NRSC 2019: ‘Grass roots road safety’

12.19 | 12 November 2019 |

The opening conference session of the 2019 National Road Safety Conference comprises a series of presentations, tailored for practitioners, covering a range of ‘grass roots’ issues.


  • 2019 National Road Safety Conference taking place in Telford (12-13 Nov)
  • Opening session focuses on grass root road safety issues
  • Session begins at 1.20pm
  • Click here to see the agenda

This page will not automatically refresh, click here to see the latest entries.

14.40: Heather Ward, Honorary Senior Research Fellow, University College London

Heather Ward is an honorary senior research fellow at University College London (UCL) and is also an independent consultant.

Her key experience is in evaluation of road engineering schemes; speed management; vulnerable road user safety; inequalities, and in understanding and improving data quality for all injuries but especially those relating to road

Presentation: The management of road safety in the gig economy

What is the gig economy?

  • People who do not get paid a salary but get paid per gig or a ‘piece rate’
  • Often referred to as lifestyle workers or flex couriers

The workers

  • Self-employed and are not covered by employment law
  • Very few rights at work

Scale and characteristics of gig economy

  • Estimated 4.4% of GB population had done some work in the gig economy in last 12 months 
  • About a quarter live in London 
  • Generally young – 56% were 18-34 years
  • Levels of education similar to general population
  • Majority in transport services, parcel and food delivery (others e.g. removals, web development)

How is safety taken into account? – a study of gig economy workers

  • 48 in depth interviews with drivers, riders and their managers
    • couriers who delivered parcels and food 
    • taxi drivers who received their jobs via apps.
  • Online survey which achieved over 200 responses (questions based on what we found in the interviews)
  • All research cleared through UCL research committee to protect participants identity

Interviews: Perception of safety management:

  • Companies more interested in ‘the life of the parcel than the person delivering it’
  • Virtually no training
  • No safety equipment given
  • Disregard for safety

Survey: lack of safety training and equipment

Between two-thirds and three-quarters said:

  • not provided with safety training on managing risks on the road. 
  • not given any safety equipment such as a high visibility vest – 70% resort to providing their own. 
  • the company does not care about their safety whilst working
  • responsibility should be shared

Interviews: fatigue

  • Many parcel couriers work long hours feel pressurised, mentally and physically fatigued.
    • Getting in and out of their cars or vans up to 90 times a day
    • Not knowing where they are going
    • operating the app, scanning and checking parcels having to take signatures 
  • Many worked for multiple courier companies some working three weeks of 12 hour days without a break  (especially at Christmas) 
    • One cyclist reported falling a sleep on her bike and subsequently crashed
    • One driver had to slap his face to keep awake and travelled at ‘only’ 50 mph on the motorway to limit any damage if he crashed
    • Some taxi drivers had long commutes (2 hours) to get in to London to work 

Interviews: distraction

  • Many of those on two wheels said they handled their phone whilst riding to accept jobs
  • Many said that the app beeping at them to announce jobs was a distraction

Survey: distraction and fatigue

  • 40% of those using an app found them to be distracting  whilst driving or riding (most play a noise at intervals to alert them to a job with a fixed time window in which to accept)
  • 16% experienced severe fatigue e.g. struggling to stay awake 
  • Many agree to parking illegally & speeding

Interviews with managers:

  • Acknowledged the intense pressure that couriers were under and the risks they experienced. 
  • Felt they the drivers and riders had a poor rate of pay and the companies they worked disregarded their safety and wellbeing. 
  • Managers would improve the situation around the risks the couriers faced and their low pay but were conflicted about whose responsibility it was to ensure their safety on the roads. 

Differences between types of workers:

  • Most pressure felt by parcel couriers 
  • Taxi service providers seemed to enjoy their work, feel less pressurised, less fatigued and distracted by their work interface compared to van/car couriers. 
  • Those on two wheels more able to self regulate and stop when tired

Gig economy creates ‘perfect storm’ of risk factors.


