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.”