Road Safety News
 

Road Safety GB chair gives evidence to Transport Safety Commission

Monday 7th July 2014

Honor Byford, chair of Road Safety GB, last week gave evidence to the Transport Safety Commission’s first inquiry which is looking at “UK Travel Safety: Who is Responsible?

The Transport Safety Commission was formed by PACTS in March 2013. It comprises 16 members drawn from Parliament and the air, rail and road safety professions and related sectors.

The Commission’s first inquiry is setting out to examine the legal framework and institutional responsibilities for transport safety. It is looking at international good practice, to assess whether lessons identified can be transferred from one mode to another.

In April, Road Safety GB submitted a statement of evidence to the inquiry and Honor Byford was subsequently called to appear before the Commission on 3 July.

She answered a number of questions on topics ranging from whether localism is enabling local authorities to decide their own road safety priorities, to the National Road Safety Strategy, and whether a ‘no fault’ reporting process could work for road safety.

Honor Byford said: “I told the Commission that in theory localism should work, but in reality the removal of national targets has lowered the priority and impetus for road safety funding in competition with other areas of work.

“I also pointed out that the country is currently facing a massive problem with the poor condition of our highway network due to many years of inadequate funding for maintenance by successive Governments, and that the chickens have now come home to roost.

“We are now in danger of the same mistake being made with road safety ETP (education, training and publicity). Having made huge progress we now face the prospect of the gains we have made, and the expertise we’ve built up, being lost as road safety teams are drastically cut and, in some areas, entirely dismantled.

“With regard to the National Road Safety Strategy, I told the Commission that in my view the strategy is focussed on penalties rather than prevention, and that the criteria on which offences are selected for increased penalty is unclear.

“The panel also asked whether the no fault reporting process as used in the air, and latterly rail, industries should be applied to road collisions.

“I pointed out that air and rail are closed and controlled systems in which every pilot and train driver is employed by a company, and managed and accountable. This makes reporting, training and control straightforward.

In contrast, the highways are used by millions of people on their individual journeys every day. Whilst I fully understand the potential benefits, I cannot see how the same reporting method could be implemented on such a different system.

“I also told the Commission that there is a growing issue with regard to the reporting of cyclist casualties, particularly where no other vehicle is involved or the collision occurs on an off road cycleway or shared use path.

“Although these collisions are reportable, many cyclists don’t report them and some police officers think they are not reportable unless a motorised vehicle is involved.

“Without accurate and comprehensive reporting it is very difficult for highways authorities to know and understand what is happening, and where. In particular we are concerned that the potential to make improvements on cycle routes where people have been hurt is not being identified.

“In summary, this was an interesting and very useful hearing and we look forward to seeing the Commission’s conclusions in due course.”

Comments

Comment on this story
Report a reader comment

What's your view - comment on this story:

I confirm that I have read and accept the moderation policy and house rules relating to comments posted on this website.
Your comment:
Your name and location:
Your email:

Having spent the last three years in both the academic and practitioner 'worlds' it has been interesting to see how separate they often are.

If we take anything from where this discussion has led, it is that organisations such as RSGB need to find ways to bridge the gap, with platforms such as the Knowledge Centre providing a step in the right direction.

If anyone is interested in where to find more reports or details of projects like these there is also the European Road Safety Observatory http://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/index_en.htm
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)
+1

Duncan
I accept that it is very disappointing that most of us who work or are interested in road safety knew nothing of this work, nor has the outcomes been openly distributed. I agree with you that there may be reasons behind this, probably political or financial, but did you not find the Department of Transport PDF report No73 on the UK on the spot Accident Data Collection Phase Two report useful?
Charles Dunn RoadDriver.co.uk

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)
+3

Conclusions Charles? What conclusions? This is exactly my point that there are no conclusions from all this research. The data and findings have disappeared completely leaving us none the wiser.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)
+1

Speaking of traffic signals reminds me of the short film made by Martin Cassini six years ago. I do not know if a link is permitted or possible but it is still available online from Manic Films:
http://www.maniacfilms.com/maniac/media/fitroads2009.mov
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)
+3

I totally agree with you Duncan, this research work and its conclusions has been a revelation. Thank you to Honor Byford for her contribution and to RSGB for the platform that allowed Matt and David S to share their knowledge. This has been one of those moments where we can all see the power of debate and the fruits of sharing knowledge and expertise.
Charles Dunn RoaDdriver.co.uk

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)
+4

Thanks to Dave S and Matt Staton for contributing to what has proved to be an excellent learning opportunity. Who knew that near-miss data from traffic conflict studies was being collected and who knew that there was an On The Spot Accident Investigation Project?

We didn't know about these things because the people that matter (the road user) have never had any feedback from them. The multi-million pound On the Spot project is still running, still gathering data and has been since 2006 yet not one jot of it has got out to the people for whom it will be of most use. Why is this stuff such a secret? What have these studies found that means they have to be locked away?

