The Question Time session once again proved to be a highlight of the National Road Safety Conference and sparked the usual lively debate.
The session was once again expertly chaired by Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, and the panel comprised: Nick Ross, broadcaster and president of London Road Safety Council; DDC Suzette Davenport, chair of ACPO’s National Roads Policing Operations Forum; Jim Fitzpatrick, MP for Poplar and Limehouse; Chris King, SCP supervisor for the London Borough of Bexley; and Jenny Jones, London Assembly member.
The first questioner asked what road safety professionals should be doing to push road safety up the current Government’s agenda?
Nick Ross told the audience that road safety professionals have a “fantastic story to tell” and that the reduction in casualties is a “wonderful achievement.” He also advised the audience that they need to do more to influence people, claiming that it’s not only politicians who are being “measly” to road safety.
The panel was also asked: “What’s the point in commissioning the North Report and then not taking action on drink driving?”
DCC Suzette Davenport said that while the drink drive limit has not been lowered, a number of other recommendations in the report have been actioned and that she is taking a ‘drip-drip’ approach to persuading politicians to adopt other recommendations, including reducing the legal limit.
Next the panel was asked for its views on graduated driving licences. Responding, DCC Suzette Davenport said “we need to be clear of the problem we’re trying to solve… but that GDLs could be part of a package of measures”.
Jill Bissell, Wokingham Borough Council, asked: “Now that we have all ditched our previous cycle training schemes and replaced them with Bikeability, what will happen after 2015 when the current Bikeability grant funding comes to an end?”
Chris King said that getting parents to pay for cycle training would be his worst fear, adding an aspiration to get cycle training on the National Curriculum, acknowledging that this would not be easy, but “preferable to getting parents to pay”.
Jim Fitzpatrick made the point that because the current funding comes to an end in 2015, that does not mean there will be no future funding. He said that with the high profile cycling is currently enjoying post Olympics and Tour de France, it is unlikely there will be no future funding for cycle training. He also added that Bradley Wiggens being knocked off his bike recently was "wonderful for cycling safety" (though not for Bradley Wiggens) as it proved that even the best cyclist in the world is vulnerable.
The next question asked the panel if it would be wiser to spend a more reasonable amount of money on prevention, rather than three quarters of a billion – that we currently spend each year – on dealing with the consequences of road collisions.
Jenny Jones replied with an emphatic “Yes,” adding that it is “blindingly obvious” that a small investment in road safety budget can deliver “great financial gains”.
The final question asked the entire panel what they would implement if they were secretary of state for transport for a day.
Jim Fitzpatrick said that he’d reduce the speed limit on ‘A’ roads, adding that he wished he’d tackled this issue while a minister in the DfT; Nick Ross said that he would investigate telematics; Chris King said that he would reduce the drink drive limit; DCC Suzette Davenport said that she would introduce targets to reduce casualties; and Jenny Jones said that she would make links between different departments, and stressed the importance of alternative, greener methods of transport.
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