Report highlights “collective failure” to learn from road collisions

12.00 | 26 March 2015 | | 5 comments

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.”


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    Not quite true Derek.
    The majority of the work done by the AAIB is on accidents that happen to private pilots in GA aircraft (Cessna, Piper) and not on the headline grabbers. If such a board were to be created just for the investigation of the modest number (relative to cars) of motorcycle accidents then that would provide the optimum benefit for the minimum of resource.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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    Reading the executive summary section of this report, brings to light the desire to achieve zero KSI on the roads, and have an investigative body to determine actions necessary to prevent re-occurrence of an accident.

    Rail, air, and road are compared, but with rail and air we have mass transit vehicles controlled by specialised individuals in their fields with the responsibility of hundreds in their hands. There is a comparison there with drivers of buses and coaches (though not specified in the summary), but that section of the report fails to recognise that private individuals are often the sole passenger in their operated vehicles, and at most seven others – not three score or more. This desire to equalise the investigative and training aspect of individual drivers, with pilots and train drivers across the board would demand such resources that are simply unavailable, and one would also question if they are even desirable given the ever increasing levels of safety on the roads today as Idris Francis has pointed out.

    But amongst the need for safety in the air and on the rails, we still have those desperately tragic events that still occur – from the tube train driver taking his train into a dead end tunnel at Moorgate, to the recent loss of an Airbus in the Alps. Such rigorous investigative and training regimes are still fallible. They will never be avoided completely, and this is reflected in the ultimate paragraph on page 10.

    Derek Reynolds, Salop.
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    Today some 1,800 people will die in this country, of whom some 200 will die because of neglect, medical, prescription and surgical errors, malnutrition, dehydration etc in our hospitals – where the risk per hour of accidental death is several hundred times higher than at 70mph on a motorway.

    Today about 5 people will die on our roads of whom 1 will die in an accident in which speeding is a contributory factor, but fewer than 1 every 2 days in accidents in which speeding is the primary cause.

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    This new document has some good things in it but still rests on the basic fallacy that crashes and casualty numbers define road safety. They don’t. The real road safety problem is the vulnerable users who aren’t cycling or walking, the children who are being driven around, and the pensioners who are too scared to cross the road. None of them show up in KSI statistics. That’s why targets for casualty reduction are nonsense. The best way to get a zero casualty figure for cyclists is to stop them cycling altogether. Ditto children and pedestrians.

    John Morrison Sevenoaks
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    Wonderful! Now we might start to get somewhere.

    Duncan MacKillop. No surprise – No accident.
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