Polish delegates learn from Road Safety GB chair

14.37 | 28 February 2012 | | 8 comments

Alan Kennedy, chair of Road Safety GB, emphasised the importance of ‘real world training’, partnership working and developing data-led interventions to delegates at a recent road safety seminar in Poland.

Around 80 people attended the event, including Radoslaw Stepien, Poland’s under secretary of state/deputy chairman of the Polish National Road Safety Council and other members of the council, which was held at The British Embassy in Warsaw on 23 February.

Poland’s road casualties are among the worst in the EU; implementing the EU Infrastructure Safety Directive 2008/96/EC on road safety management, and achieving a 50% reduction in road deaths, is a priority.

The seminar, UK Best Practice in Road Safety, showcased UK policy, expertise and road safety solutions.

Alan Kennedy said: “It was fascinating to hear about the special challenges our colleagues in Poland face in terms of changing culture.

“Essentially drivers are anti-legislation and see traffic laws as a restriction. Basically, many drivers believe that they should be able to make their own speed choice.

“This is fuelled by prominent active journalists from the national media who are largely pro-driver and anti government and legislation.”

Alan, who was there in his capacity as chair of Road Safety GB, explained the role of Road Safety GB; how it communicates effectively with its members and shares knowledge and expertise through its website and the Road Safety Knowledge Centre.  He also explained how Road Safety GB acts as a vital link between the DfT and local authorities.

In his presentation he emphasised the value of training children and drivers in real life situations rather than sat behind a desk, highlighting the success that this approach can deliver. He quoted NDORS as an example of how many people can be re-trained to use a safer driving system.

He also emphasised the value of partnership working to maximise resources and reduce duplication, and the importance of interventions to be data-led and developed for the right road safety reasons, rather than on a political whim.

Alan also talked about the issue of training young drivers, explaining the EXCELerate scheme developed by Durham’s road safety team, and similar schemes used in other parts of the country.

Alan added: "The presentation generated much interest in our ‘hands on’ approach and I was asked a number of questions regarding the detail of how young driver training courses can be delivered.

"I also extended an invitation to the Polish road safety community to visit the UK to see first hand the excellent work that is being delivered by local authority road safety officers and engineers right across the UK."

Other speakers from the UK included Andrew Colski (DfT) and Peter Rodger (IAM).

For more information contact Alan Kennedy on 0191 383 3767.



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    The trouble is, that being inside a car is like being in a little protective bubble. Too often drivers focus on nothing beyond their own journey, considering only how they will get to their destination in as short a time as possible. Happy inside their little bubble, drivers forget that they are passing through communities where people live and work and places where children play.

    Most drivers believe themselves to be safe and considerate, assuming it must be others that are causing the problem. Often the individual is blissfully unaware that their ‘choice’ of speed might impact negatively on anyone else. I mean how can their one little journey cause such a problem for anyone else? How can it really matter so much if they choose to travel slightly above the speed limit? What so many individual drivers forget is that it is the cumulative effect of these actions which cause so many problems for other road users. This same principle applies to many other forms of anti social behaviour today.

    Speed and the perception of speed, along with traffic volume is creating barriers to other forms of travel and helping to sever communities up and down the country.

    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)


    While speed may not be the cause of crashes, a higher initial speed means that one has less time to correctly assess a situation, less time to react, and one tends to hit things harder. You cannot argue with the laws of physics! If driving standards did not improve, but we all drove more slowly, then crashes, deaths, and injuries would all be reduced in number. It is going to be virtually impossible to train all drivers to the standard we’d like to see, so until then the practical advice is to slow down.

    David, Suffolk
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    Everybody that thinks speed causes accidents should read “The Field Guide to Human Error Investigations” by Sidney Dekker. If everybody in the road safety industry did so, then we might begin to identify the actual causes of road accidents. Until then, it’s all guesswork and speculation.

    Duncan MacKillop. Stratford on Avon
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    Learning to judge appropriate and safe speed at any given point on any given road for any given vehicle in any given weather conditions is one of the most important parts of learning to drive. The horror with which so many road safety experts react to the idea that drivers might actually be doing that, rather than religiously (and I use the word deliberately) adhering to the speed dictated by a number on a pole, that is appropriate as often as a stopped clock tells the right time – i.e. occasionally but not for long – utterly baffles me.

    The inevitable effect of this approach is to remove from drivers their ability to judge safe speeds and from time to time drive faster than is safe because the sign says they are allowed to.

    Please think again.

    Idris Francis Peterfield
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    We necessarily leave speed choice to each driver most of the time in the UK and thank goodness they handle it so well. I drive about 25 miles each way to work and pass through two speed cameras (close together on 50mph dual carriageway) where my speed is artificially constrained and where I experience sudden braking and other erratic driving from others. For the rest of my journey my speed is governed by conditions.

    We can all drive safely with a broken speedometer – because we drive according to the conditions; not legally necessarily, but safely.

    Road Safety GB would be more effective if it focused on safety, rather than legality.
    And NDORS courses preaching speed awareness are in danger of undermining our natural ability to drive instinctively.

    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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    I have been to Poland several times. I spent much time in the cities and the towns and stayed with friends in a rural village, cumulatively covering several months. I walked a lot, was driven (never drove myself) and took buses and coaches.

    I never felt scared of the speed of traffic there and to suggest inappropriate and excessive speed to be the major difference between Poland and elsewhere explaining poor road safety requires some evidence.

    A huge amount of Poland is rural, there are huge mountains and roads are often in poor state. What occurs here on rural roads? Also, the cars were generally old without ABS, air-bags, SIP, ESC etc and there were a lot of horse drawn buggies and home-made farm machinery on the roads etc. What would happen to road safety here if we replaced all the modern cars with such vehicles?

    And I heard stories of Police enforcement of road safety there that would make front page news here.

    Can I ask, of the 4,572 killed, how many involved a vehicle exceeding their speed limit?

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    It is interesting to note that in Poland where drivers tend to make their own speed choice, they have the highest number of road deaths of all 27 European Union countries. 4,572 people were killed on the roads in 2009, a death rate of 120 for every million citizens. The EU average in 2009 was 69 deaths per million.

    There is evidence in Poland that inappropriate and excessive speed is a major factor in many of these fatalities. I experienced first hand, being driven to and from the airport, and during a brief and scary walk, the excessive speeds of most drivers. If drivers, good or bad, simply drove their cars at slower speeds, they would increase their margin for error and the time available to them to spot and react to a hazard or situation, thus increasing their ability to take action to avoid a collision. I have also sat in many NDORS courses in the UK and I have seen first hand how ‘at risk’ many drivers are through their lack of understanding of speed, distance, cause and effect and the simplest defensive driving principles before they have been ‘re-trained’.

    If we left speed choice entirely to each driver, in my view, it would not improve road safety.

    Alan Kennedy, Chairman Road Safety GB
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    Alan Kennedy said: “… many drivers believe that they should be able to make their own speed choice”.

    Speed choice is an output from the driving process – it’s what the driver decides, mostly instinctively, is the appropriate speed given all the inputs they receive from their senses. Good drivers develop the ability to do this naturally and even poor drivers manage to do it fairly well most of the time. Speed management focuses a disproportionate amount of attention on that one instinctive aspect of driving – speed – reducing the time and attention available for the other aspects of driving (observation, concentration, anticipation, etc). The consequence is that the driver’s assessment of conditions is distorted. When most collisions involve misjudgment, poor observation or a momentary lack of concentration, it is inevitable that speed management interventions will have a detrimental effect on drivers’ judgement, increase risk to all road users, and cause accidents.

    Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans
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