The objective of the On the Spot study is to investigate accidents in order to provide:

1. a greater understanding of the contribution of human factors, vehicle design and environment in accident causation and injury outcome;

2. a greater understanding of injury mechanisms to road accident casualties and injury outcome;

3. support for legislation and other standards to reduce accidents and mitigate their effects through the provision of statistically valid data on accident causation and injury.

How can it possibly achieve these very worthy aims if the results are not circulated to everybody that might have an interest in them?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)
+5

Lest anyone thinks there is "nobody out there from the road safety industry actually observing" near-misses, can I suggest they browse the web for Traffic Conflict Studies. There are many published examples of real studies using this, guidance from CIHT/TRL on the technique, and recommendations from DfT and RoSPA on using it.
David S.

Agree (4) | Disagree (0)
+4

Thanks to Matt for bringing our attention to the TRL and Loughborough University report.

What is interesting is that the report says "Multiple-vehicle accidents at junctions were frequent in the sample and had almost as high a proportion of KSI outcome as single-vehicle TWV accidents. Examining these, it was found that another vehicle crossing the path of a TWV at a free-flowing junction showed both frequent incidence and high severity, marking this as the most important multi-vehicle impact configuration for addressing serious accidents."

This begs a couple of questions. If motorcycle crashes at junctions are so important, why doesn't the road safety industry have this problem as an absolute priority? The second question springs from the first and is considering the importance of this type of accident why was the data not presented to any organisations or individuals from the motorcycle industry?
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)
+2

Thank you Matt for bringing this internationally recognised work by Loughborough University, TRL, Nottinghamshire and Thames Valley Police to my attention and the forum. The Department of Transport clearly states that this work proved invaluable to many sectors or the road safety community. Why then does the government not find the resources to role out in depth accident reporting to all police forces in the UK instead of considering non evidenced based fault reporting by amateurs?
Charles Dunn

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)
+5

You make an interesting point, Hugh. When observing traffic it is often difficult to understand why so many of the road users appear oblivious to the crashes they nearly have yet, when we take their place in the traffic, we may well become like them, oblivious to the crashes we nearly have.

When the traffic lights were out one day, I watched one of the busiest junctions in Slough during rush-hour. It looked like chaos but the traffic moved better than any day I've seen with the lights working – and no crashes.

Another set of lights was regularly faulty. There were nearly always big delays when they were working, but never delays when they were faulty. I have started to wonder if we strive for the appearance of safety, rather than actual safety?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (8) | Disagree (2)
+6

Excellent point Hugh! This does rather beg the question that if 'near misses' are so easy to observe and can tell us a great deal, why is there nobody out there from the road safety industry actually observing them?

Good point as well Charles. If we have too many 'bad' drivers then there must be something wrong with the training and testing regime that puts them out there.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)
+4

Charles,
More in depth information is already being collected. Use the following URL for details of a recent DfT funded project undertaken by TRL and Loughborough University https://dspace.lboro.ac.uk/2134/9170
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (0)
+3

If, as I understand it, the 'no fault reporting process' is meant to inform us of near misses and incidents which perhaps through luck did not result in an accident, then surely we don't need to wait for motorists to report them? They can be seen everyday! Spend an hour or so watching a junction, or reasonably busy road with a mix of road users and one can see how accidents could have happened all the time and others' mistakes can be learnt from.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)
0

Duncan
I totally agree with your assessment of safety management in other transport industries. The advantage they have is that the majority of their staff are employed, trained and constantly tested and monitored. To be fair to our much maligned transport industry, on the whole they do a good job with HGV drivers and the accident statistics bear this out. On the other hand, we do almost nothing to manage the average motorist. We let them loose on our roads, most are inadequately trained and apart from a few who have either committed driving offences or are over 70, we never monitor or retest their driving skills. I know we have to deal with what we have bred, surely then the answer is to change how we deliver the average motorist to our road network.
Charles Dunn

Agree (7) | Disagree (0)
+7

Charles asks if we should "adopt the same safety expectations from motorists that we require from Airline Pilots, Train Drivers or Ship Captains".

Fully agree with the statement, but we should realise that the aviation, rail and maritime industries manage safety differently to the road transport industry. Our expectations for drivers should therefore be matched with similar expectations for the industry that bred them.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)
+3

Duncan
I fully appreciate the benefits of such a system but in all honesty the average motorist is not capable of giving an unemotional or professional analysis of an accident or near miss. It's one thing to have a system where a few thousand highly trained and continually tested professional pilots report, it's another to have potentially 30 million drivers of various skills and temperament reporting their near misses (and) errors of judgement.

If as you say the proposed non fault system is to learn from past accidents, surely it would be more productive to put in place the resources to collect more in depth information from professionally trained police officers who attend accidents. If we were to have this enhanced information, including the police officers accident assessment, sent to a central portal for analysis, then the Department for Transport and the road safety community including vehicle manufacturers would have a very insightful tool to base their judgements and future plans upon.
Charles Dunn

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)
+5

We have to look for learning opportunities where we can as the current system conspires to keep everything hidden. Remember that the whole purpose of the exercise is to prevent future accidents by learning about past ones. NFR would be just one way to gather that much needed information.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)
+2

RoadDriver already offers an incident reporting system to motorists. The one thing that 99.9% of our reports have in common is that they are all non fault incidents on the part of the driver who has filed the incident report.

