It’s been a huge privilege to run PACTS for the last 18 and a half years.
When I started in May 1994, I didn’t think I’d have lasted as long as I have done. However, the great enjoyment has been the very wide collection of people that I’ve met over the years from dedicated roads policing officers through local authority and professional groups to leading figures in multinational private sector companies. Transport safety really is an example of the Big Society, even if that term has attracted some negative publicity.
It’s also been fascinating to deal with a variety of political groupings. When I started, it was the final days of the Conservative government elected in 1979. That was followed by Labour with a huge majority that was not entirely matched in the boldness of their actions. Finally, we have a coalition – the first since the Second World War – with a priority of deficit reduction above everything else. And that’s not to mention the interesting developments emerging from devolution – lower drink drive limits in Scotland and Northern Ireland, graduated licensing and different visions and comparison periods for casualty reduction.
Yes, there are regrets. Why haven’t we lowered the drink-drive limit at Westminster? What about the adoption of Vision Zero? Whatever happened to Intelligent Speed Adaptation?
And there have been battles. I’m not sure we’ve resolved the issue of comparative local authority performance: why are some better than others? We still need to have a mature debate about speed management and data reliability. We need to continue to campaign for political leadership for road safety.
So, there are still challenges ahead.
I’m really delighted that David Davies will take over my job at the end of the year. And I’m not disappearing from the scene. You can contact me via Robert@giffordpartnership.co.uk if you need help with a project, someone to read over your reports and check their content or strategic political advice.
Continuing to cut casualties will not be easy over the next few years. There are no obvious single measures to adopt. Rather, we need a more sophisticated approach recognising that people, machines and their environment act in a dynamic relationship and that safety is not an end in itself but a means to help achieve greater mobility.