The London Road Safety Council has issued a warning that the UK’s reputation as a world leader in road casualty reduction is slipping away through a lack of investment in road safety.
Statistics show the downward trend in fatalities achieved from 2005 to 2010 is bottoming out, and the LRSC* fears this is a result of a continuing decline in the funding of all resources aimed at making the roads safer, including local authority road safety teams.
The LRSC regularly takes a census of road safety staff in the 33 London authorities, and since 2010 this census shows a two-thirds reduction in the number of officers directly involved in road accident prevention.
LRSC points to the borough of Redbridge, where this Friday (30 June) three full time road safety officers are being made redundant – to be replaced by one part-time employee.
Cllr Wendy Brice-Thompson, chair of the LRSC, said: “We are alarmed by the cutbacks that have affected all strands of casualty reduction work in London. There fewer officers directly involved in traditional education, training and publicity (ETP) work, with many sidelined to focus on modal shift behaviour change work.
“There are also funding changes that have affected highway maintenance, accident investigation and prevention (AIP) work and roads policing, all combining to a bottoming out of the progress we had been making as leaders in casualty reduction work.
“This week the experienced team of three road safety officers at Redbridge Council are leaving due to redundancy, and we understand the Council intends to recruit a more junior, part-time officer to cover their responsibilities. This does not pass the common-sense test when you consider the needs of the Redbridge community.
“In addition, we see an erosion of the School Crossing Patrol service in many areas, which, at a time when such effort is being made to encourage more children to walk to school, seems bizarre.”
The LRSC believes that there should be a change in the legislation detailing the statutory duty that authorities have for road casualty prevention.
Cllr Wendy Brice-Thompson added: “We would like to see ministers prescribing the ratios of staff to population, and suggest one full time road safety officer for every 100,000 of population.
“Other solutions include direct government funding for this work, which has proven to work and which continues to attract much interest from other parts of the world.”
*The LRSC is unique in that it has a membership of elected council members and professional road safety officers from the London boroughs. Transport for London (TfL) and other stakeholders, including the Metropolitan Police and City of London Police forces, are also represented.