The major reasons why non fault reporting for motorists will not work is because on the whole drivers are inadequately trained, have no ongoing testing and most possess an over inflated opinion of their driving abilities. If drivers had to undergo the stringent years of training and ongoing testing that pilots undertake, it is very likely we would cut accident rates by 90% overnight.

Apart from some very highly trained and monitored HGV drivers, very few drivers would own up to making errors of judgement yet many thousands do just that every day on our roads, which is why we try and bring their faults or bad driving habits to their attention and when we do the stock excuses are "we all make mistakes" or "the report is either biased or subjective".

If in common with pilots, drivers are to be encouraged to report non fault incidents, maybe society ought to adopt the same safety expectations from motorists that we require from Airline Pilots, Train Drivers or Ship Captains.
Charles Dunn

Agree (7) | Disagree (3)
+4

There seems to be an assumption that NFR can only be applied in a system where all of the people are tightly regulated. I can see why that assumption is made, but is it true? Surely NFR can work whether the people are tightly regulated or not, it's just that the policies that might come from NFR could be more difficult to justify and test?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)
+4

Hugh
As far as I understand it "No Fault Reporting" (NFR) is the ability to report a potentially dangerous incident without it being used to prosecute anyone. Say you are on the offside lane of a two way four lane road and fail to notice that there is a pelican crossing that has gone to red so you drive over it, but don’t hit anyone. If you reported it you could potentially be prosecuted but under a NFR you would not be. If the operator of the pelican got about 100 NFRs they could potentially address the issue before there was a slight (based an approximate 1 to 10 severity pyramid, Fatal > Serious > Slight > Damage > Near miss).
Mark, Caerphilly

Agree (5) | Disagree (0)
+5

Would still like to know what the 'no fault' reporting process is.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (3)
-1

Whilst near miss data would be (and sometimes in areas with CCTV is) of use - it is a pity that slight injury collision data is often given a much lower priority than fatal and serious data - to the point of nearly being dismissed. For analysis of a cluster, slight injury records are more numerous and so (along with the KSIs) build up a much better picture of what is going wrong. After all an impact can result in very different severities depending on where it occurs within a few centimetres on a human body.
Mark, Caerphilly

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)
+4

Jeremy makes an excellent point and one which is worth pursuing. The quantity of information and data we are missing out on must be considerable and getting access to it would no doubt pay handsome dividends.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (8) | Disagree (1)
+7

There was obviously a lot of ground covered here and I'm pleased RSGB's voice was heard in detail.

The matter of no fault reporting is an interesting one and although the challenges inherent in a blanket expectation of all UK license holders are clear, there is happily a middle ground between this and commercial aviation.

That middle ground is the At-Work Driver, the activities of whom are regulated and accountable. I know that several companies do have these procedures in place for no-fault reporting of incidents on work-related journeys and, made universal with an expectation that redacted information is shared for analysis, we could learn much from them.

We don't need to know about every driver's every incident, but as a study base the at-work driver could offer a window to the much of the remainder.
Jeremy, Devon

Agree (14) | Disagree (0)
+14

This article is a summary of a longer evidence session with the commission. Duncan is quite correct about the reporting systems available to commercial and to private pilots. Of course it is the "modest percentage" of commercial pilots that fly the large passenger carrying aircraft. In my evidence on the day I specifically referred to commercial pilots and not private pilots. I apologise that I didn't make this clear in this news summary.

That said, I would be interested to get some idea of the number of PPL movements per day in UK airspace compared to the number of private and smaller, non-fleet commercial (e.g. builders vans etc etc) vehicle movements per day on the UK road network. I suspect they are on a very different scale. Not only would the reporting system have to be comprehensive with large capacity; how and by whom would all these reports be processed and then analysed? And how and by whom would it be funded? If these questions can be answered, maybe there is a viable project here that would be worth a try?
Honor Byford

Agree (12) | Disagree (0)
+12

No fault reporting is common in aviation as it's the only way you can learn from 'near miss' incidents. Crashes that almost happen are probably more valuable as a learning resource as there are no victims trying to avoid being blamed. This lets them be much more candid in their reports and likely to include small, but crucial bits of information.

Honor is quite wrong about the air traffic system as only a modest percentage of the aircraft and pilots are commercially employed. Most pilots are PPL holders which allows them to fly pretty well where and when they please. Private pilots are encouraged to file CHIRP (confidential human factors incident reporting programme) reports as these are administered by the RAF and are guaranteed to be de-identified so that no prosecutions can follow. The CAA hated CHIRP at first, but the huge amount of valuable information that flowed in from it was just too good to miss.

The similarities between air and road transport are so close (a human operating a machine in a dangerous environment) that it is really odd that more aviation safety practices are not used by the road safety industry.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (8)
-1

Pardon my ignorance, but what is the 'no fault reporting process'?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)
0