  • Couriers should sign up for a time block and be paid for their time
  • An acceptable drop rate should be established
  • Mobile phones should not be allowed to cause a distraction
  • Companies should not incentivise vulnerable road users to take additional risks
  • Safety equipment – such as hi-vis – should be provided

14.20: Professor Gary Burnett, University of Nottingham

Professor Gary Burnett holds a chair in Transport Human Factors within the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Nottingham. He has over 25 years’ experience in human factors research and development relating to advanced technology within road-based vehicles – and has worked closely with a number of vehicle manufacturers and their suppliers.

Presentation: From Horseless Carriages to Driverless Cars: Human-Centred Design for Future Vehicles

Talking about vehicles that are decades away from becoming ‘normal’.

There are so many different types of autonomous vehicles.

The potential for increased tech in vehicles

Five core arguments:

  • Safety (radical changes need to drive down casualties?)
  • Efficiency – we don’t make best use of the network
  • Reducing emotions – which can be problematic
  • Unproductive time – particularly associated with automation
  • Increased mobility – particularly important issue in an ageing society

“I have no doubt the automotive industry will change more in the next 5 to 10 years than it has in the last 50” – Mary Barra, CEO, General Motors (2017).

Five levels of automation – ranging from no automation to full automation, with many variations in between.

Roughly speaking…

  • Level 2 – autopilot
  • Level 3 – car can act autonomously – but will hand back to driver if problems
  • Level 4 – the system deals with problems
  • Level 5 – fully autonomous, no steering wheel etc

The ‘traditional’ human factors issues for future vehicles:

  • Distraction/workload/stress
  • Situation awareness 
  • Driver arousal (fatigue) – will it need monitoring? Will people be allowed to sleep?
  • Motion sickness
  • New/lost skills
  • Trust (distrust)
  • Confusion

Recent study – with the RAC Foundation – highly-automated vehicles are expected to provide the freedom for drivers to undertake other activities while the vehicle is in control.

What things will young people want to do in these vehicles? (phones, sleep, have sex etc)

Study methodology:

  • 30-minute commute over 5 days – what did people do on these journeys?
  • Approx 50 participants, 16 aged under 25yrs


  • Younger drivers have high levels of trust in the vehicle from the start
  • Younger drivers generally more accepting than older drivers
  • When asked to take over driving in emergency situation, younger drivers continue with non-driving tasks for longer 
  • Younger drivers significantly better at resuming control on day 1 of the test
  • Younger drivers want automation back earlier than older drivers & resumed non-driving activities more quickly


  • People will quickly develop high trust (particularly younger drivers)
  • Occupants (especially younger people) will wish to undertake a range of activities, often with high visual, manual and cognitive demands
  • There are new skills involved here

14.00: Richard Pearson, Highway Design & Road Safety Manager, BCP Council

Richard Pearson has 30 years experience in civil engineering with a transport focus. He has worked in the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Presentation: Shared Spaces – To be or not to be?

Purpose of the presentation:

  • What did Bournemouth do?
  • Did it work?
  • What next for shared spaces?

What did Bournemouth do?

Two shared space schemes mainly using a grant under the Local Sustainable Transport Fund:

  • Horseshoe Common – 2014
  • Boscombe – 2015

The LSTF grant was intended to promote sustainable travel by making walking, cycling and the use of public transport easier, more attractive and safer.  

Other relevant objectives, that also feature in the local authorities Local Transport Plan included regeneration, casualty reduction and road maintenance.  

Casualties at Horseshoe Common:

Horseshoe Common had a relatively poor road casualty record with an average of 4.86 casualty collisions per year prior to the implementation of the scheme.  

Casualty data for Horseshoe Common showed that between the hours of midnight and 5am, impaired pedestrians made up half of the road casualty collisions (17 out of 34 casualty collisions or 50%).

Design principle:

To reinforce the introduction of the shared space areas, part of the design concept was to create a sense that users were entering an untypical section of the public highway and should change their behaviour.  


  • Improved pedestrian amenity 
  • Increased social interaction 
  • Reduce motorised vehicle dominance 
  • Reduced vehicle speeds 
  • Creation of flexible space 
  • Improved economic activity 
  • Revitalisation 

Consultation is important!

BCP consulted with DOTS – a local organisation bringing together disabled individuals to engage with community activities, including reviewing the Council’s proposals.

Following this consultation, a key concern for disabled groups was that blind and partially sighted individuals would not be able to navigate the areas without some sort of upstand or delineation. 

Did it work?

