controlled vehicle.
Road Safety GB encourages all motorists to take post-test training to develop effective skills and attitudes. Examples include Pass Plus and advanced driving or motorcycling courses.
Seat belts are life savers. They can make the difference between life and death in a crash and can reduce the severity of injuries.
Road Safety GB stresses the importance of belting up on every journey (no matter how short) in the front and back of the vehicle, and making sure the seat belt is worn correctly. We recognise the influence drivers can have on their passengers choice to wear a seatbelt; if the driver wears their there is more chance passengers will choose to wear theirs.
Child car seats / restraints
The safety of children in cars is a high priority. It is compulsory for children under age 12, or up to 135cms in height, to use the correct child restraint – either a suitable car seat or booster seat with a back support. Research shows that up to the height of 150cm children would still benefit greatly from using an appropriate child seat.
Road Safety GB urges parents to ensure they, and others who drive their children, comply with the law. Road Safety GB also supports the police in enforcing the law with the hard core of drivers who place children at greater risk by refusing to comply.
Penalties for not using Seat belts
Road Safety GB believes there should be penalty points and a heavier fine for drivers who do not ensure their under-14 year old passengers are wearing seat belts or the appropriate child restraint.
Motorcyclists are just 1% of all road traffic but account for 19% of all road user deaths in the UK (THINK!); they are up to 40 times more likely to be killed than car drivers.
Road Safety GB urges motorcyclists to wear appropriate safety gear and ride defensively and calls on drivers to be more aware of motorcyclists and to take longer to look for bikes, especially at junctions and when overtaking, and to give them plenty of room.
Speed and safety cameras
Excessive speed, i.e. exceeding the posted speed limit, is a contributory factor in road crashes, whilst inappropriate speed for the conditions (below the limit but the wrong choice of speed for the prevailing conditions) also plays a large part in traffic collisions.
Road Safety GB urges drivers to drive at an appropriate speed that is within the limit and appropriate for the situation they are in; the choice of ‘appropriateness’ will change not just day to day but probably minute to minute and be based on time of day, complexity of hazards, presence of other road users, weather and road conditions, etc.
If you hit an adult pedestrian while driving at 30mph there is a 7% chance they may die. Hit a pedestrian while driving at 40mph, their chances of dying rise to 1 in 3 (Department for Transport). Small increases in speed can dramatically affect the injury severity of crash.
20mph limits / zones
Intuitively many people feel 20mph limits applied to roads around school would achieve significant casualty reduction benefit. However, around most schools there is not a casualty problem to solve, as most vehicles are already driving close to 20mph due the obvious complexity of the situation; lots of children, parked cars, etc. In such situations it could just mean drivers passing through at less complex times (e.g. early morning during the summer holidays) are forced to drive well below what could be a safe speed and those who don’t could face prosecution.
Rather than pure casualty reduction, what 20mph limits do achieve is a better environment for pedestrian and cyclists meaning more people perceive the area to be safer which in turn encourages more people to walk and cycle.
There are opportunities to broaden the use of 20mph limits into whole areas called zones. Whilst these require significant investment to ‘traffic calm’ an area they can contribute to helping the safety of the most vulnerable road users, typically pedestrians and cyclists. However, due to the overall cost of implementing such zones many local authorities will be challenged to justify such spending without a clear casualty reduction benefit.
Road Safety GB supports engineered speed reduction initiatives that are designed within a safe systems approach, where measures have been introduced to limit the capability of a driver to drive at inappropriate speeds and speeds above the posted limit.
Urban roads (speed limits of 40mph or below) generally see the most personal injury crashes (all severity) as that’s where most people travel. However, most fatal and serious injuries do not happen on urban roads, even though most vulnerable road users (especially pedestrians and cyclists) are killed or seriously injured in these areas.
These areas have complex hazards (other road users, shared carriageway, junctions, traffic lights, roundabouts, etc.) but comparatively low speeds.
Rural roads (speed limits of above 40mph) generally see most fatal and serious crashes; over half of all fatal and serious crashes happen rural (non built-up) roads.
These areas have similar complex hazards to Urban roads (other road users, shared carriageway, junctions, traffic lights, roundabouts, etc.) and comparatively higher speeds.
These areas have comparatively less complex hazards (separate carriageways, separating barrier, traffic moving in one direction, no pedestrians or roundabouts, etc.) but significantly higher speeds. Overall Motorways are the safest roads in the UK as less fatal and serious crashes happen on these roads.
Road Safety GB encourages drivers to slow down and drive at speeds appropriate for the conditions at the time, and supports engineering measures that can make roads safer.
Road Safety GB supports the use of safety cameras and other technologies which are proven casualty reduction measures. We support speed cameras to encourage drivers to reduce their speed and travel within the speed limit and red light cameras to reduce red light jumping.
Sleep does not occur without warning so drivers know when they are starting to fall asleep and ignoring the signs is placing them and others at great risk. Opening windows and turning music up are not long-lasting solutions to tiredness behind the wheel.
