A new report, published to coincide with the start of Road Safety Week 2017, sets out to ‘debunk some popular myths’ and calls for ‘evidence-based’ interventions focusing on speed.
The report, Save Lives, Slow Down, is based on contributions from a number of winners of Prince Michael International Road Safety Awards including Highways England, PACTS, RAC Foundation, Road Safety Analysis, Safer Roads Berkshire and TfL.
The report urges ‘restraint’ with regard to the implementation of 20mph schemes, adding that popular interventions ‘may not always work well’, and that ‘initially-unpopular schemes can deliver powerful results’.
‘Key facts’ highlighted in the report include:
- A 5% reduction in average speed can result in a 30% reduction in fatal traffic crashes
- 59% of all fatalities in Great Britain occur on country roads where limits are typically 60mph
- The risk of a pedestrian being killed if hit by the front of a car is estimated to be 1% at an impact speed of 20 mph, 7% at 30 mph and 31% at 40 mph
- Inappropriate or excessive speed are two of the contributory factors most often recorded by police crash data; but ‘in-depth studies’ say that the true level may be three times higher
Talking about 20mph limits, Richard Owen, director of Road Safety Analysis, urges restraint in the ‘rush to introduce blanket 20mph limits in all towns and cities’.
He says that 20mph zones often already have lower average speed and achieve compliance and safety improvements through engineering and signing measures. Conversely, signed-only 20mph limits often see poor compliance.
Richard Owen added that, ‘early evidence from the latest and most comprehensive study suggests signed-only-limits result in just a 0.7mph reduction in average speeds.
‘Acceptable, affordable and effective’ interventions
Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe, said: “If a 5% reduction in average speed can result in a 30% reduction in fatal traffic crashes, it is hard to think of any other low-cost intervention that could deliver such a potentially huge reduction in human suffering and economic loss globally.
“However, the challenge for politicians and road safety professionals is to find interventions that are acceptable, affordable and effective. Popular may not always work well; and initially-unpopular schemes can deliver powerful results.”
‘Highly effective’ average speed cameras
The report recognises resistance to the widespread use of speed humps and cameras in residential streets but acknowledges the effectiveness of average speed cameras strategically placed on some higher-speed roads.
Adrian Walsh added: “Managing speed can never be a one-size-fits-all process.
“Cutting the number of fatal and serious, speed-related road crashes must make use of the wide range of effective, evidence-based speed management solutions available.
“These include…setting appropriate speeds limits suitable for the function of the road, and enforcement to encourage road users to comply with speed limits.”
The report includes a case study of the ‘highly effective’ average speed camera scheme on the A9 in Scotland which, it is claimed, has resulted in a 50% reduction in all casualties and a 33% cut in fatalities.
Adrian Walsh concluded: “With the 2020 Global target to reduce road fatalities by 50% fast approaching, local, regional and national governments are encouraged to implement effective speed management policies as a matter of urgency to further reduce casualties.
“If we want to make a tangible, measurable difference, we must take tough actions that focus on delivering life-saving results.”