Improved arrangements for accident investigation, the creation of an independent advisory body for road safety, and stronger leadership from central government are three of the key recommendations in a highly critical new report published last week (25 March) into UK transport safety.
The report, ‘UK Transport Safety: who is responsible?’, is published by the Transport Safety Commission which was established in 2013 following a recommendation by the Transport Select Committee. It is the result of the Commission’s first inquiry which was co-chaired by Professor Stephen Glaister (pictured), director of the RAC Foundation, and Sir Peter Bottomley MP.
The report points out that more than 130 years after the first cars took to the UK’s roads there is still no single independent body that has responsibility for investigating and learning from the collisions that take place on the public highway. It states that in 2013, 1,769 people were killed on roads, compared with 30 in the air and four train passengers.
The Commission says that while “accidents in aviation and on the railways are exhaustively studied by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch and Rail Accident Investigation Branch respectively”, with regard to roads “there is no independent organisation that looks beyond apportioning blame to analyse the underlying cause and make recommendations on systemic changes to prevent similar events reoccurring”.
Professor Glaister said: “It seems perverse that we effectively have double standards when it comes to investigating deaths amongst the travelling public.
“No expense is spared when it comes to establishing the cause of harm on public transport and there is a well proven system for recommending improvement as a result of findings.
“Compare that with what happens on the roads. Perhaps there is a feeling that road users are in charge of their own destiny and hence their lives are not as important. Yet many casualties are innocent parties and we should be protecting them as carefully as anyone who pays a rail or air fare.
The report’s recommendations, all of which relate to road safety, comprise:
• Improved arrangements for accident investigation so that learning is separated from prosecution
• Creation of an advisory body for road safety independent of Government
• Road safety resources to be restored to recent historical levels in order to fund additional measures which would provide good value for money
• Stronger leadership from central Government and more coordinated action across Government departments
• The setting of ambitious road casualty reduction targets by the Government
• Recognition by the Health and Safety Executive and employers that work-related road casualties are their responsibility
• Adoption of a systems approach to casualty reduction
• Better treatment for the victims of road traffic crimes
• Improving actual safety and the perception of risk of active travel (walking and cycling).
Professor Glaister concluded: “That all our recommendations refer to road rather than aviation and rail safety is a sad indictment of a continued collective failure to tackle an appalling situation that somehow is seen as acceptable by those in authority.”