Casualty performance:

At Horseshoe Common the average rate of collisions causing casualties was 4.86 per year before the scheme was implemented and 1.75 per year afterwards, a 64% reduction.  

At Boscombe the casualty collision rate fell from 1.75 to 1.67 per year, a 5% reduction

Footfall through Horseshoe Common:

  • 126% rise between 2014 and 2018

Public perception – feedback

Relatively large numbers of individuals wrote to the Council complaining that they did not know who had priority and they believed that the Council had introduced road layouts that were confusing and dangerous:

“The new layout of Horseshoe Common is appalling. It is a complete disregard for safety and road traffic laws.

It is confusing and a complete hazard to pedestrians and drivers. There needs to be visible road markings and signage to indicate who’s right of way it is and who should give way etc.”

  • 24 complaints between 2015 and July 2018 (18 of which came in 2015)
  • Approximately 200,000 people live in Bournemouth and around 500,000 in the wider surrounding areas, many of whom travel to Bournemouth

Design problems:

  • Careful design and specification of materials is important!

Conclusions and recommendations:

Bournemouth’s experience of introducing shared space schemes was controversial and to a degree technically challenging, however it was ultimately regarded as positive. 

  • Take account of consultation feedback, and the Equality Act 2010.
  • Advertise the shared space design principles as widely as possible before and after scheme completion to ensure that local public awareness of the concept is as great as possible (including public transport providers).
  • Make careful use of materials and design to accommodate known traffic flows.
  • Shared spaces are not appropriate everywhere.Consider the degree to which an area is a main route (link) or a destination (place) and prioritise locations for conversion to shared spaces that are less the former and more the latter.
  • Shared space schemes can potentially reduce road casualties.
  • Shared space schemes can help regenerate areas. 
  • Where a multi-phased construction method is needed to minimise disruption, allow realistic construction timescales.
  • Carry out as much site investigation work as practical during the feasibility and design phases.

A wider question is whether there is scope for central Government to expand the Highway Code and/or promote more public information and education about how to recognise and use a shared space and information about the principle on which they operate? 

13.40: Dr Cris Burgess, Senior Lecturer in Psychology, University of Exeter

As director of education for psychology in the College of Life & Environmental Sciences at the University of Exeter, Dr Cris Burgess is responsible for all psychology degree programmes.

Among his research interests are the profiling of high-risk drivers and motorcyclists, the relationship between traffic offending and more ‘mainstream’ criminal activity.

Presentation: Why do motorcyclists crash (and how can we stop them)?

“The cracks are beginning to show”

  • 90% of road traffic accidents are attributable to ‘human error’ – Rumar (1990)
  • 93% of road traffic collisions are attributable to ‘human error’ – NHTSA (2008)

We need to ask ourselves, are humans well adapted to the modern world?

  • Our body is still the same as it was 100,000 years ago
  • The structure and size of our brain hasn’t changed in the last 50,000 years
  • Humans are capable of moving at around 20 mph without mechanical assistance. 
  • In modern times, we have a variety of new things to learn, almost daily. We have to be able to travel safely at 70 mph or more.

What can we do about it?

  • Safety envelope
    • Engineering and Traffic Law creates a buffer zone that protects road users
  • Physical vulnerability
    • Limited engineering options
  • Young riders = Young brains
    • Brain development continues into 20s – as a consequence they are unaware of dangers
  • Older riders? Confidence vs competence
    • “I’ve been able to ride a motorbike since I learned to ride a bicycle. I’m good at this!”
    • “I’m not dead yet, so I must be doing something right!”

Three major issues:

Visual perception deficits – Saccadic vision and scanning patterns

  • We only see 6 degrees in perfect clarity (fixation)
  • The periphery is blurred – everything else is blank
  • We do not always fixate on the right things (therefore we miss important things)

Decision-making – ‘Hot’ vs ‘cold’ cognition

Cold cognition:

  • Calm, rational, logical, decision-making
  • Slow, deliberate, unemotional
  • Likely to take into account all relevant factors

Hot cognition:

  • Under pressure, stressed, ‘high cognitive load’
  • Fast, automatic ‘heuristic’
  • Influenced by environmental cues and emotional state

Cognitive load – conflicting information

  • Stroop effect
  • Competing or conflicting sources of information
  • On the road, many things compete for our attention
  • Human attention and visual systems have clear limits
  • These (and other) deficits can be demonstrated
  • Interventions can be (and have been) designed around such demonstrations
  • Rider confidence is the key issue

13.20: Matt Staton, Highway Projects and Road Safety Manager, Cambridgeshire County Council

Matt Staton is the highway projects and road safety manager at Cambridgeshire County Council, overseeing all the council’s small and medium-sized highway projects and road safety interventions.

