Road Safety News
 

Lively seminar for fire chief

Thursday 23rd January 2014

Chief fire officer Dave Etheridge, chair of the CFOA Road Safety Executive Board, was kept busy answering RSOs questions in a lively online seminar on the Academy website earlier today (23 Jan)

Dave fielded 13 questions about how road safety officers and the fire and rescue service can most effectively work together to help make roads safer for all.

In response to a question about which specific road user groups he felt the Fire & Rescue Service (FRS) was best placed to influence, he suggested those in the 15-24 age range, "who are are hard to influence but will listen to FRS ".

Answering a question about how to improve partnership working and co-ordination, he said that CFOA's road safety executive board has four distinct workstreams to help FRS work with other partners to help deliver road safety. He added that he hopes Road Safety GB will chair one of these workstreams (stakeholders and partners) which he said would be a "giant positive leap" and "send very strong messages to both our organisations".

Asked whether he ever envisaged a role for FRS in road safety enforcement, he said that FRS is currently almost universally welcomed, in part because it is there to "help and educate rather than enforce". He added that "blurring our role over to enforcement could have a detrimental effect on our ability to influence those who are particulalry hard to reach".

Academy members can read all the questions and answers by following this link: http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/academy/pages/seminar-etheridge.html.

Others who would like to see a transcript of the seminar can request a copy from Nick Rawlings.

FOOTNOTE: The Road Safety GB Academy, the professional development arm of Road Safety GB, runs a monthly online seminar programme which is available free of charge to members. Complimentary membership of The Academy is offered to road safety practitioners employed by local authority members of Road Safety GB – up to a maximum of 10 places per authority. Applications are also welcomed from practitioners working in the private and voluntary sector, subject to meeting the membership criteria. The annual cost of membership for these practitioners is £35. For more details or to apply for membership visit The Academy website or contact Emma Norton, head of membership.

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My original response to Nigel's desire to see everybody prosecuted with no if's or but's if they were to run into the back of another car was what prompted my explanation of the various human factors that sometimes conspire to cause these collisions. I am all in favour of maintaining suitable amount of headway to the vehicle in front and looking out for potential conflicts etc, but all I wanted to do was to show that in certain circumstances even the most observant and skilled of drivers can fall prey to this phenomenon.

The looming effect also plays a significant role in the SMIDSY accident where a car pulls out in front of a motorbike or cycle so it would be wise to keep students informed of these error forms so that they can better understand that even the best trained of them can make these sort of mistakes.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)
+3

Duncan: Fascinating analysis I'm sure, but simply maintaining a safe stopping distance from the vehicle in front has always worked for me and most others, I would think.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)
+1

Nigel: I think we mean the same thing. Your phrase 'Looking out for areas of potential conflict in order to avoid them' more or less sums up what I would call defensive driving anyway. 'Expecting the unexpected', 'Defending yourself against other's mistakes' etc. I'm sure there are other 'definitions', but whatever we call it, it's the key to not being involved in an accident. Getting the rest of the motoring population to understand and actually do it is the tricky bit!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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+5

Duncan wrote: 'we humans cannot be alert to something we cannot sense'.

Sorry, Duncan, to disagree with you. You may be coming from a scientific angle, presumably stats and all of that. But I was involved in advanced driver training for over 30 years and never had a problem getting people to keep suitable distance and/or be aware if that distance was shortening for any reason. If people are motivated enough they will find a way of doing it. If the stick effect (providing the carrot doesn't work) is strong enough be it for speeding or whatever, they will do it, period, because the instinct of self preservation is stronger than anything else. I will go with Hugh except that I don't particularly like the mindset associated with defensive driving. I prefer something related to alertness. In commentary I always used, 'Looking out for areas of potential conflict in order to avoid them'. It's a more pro-active approach. The term 'defensive' does make me cringe a bit, I'm afraid, but that maybe just me.
Nigel ALBRIGHT

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)
-1

The very point I am making Hugh is that there is no amount of training/punishment/whatever that can make the human being able to sense things that they have no sensory equipment for.

Just to prove this I would like everybody on this forum to do a little experiment. You will need a clock or watch with a sweep second hand and a couple of minutes of your time.

Look at the clock or watch. You will easily see the sweep second hand moving, and you might, if you're lucky, see the minute hand moving, but you will NOT see the hour hand moving no matter how long you stare at it.

We all know that the hour hand is actually moving, but because it moves at less than 4 milliradians per second our brain simply cannot detect the movement.

