Question Time at the National Conference

12.00 | 15 November 2017 |

One of the highlights of the agenda, the 2017 Question Time panel – chaired by Nick Rawlings – comprises the following panellists:

  • Shaun Helman, head of transport psychology, Transport Research Laboratory (SH)
  • Robert Gifford, chief executive of the Road Safety Trust (RG)
  • Amy Aeron-Thomas, advocacy and justice manager, RoadPeace (AA)
  • Matt Staton, road safety education team leader at Cambridgeshire County Council (MS)
  • Frank Rogers, head of Just Motor Law, Kirwans (FR)

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When mobile speed enforcement is carried out it is clear that many drivers flash their headlights at other drivers to warn them to slow down and the camera vehicles are themselves very visible.  Thus, many drivers who should receive a speeding ticket are spared the consequences of their actions. Does the panel agree that we are being too kind to speeding motorists, and that it is time to carry out covert speed enforcement so that more drivers who exceed the speed limit receive a longer lasting deterrent?

RG: Likelihood of being caught deters people – as does the punishment.

No problem with drivers communicating.

Our aim should be to put ourselves out of business – drivers should behave.

AA: Longstanding supporters on covert enforcement.

We are tolerant towards drivers – drivers can escape points.

Crazy how few drivers are banned as a result of speeding.

FR: Two issues – covert; we already have it. Already technology coming into place.

No positive/negative view – but it’s already with us.

Issue two – flashing. Not illegal but a breach of the Highway Code.

In this context, occasional prosecution – obstructing officer from doing their duty.

Actually encouraging people to follow the law.

SH: Are we being too kind? Frankly, yes.

We don’t do enough to get speed up the agenda.

What changes in the law would the panellists suggest in order to improve road safety?

FR: Probationary driver scheme – make them go on awareness courses.

If you get six points within a week of passing – you get your licence revoked.


RG: A new law is not always a good idea – but investigation of road deaths in child safeguarding.

AA: Change the charging standards around dangerous and careless driving.

SH: GDL – including night time driving and number of passengers. 

I have heard from many experts that the shock tactics employed by Safe Drive, Stay Alive style events are largely ineffective and can even be damaging. Why are emergency services, supported by many road safety organisations, conducting such events when the ineffectiveness is clear and little/no evaluation has been undertaken to prove otherwise?

MS: Key is evidence based planning – clear evidence that there can be negative consequences.

SH: History eats logic for breakfast – we need to be better at telling people what works and what doesn’t.

RG: Why are they still doing it? Time to stop.

Given the recent result of the public consultation on sentencing guidelines and the potential for the most serious offenders to be handed a life sentence for causing death through dangerous and careless driving, does the panel think this will provide an adequate deterrent for those who choose to flout the laws on drink and drug driving along with other risky behaviours – and will sufficient pressure be placed upon the judiciary to implement these changes and increase the paltry sentences currently handed down?

AA: No. Many reasons for sentencing.

Tougher sentences not a deterrent – and life time sentences not going to happen.

FR: Understand calls for tougher sentences but life time sentences are a vanity thing.

I’m more in favour for longer bans and greater rehabilitation programs.

What has been evidenced to improve the relationship and culture between motorists and cyclists and is there any evidence that improving this relationship helps in casualty reduction?

MS: Safety in numbers principle – beneficial effect. In terms of relationship, some cycling publicity instigates ‘us and them’ mentality.

SH: Rather than relationship, just get drivers to look more. If you can get people to actively look for things, they detect them more quickly.

RG: Need for more understanding about different types of cyclists – those who are brave etc.

Is there any justification for attempting to help drivers who have committed dangerous and potentially life-threatening offences to escape prosecution on the grounds of a technicality?

FR: Simple fact – rightly or wrongly – prosecution vs defence. If prosecution badly prepare case, with technical issues, my duty is to identify those flaws and work them to best of my ability.

Secondary duty not to mislead but my primary duty is to work with the law and fact.

End of day it is for the judge to decide.

SH: Legal system can be changed to reflect what society wants. Society needs to reassess relationship with dangerous driving.



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