Presentation: Who is involved in road safety?

Aims of research:

  • To understand decision-making
  • How does knowledge, evidence and understanding translate into practice?
  • How can this be improved?
  • First step is understanding who is involved…

So, who is involved in road safety?

Mapping it out: police, fire & rescue, local authority, Highways England, ambulance service, transport operators, employers (with drivers), air ambulances, victim support charities.

Additionally: parliament, DfT, Home Office, Transport Committee, CPS, UN, WHO, PACTS, DfE, Ministry of Justice, research bodies, road safety officers, emergency service staff, community groups, teachers, driving instructors, parents & peers, highways engineers, transport planners, vehicle manufacturers, analysts, media.

Research study

  • Based on two similar studies
    • Queensland, AUS (Salmon, Read & Stevens, 2016)
    • UK, Bangladesh, China, Kenya & Vietnam (McIlroy et al, 2019)
  • Used STAMP Control Structure Analysis (Leveson, 2004)
  • Search of industry literature
    • Actors/stakeholders
    • Control & feedback mechanisms
  • Verified using a two-stage questionnaire
    • >90% agreement overall

International context: 

  • Level one: parliament & legislature
  • Level two: government agencies, universities, industry associations, user groups etc
  • Level three: operation delivery and management
  • Level four: local management and supervision
  • Level five: road users, vehicles and the road environment


  • Actors/stakeholders key to decision-making identified
  • Focus initially on local decision-making (Cambs & Peterborough)
  • 15 local participants interviewed from levels 2,3 & 4

Key findings


  • Protectionism (all of us have a ‘my’ approach)
  • Populism (pressure on us to be seen to taking action)
  • Purism (looking for perfection)

What can we do?

  • Protectionism > professionalism (we have a responsibility to do what we think is best)
  • Populism > partnership (with our communities, other organisations etc)
  • Purism > pragmatism (don’t let perfect be the enemy of good)

Partnership perspective + community perspective + research evidence = ideal world

13.05 Liz Brooker MBE, Chair, Road Safety GB

Liz Brooker MBE has been involved in road safety within Lewisham for more than three decades.

Liz became chair of Road Safety GB at the organisation’s AGM on 27 November 2018.

Presentation: opening address

The charity trustees are involved in many activities in support of the organisation, all of whom contribute on a voluntary basis over and above their normal work in local authorities.  

Communications – one of the organisation’s main strengths:

  • Website (traffic up by 25% in 2019 over 2018)
  • Social media (more than 20k followers on Twitter)
  • Media news statements
  • Road Safety Knowledge Centre
  • International Communications
  • Membership communication

Some of the activities me and my fellow trustees have carried out to fly the flag for RSGB have been both at home and overseas – one example are the presentations carried out to promote our work in Belgium at a summer school.

Following discussions with the DfT, plans were unveiled in August 2019 to run a series of three one-day conferences during 2020, focusing on specific road safety issues and vulnerable road users:

  • Powered two-wheeler riders
  • Rural roads 
  • Cycling

Research and evaluation

DfT Grant to support three key areas of research:

  • Older Drivers
  • Arility Augmented Reality
  • Young Driver Performance Forum research support

RSGB International Ltd


  • Course Delivery

New courses

  • Building on feedback from first stage consultation
  • Refresh the Foundation Course 
  • Additional courses being developed 

Framework consultation

Framework Consultation – Stage 1

Framework Consultation – Stage 2

  • Launched today
  • Taken into account the response from first consultation
  • Recognises that teams vary
  • Priorities and targets differ greatly

Next steps – look out for email and on the Road Safety GB website

Session summary

The opening conference session will comprise a series of presentations, tailored for practitioners, covering a range of ‘grass roots’ road safety topics and issues.



Comment on this story

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.