The reason that we do not keep crashing into the back of the vehicle in front is that for most of the time the relative movements between us and them exceeds the movement detection threshold, but in those rare times when it does not then the possibility of a crash becomes elevated.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)
+2

If Duncan is right, how come we're not all perpetually crashing into the vehicles in front? At the end of the day, it's down to poor driving.. full stop.(no pun intended).
We can train ourselves to 'be alert to some things we cannot sense' - it's called defensive driving.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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0

My point was Nigel that we humans cannot be alert to something we cannot sense no matter how diabolical you make the punishment for not doing so.

You cannot punish safety into a system, but what you can do is to learn from every error, slip, lapse, mistake and even deliberate acts in order to work out ways of reducing the incidence of crashes and accidents.

I wonder how many people reading these posts knew about the looming effect and the 4 milliradian detection threshold? Not many I would suggest, but knowledge like this can help a great deal in designing interventions that will help mitigate the problem whereas punsishment cannot help at all to improve things.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)
0

I appreciate your technical appraisal, Duncan. That is interesting and I understand it. However, in one sense that can be a cop out for those who can't be bothered to concentrate enough on what's going on around them. If the news was out drivers will get prosecuted for their vehicle hitting the back of another vehicle they will adjust - and quickly; they will leave more space, pay more attention, and be alert to anything which causes a shortening of the gap. In short, as I have always said, it would be the motive for them taking ownership of their own safety. And that alone would be a massive step forward in road safety in this country. So why don't the powers that be get their heads out of the sand on this?
Nigel ALBRIGHT

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)
+4

Nigel you make an interesting, but incorrect point. The shunt (one of the standard accidents) does not occur because of the amount of headway between one vehicle and another, but in the driver's ability to detect any changes in that amount! Brake lights became commonplace simply because we have huge difficulties in detecting changes in headway which is down to something called the 'looming effect'.

We determine the time to arrival of any object by the rate of change in its angular extent on our retina, or in other words by the rate of change of the size of the object we are following. There is a limit to this ability which for all intents and purposes is around 4 milliradians per second. Any change under 4 cannot be detected, but as soon as it exceeds 4 then we become immediately aware of it.

Objects double in size with each halving of the distance between them and an observer, so we can see that for any given rate of change in distance the object will remain quite small for a long time until it suddenly 'looms' large in front of us. It is then the drivers reaction to this sudden realisation that headway has changed that is at the root of all shunt accidents.

The two second rule is very good advice and makes perfect sense, but it must be understood that it only works with certain rates of change and is by no means a universal cure-all.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)
+4

Following Nigel's first comment, I have a sneaking suspicion that not all attending Police Officers see a road accident as necessarily a direct consequence of a particular driving offence and may (wrongly) see it as "just an accident" and therefore not necessarily look for a reason to prosecute anyone, especially if no-one was hurt and there is little or no reliable evidence i.e. witnesses.

It needs to be remembered however, that an offence of the type Nigel described, could just as easily result in a fatality as it could a damage-only and to not at least try and prosecute in all cases may therefore be short-sighted. The sooner we all have dash-cams and black boxes on our vehicles, the easier it will be for stronger action to be taken against the culprits.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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+2

Thanks for your comment Peter. To my mind anyone two seconds away is on the margins of being able to stop in time if everything goes pear shaped in front of them, because (as on M-Ways) this can happen very quickly. Police driving schools used to use 3-4 seconds in a following position. I remember one police driving instructor saying that he used to say to his students, 'What ever the circumstances can you pull the vehicle up undramatically?'. If people are paying proper attention and have the right following distance there is absolutely no reason why any vehicle should go into the back of another. Considering that most travel at around 1 second or less separation it is fair to say that most are also like the next crash waiting to happen. So when will government policy and road safety organisations get a handle on this very fundamental point?
Nigel ALBRIGHT

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)
+3

Surely drivers and riders should be able to stop in HALF the distance they can see to be clear so when two vehicles are in opposing directions they can both stop avoiding a collision.
Peter Swanwick, Southend-on-Sea

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)
+1

There seem to be so many 'wunderschemes' around in road safety but also seemingly at the expense of some fundamental points which would, to my mind, made such a massive difference in safety on the roads and for road users (particularly drivers) to take ownership of their own safety.

My question to those who 'drive' road safety policies is why they don't push on para 126 of the Highway Code, that drivers 'must be able to stop in the distance they can see to be clear'?

If 30% of crashes are front to rear end shunts, then prosecuting those who go into the back of others (with no ifs or buts) would make a major contribution to road safety and, as above, send the message to drivers that they need to take ownership of their own safety. With the £100 and 3 point penalty from close following, why don't the police pursue this option? This would definitely kill (sic!) two birds with one stone.
Nigel ALBRIGHT

Agree (6) | Disagree (2)
+4