Government is showing ‘noticeable lack of ambition’ with regard to road safety

11.26 | 15 July 2011 | | 7 comments

An open letter to The Times, from PACTS and other road safety stakeholders including Road Safety GB, has challenged the Government to show more ambition with regard to casualty reduction.

The letter, in response to the Government’s ‘Strategic Framework for Road Safety’ which was published in May 2011, was endorsed by four former transport ministers, road safety academics and practitioners.

The letter reads:

The Government must implement strategies that will meet the European target of reducing deaths by 50% by 2020.

“Sir, Road deaths last year fell to an all-time low of 1,857, reflecting the long-term collaborative effort of those active in road safety and of national and local Government. Provisional road casualty figures for 2010 show welcome improvement and should be taken as encouragement to achieve greater continuous reduction in death and serious injury. However, the figures allow no room for complacency — the remaining deaths are preventable. Our real aim should be for zero harm on our roads: this is the case on the railways and in other aspects of commercial life.

“Compared with this rate of progress, the forecast or assumption for road deaths contained in the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety shows a noticeable lack of ambition.

“To achieve the central forecast contained in this document, we only need to cut deaths by 4.7% over the next decade (that is less than 0.5% a year), compared with a fall of more than 16% in the single year from 2009 and 2010.

“The European Commission, supported by the UK Government, has set a target of halving road deaths in the EU by 2020, which is seen as a staging post to achieving the eventual elimination of death and long-term injury on Europe’s roads. This commitment makes financial sense since spending on road safety delivers significant rates of return.

"Achieving this level of reduction would save more than 4,600 lives in Britain by 2020, a benefit to the country worth more than £7 billion.

“We urge the Government to implement strategies that will meet the European target of reducing deaths by 50% by 2020. That would take annual road deaths below 1,000 and help us to achieve the safest road network in the world for all its users over the same period."

Robert Gifford, Executive Director, Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety.

The individuals and organisations who endorsed the letter were:

  • Sir Peter Bottomley, MP (Minister for Road Safety 1986-89)
  • Jim Fitzpatrick, MP (Minister for Road Safety, 2007-09)
  • Steve Norris (Minister for Road Safety 1994-96)
  • Lord Whitty (Minister for Road Safety 2001-05)
  • Edmund King, President, AA
  • Richard Allsop, Professor Emeritus, Centre for Transport Studies, University College London
  • Hugh Bladon, Treasurer, Association of British Drivers
  • Jeanne Breen OBE, Jeanne Breen Consulting
  • Dan Campsall, Road Safety Analysis
  • Oliver Carsten, Professor of Transport Safety, Institute for Transport Studies, Leeds University
  • Darren Divall, Chairman, Institute of Road Safety Officers
  • Graham Feest, Secretary, Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers
  • Alan Kennedy, Chairman, Road Safety GB
  • John Lewis, Chief Executive, BVRLA
  • Mary Lewis, Chief Executive, Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation
  • Mike Mounfield, Chairman, GreenSafe Foundation
  • Tom Mullarkey, Chief Executive, Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents
  • Steve Proctor, Director, TMS Consultancy
  • David Quarmby, Chairman, RAC Foundation
  • Susan Sharland, Chief Executive, Transport Research Foundation
  • Nick Starling, Director of General Insurance and Health, ABI
  • Pete Thomas, Director of the Transport Safety Research Centre, University of Loughborough
  • Adrian Walsh, Executive Director, Roadsafe


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    Interesting points from Nik and Kim. Successive governments have failed to address the elephant in the room of road safety – poor driver attitudes and behaviour – because to do so effectively and meaningfully would cost huges sums of money and alienate 33 million of the electorate which no politician wanting to remain in office is likely to do. Add to this successive cuts in roads policing numbers and the reliance on technology to do the job for us and the position we’re in now is hardly a surprise.

    Dave, Leeds
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The entire transport & licensing system should be completely upgraded to meet the demands on ancient road systems over the coming decade. For example, an increased flow in traffic would reduce pollution, increase productivity & reduce stress / road rage. This could be achieved by altering outdated speed limits both up, down & variable intelligent limits.

    However, is it the road system that is the problem or drivers? Currently a driver has to pass their initial test & is allowed to drive any vehicle, in any conditions, on any road. In aviation, the initial private pilots’ licence allows a pilot to fly typically a single engined plane in daylight conditions above ground; the pilot then trains for faster, higher planes, different conditions, etc and adds to his licence. If a similar approach were taken with drivers we would see a dramatic reduction in road traffic accidents and a greater flow of traffic not to mention the additional revenue to the DSA.

    The cost of re-training drivers would be bourn by the drivers themselves so significantly more cost effective than trying to alter road systems.

    It is possible, just needs a bit of thinking outside the box.

    Nik Ellis from Laird Assessors, Wirral
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    If you really want to reduce the death rate on Britain’s roads, it is time to ditch the blame the victim approach and start thinking in terms of harm reduction. No amount of fiddling at the edges with re-engineering roads or blaming pedestrians and cyclist for being on the roads. If you really want zero harm on our roads, then it time to deal with the problem at source, time to crack down hard on bad driving. Make bad driving socially unacceptable and then you might actually get there, anything less is bound to fail.

    Kim Harding, Edinburgh
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    I think the other David seems to have missed the point of a letter to the Road Safety Minister; it’s not about asking the country to re-engineer its entire street layout and discourage motoring in favour of walking and cycling. I also think he should check out the history of the organisations who co-signed the letter, a lot of them put a great deal of effort into, ‘promoting the interests of vulnerable road-users’.

    David, London
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    Road safety should not be an end in itself separate from considerations of access and mobility for non-motorised road-users. The improvements that the UK has historically made in road safety have been at the expense of driving vulnerable road-users off the roads, contrary to the experience in The Netherlands and the Nordic countries, where increased safety plus increased convenience for vulnerable road users have been combined through appropriate road engineering. The list of signatories of this letter is interesting, as it includes organisations promoting motoring and road danger (such as the ABD), but not those promoting the interests of vulnerable road-users and those working to reduce road danger, such as the cycling organisations, Living Streets, Roadpeace, and the Road Danger Reduction Forum. While what the letter actually says seems uncontroversial, the agenda behind it must be slightly suspect in view of the list of signatories.

    David Arditti, London
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The government needs to take a view out of the current silo mentality where budgets for road safety are based on reducing last year’s cost to recognising that year on year savings for our community as whole are in the order of 10X bigger than any costs of improved safety provisions.

    Malcolm Whitmore, Loughborough
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    Thanks to Rob and the others for drawing attention to what I imagine is the general feeling in every LA.

    Mandy Rigault. Oxfordshire.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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