NRSC 2018: Question Time

11.51 | 28 November 2018 | |

Coverage of the Question Time session at the 2018 National Road Safety Conference, which included questions about enforcement, mobile phones and 20mph speed limits.


  • Professor Frank McKenna, University of Reading (FM)
  • Simon Rewell, Road Safety Manager, Insure the Box (SR)
  • Steve Horton, Director of Communications, Road Safety GB (SH)
  • Rachel White, Senior Policy and Political Advisor, Sustrans (RW)
  • Katy Bourne, Police & Crime Commissioner for Sussex (KB)

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Which holds the most potential to reduce casualty statistics: vehicle safety, making roads safer, more roads policing or road user behaviour?

SH: road user behaviour – people make mistakes

KB: public fed up with lack of enforcement. People push the boundaries because they know they won’t get caught.

RW: making roads safer – from the point of view of pedestrians and cycling

SR: changing behaviour can be a long, uphill struggle. Quick changes – vehicle or road design.

Can we enforce our way to better road safety?

FM: We need to do it with the community. People hate points on their licence – over fines etc.

How do we move forward in road safety?

SH: Closing the gap between academia and practitioners

RW: In some areas, the evidence is already there. Being ignored over risk of upsetting people.

FM: Unless you’ve got evidence, don’t do it.

Use of mobile phones – should all phone use, including hands-free, be banned?

SR: Yes – but how do you enforce it? How does a police officer know the difference if a person is singing to themselves or talking on a hands free mobile phone?

KB: No, hands free should not be banned. More enforcement needed for hand held mobile phones. Public need education to make decision.

Comment from floor: hands free being legal makes the public think its safe

KB: You’re effectively taking away the right to have a conversation. Would welcome a discussion – but no need to go straight to legislation.

FM: Drivers using mobile phones causes harm to others.

Should we reduce the default speed limit in urban areas to 20mph?

RW: Short answer, yes. Bigger picture than just reducing casualty – does reduce speed. Has a huge effect on perceived safety – which makes more people cycle and walk.

SH: We all buy into the concept of reduced collision speeds. We should be upfront about why we use 20mph – active travel instead of road safety.

RW: Up to local authorities to look at whether appropriate. Cases where it works, cases where it doesn’t.

FM: You can redesign roads – narrower roads mean slower speeds. Work with communities – change the culture.

Comment from audience: Lack of enforcement undermining 20mph roads.

Black boxes – should they be used by more than just young drivers?

SR: Yes – we should be making it available to wider audience. To start with, felt like it would have a greater impact on younger driver & to an extent, has worked.

FM: Massive opportunity but first we must see how it reduces collisions – need to see the calculations directly. Then, black box insurance should be used by everyone.

Should we use the term accident?

SH: No – crashes are not an event without an apparent cause.

FM: It’s not obvious – positives and negatives.

Comment from floor – it’s very important to use the correct terminology. Need to be careful as professionals.

RW: Can link it to the ‘careless’ or ‘dangerous’ driving offences debate – language vastly important.

Do we need to increase traffic police alongside road safety targets?

KB: Yes we need more officers – and there is a pledge in Sussex to that. Enforcement is important.

SH: Fear of detection needs to be increased

FM: Certainty of detection changes people behaviour. Speeding is the only offence that has a reasonable chance of being caught – automatic speed cameras. Change of being caught is drastically low.

Comment from floor about how targets are not needed.

KB: Targets can drive poor behaviour

How can we improve in-car child safety?

SR: You can now buy car seats that evolve as a child grows. There will be an innovative response from manufacturers.



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