Road Safety GB advises drivers to plan their journeys to avoid times when they are likely to be tired, e.g. a long drive after a day at work, following physical exertion or driving in the early hours. Road Safety GB also advises taking a 15-minute break every two hours and drinking a cup of coffee or a high caffeine drink, allowing 10-15 minutes for it to take effect before proceeding, but this is still only a short term help and the only solution is proper rest.
Distraction for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists) is a major issue, although rarely is it a specific contributory factor on a Police collision reports, because people rarely admit to it.
When a road user’s attention is divided it is more difficult to be fully aware of the situation and risks, and the ability to make good decisions or perform the primary task safely, such as driving, crossing the road, cycling, etc., becomes more difficult.
Distractions can include obvious things like using a mobile phone or sat nav, but also dealing with children, trying to eat or drink, listening to music and thinking about the purpose of the journey more than the journey itself.
Distractions can be visual (just looking away from the road), cognitive (thinking about other things, contemplating etc), physical (tune the radio, sat nav, texting) or auditory (loud music, hands free conversation).
Road Safety GB encourages responsible road use including the need to minimise distractions. We also recognise the benefit of reducing roadside distractions such as advertising signs and street clutter that may add to a road user’s burden and affect their ability to concentrate.
Road Safety GB supports the ’safe systems’ approach to infrastructure, reducing clutter and ensuring signs are ergonomically designed and easy to understand and read.
Older Road Users
There is no age definition of ‘older road user’ as we each age at different rates, although many noticeable age related effects on road user ability begin to manifest from 65 onwards with particularly noticeable effects often starting from age 75.
As we age we naturally lose some of our ability to do some of the things we used to. As this deterioration happens gradually it’s not always easy for us to spot it so we carry on expecting to be able to deal with situations as we always have. The most commonly affect abilities include eyesight, hearing, ability to react swiftly, memory and flexibility and speed of movement.
A further challenge for older road users is that the ability to recover after a serious injury is compromised with age. Bones become more brittle and tissue takes longer to repair, so some incidents can take on an additional level of complexity for health care professionals.
Road Safety GB is a leading partner in the Older Road User Conference that brings together road safety professionals and those committed to supporting older road users maintain their independence whilst enhancing their safety.
For pedestrians the natural changes may affect our ability to judge distance and speed of approaching traffic, making it harder to asses a safe gap in which to cross. It may also become more difficult to carry out a proper visual scan of the road before crossing at junctions and indeed to be able to cross quickly enough.
Older pedestrians may also be confused by the introduction of new technology, like new style crossing facilities like Puffin crossings, and changes to road layout.
Research identifies areas of difficulty for older drivers; that is those maneuvers that create most harm for them and others. These key areas especially appear to be ‘making right turns’ and ‘joining fast moving traffic’. It could be that the deterioration in eyesight and the ability to judge the speed of approaching traffic, combined with loss of flexibility in the neck and shoulders to allow body turn to look right and behind, are contributory factors in these problem areas.
The warning signs may be there that abilities are declining in the ‘sudden’ appearance of other road users, the appearance of knocks and dents in car bodywork or the increase in other road users sounding their horn. Should a driver notice such things or have any concerns for their ability then they should discuss them with their GP. It is possible to be referred to the NHS Driver Ability services who work with individuals to assess both cognitive and physical ability and then recommend ways of maintaining their independent road user status.
There are in the region of 37.5 Million registered vehicles in the UK (gov.uk) and an estimated 1.3 Million regular horse riders (British Horse Society), both of whom share the same right to use the road and with it the responsibilities of using the road safely and courteously.
Whilst the number of horse and rider casualties is very small in comparison to overall road casualties, drivers need to acknowledge that horses are unpredictable and powerful animals that can be easily spooked by moving traffic and sudden or loud noises. Following some simple steps collisions involving horses could be reduced further:
• All road users should be familiar with the needs and vulnerability of horse riders.
• When passing horses give them a wide berth, go slowly and be prepared to stop if necessary.
• Wearing approved standard riding equipment including riding hats and hi-viz materials
• Children and inexperienced riders should be accompanied on the road by a responsible adult
Road Safety GB supports the aims, objectives and delivery of the British Horse Society Riding and Road Safety Tests, and supports the BHS campaign horseaccidents.org.uk. We would also support the requirement for all adult riders (aged 16 and over) who ride on the public highway to have appropriate public liability insurance, either through their home insurance or separate insurance cover.
Many local authorities are adopting Vision Zero as a target for road casualties. The aim of reducing all killed and seriously injured collisions is welcomed by Road Safety GB. It is important to continue to work in partnership with Road Safety Engineers, Police, Fire service and all other agencies involved in casualty reduction.
Developing road safety educationalists to deliver high quality information, advice and training is an important factor in focusing on this target. Road Safety GB, through its Academy, provides high quality development for road safety professionals to provide them with the skills to construct, deliver and evaluate effective casualty reduction interventions.