“Surprising results” in National Signposts 2013

12.00 | 22 November 2013 | | 7 comments

A year on from its initial review of road safety performance and progress around the UK, Road Safety Analysis has published National Signposts 2013, the latest report in its Signpost Series which analyses “national and local road safety over the last six years”.

National Signposts 2013 provides “a more in-depth look at the issue of road risk” in terms of “crashes on local roads” and shows where improvements have been made and where risk is highest.

The best and worst performers are highlighted in the report, with what Road Safety Analysis calls “some surprising results”.

The report suggests that overall London and the South East exhibit higher risk and are generally making slower progress. Scotland experiences lower levels of risk than elsewhere in Britain and is generally making more progress.

Significant progress has been made in North West England and some urban areas outside London, in particular the Midlands and parts of Wales, over the last three years.

In its introduction to the new data, Road Safety Analysis says: “It becoming ever clearer that the national comparison data provided by the DfT is unhelpful and potentially misleading when national comparisons are made between different authorities.

“Measuring risk on roads, rather than to residents, does not allow for objective comparisons with a non-linear relationship between risk and traffic flow. The Signposts Series includes groupings of similar authorities to allow better assessment of risk at a local level.

“Although overall national crash and casualty rates are falling, there are significant local variations in road safety performance. This is particularly important to understand at a time when localism is emerging as the dominant driver of policy and funding in road safety. Local authorities need meaningful measures of comparative performance in order to drive progress.”

National Signposts 2013 is supported by new, interactive charts and maps on the MAST Online website.

Richard Owen at Road Safety Analysis said: “Authorities who want to know more about risk on their roads and how this compares to national trends can access detailed local Signpost Series reports.

“These break down risk by age and road user group at a district level, and road risk for pedestrians, pedal cyclists, motorcyclists and young drivers at a highway authority level. Sample reports have been produced and are available for immediate download.”

Contact Richard Owen on 01295 731815 for more information.


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    Richard Owen writes “I personally think rates tend to be highest where there are higher levels of deprivation, lower public transport use, and urban roads that allow higher traffic speeds.”

    But surely higher levels of deprivation tend to coincide with higher levels of public transport use, and urban roads allowing higher speeds tend to be in areas of lower deprivation?

    I would be surprised if anything useful emerges from this sort of analysis, especially if it relies on a wide variety of assumptions which may or may not be correct.

    Idris Francis Fight Back with Facts Petersfield
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    I seem to remember that not so long ago it was argued that young persons living and driving in rural areas were more at risk than young persons living in the urban environment. With fewer cars and quieter roads why should that be? Perhaps It can only be reasoned that their mental attitude is different from someone who is confined to urban areas.

    However it could be argued that because more people live in the urban environment and there is more traffic in a smaller space, and this correlates to perhaps a more aggressive and violent mindset, then more incidents are going to occur. It is understandable that there are more incidents in the rat race that is London and far less in any part of Scotland.

    Nothing new there, whether it’s to do with state of mind or location. Maybe a bit of both?

    bob craven Lancs
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    Richard: I agree that crash distribution is predictable in the sense that on certain types of road layouts and traffic density, once you introduce reckless and careless behaviour, it will be more likely than on others, but this trend is apparent locally and one doesn’t need to search regionally for this to be apparent.

    On these road layouts where accidents are more likely, the difference between an accident (and therefore another statistic) and a near miss can be down to a second, or a metre either way, or just plain good or bad luck, hence the random element. However the reasons for the accident happening or nearly happening in the first place don’t change geographically because, as you rightly say, some people will always be more at risk than others – but it’s not because of where they live and drive -it’s down to their own behaviour. If a high-risk driver travels from Land’s End to John o’ Groats, he/she could come to grief anywhere on that route.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Hugh. I’m interested to hear you say that crashes are ‘random’ which suggests that the spatial analysis of patterns is therefore meaningless. In my experience crash distribution is anything but random and with a sample size in the millions of casualties this study is pretty robust. Would you suggest that other public health matters were also random e.g obesity? The analysis of local variations in risk is a well-established scientific methodology and worth pursuing in all areas of public health.

    I agree entirely that the regional variations are not a reflection on the authorities who cover those areas as it would be very difficult to prove that a lack of local activity directly contributed to a higher risk to local road users. The report does not blame but highlights areas where there are variances in risk against the national average, and where recent progress has been made. Hopefully it will serve as a discussion piece and provoke local debate as to why some people are more at risk than others.

    Richard Owen, Banbury
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    Don’t wish to knock those involved in the research, but it seems almost obligatory these days when a report or study on practically anything is published to claim ‘surprising results’ or similar.

    It doesn’t say what is exactly surprising about these results, unless it is considered surprising to discover that road accidents are essentially random and can happen anywhere at anytime.

    I presume the data originates from official accident figures and we know that these fall short of painting a true picture anyway. Whatever regional variations are apparent, is not necessarily a reflection on the authorities in those areas.

    Hugh Jones, Cheshire
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    Rob. The major part of the report does indeed look at how people are involved based on their home location, rather than the piece of tarmac where the crash happens (although that is analysed too). Crash-involvement rates for populations do vary around the country but what are the underlying reasons? I personally think rates tend to be highest where there are higher levels of deprivation, lower public transport use, and urban roads that allow higher traffic speeds.

    Measuring differences in driver attitudes around the country would be a very interesting exercise too. There are significant reported differences in behaviour between populations in different areas of the country, something that’s now possible to analyse in MAST with the inclusion of Contributory Factor data. For example, we have just carried out an analysis of drivers involved in crashes where ‘impaired by alcohol’ was a factor. This found that involvement rates differed widely throughout the south-east of England and the evidence is going to be used to target education for young drivers.

    I wholeheartedly agree with your comment that, ‘There’s only so much that road safety teams and the police can do’, which is why we encourage fellow road safety professionals to assess risk and direct resources appropriately. I hope the information we provide is of some use in achieving this goal.

    Richard Owen, Banbury
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    Interesting comparison, however,if more than 95% of injury collisions involve an element of human error, would it not be more interesting to compare the results in a way that suggests road users behave better/worse in one area than another? There’s only so much that road safety teams and the police can do. Road safety is surely every road user’s responsibility not just the council’s and the police.

    Rob Smith Dorset
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