Road deaths and serious injuries could fall by more than 20% if drivers “drove more safely”, according to a new report produced by TRL, the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory.
The report, commissioned by the Joint Thames Valley and Hampshire Roads Policing Unit, found that annually more than 460 fewer road users would be killed or seriously injured (KSI) each year if the ‘fatal four’ – speeding, non-wearing of seat belts, drink and drug-driving and mobile phone use while driving – were eradicated.
In 2013 there were 112 deaths and 1,848 serious injuries on the roads of Thames Valley and Hampshire.
In the report TRL estimates, based on the data and evidence, that in one year across the Thames Valley and Hampshire, there would be 66 fewer KSIs if every car occupant wore a seatbelt or appropriate restraint, 160 fewer KSIs if drink driving was eradicated, and 242 fewer KSIs if mobile phone use was eradicated while driving.
The Joint Thames Valley and Hampshire Roads Policing Unit asked TRL to produce the report to “ensure its approach to enforcement is evidence-based, so that resources can be prioritised appropriately”.
To support this aim, the Unit asked TRL to conduct an independent review to ascertain whether its current approach is efficient and effective at reducing the number of road casualties and how it might be improved further.
The focus of the review was on speeding, non-wearing of seat belts, drink and drug-driving and mobile phone use while driving which are “known to contribute to the likelihood and severity of a significant number of collisions”.
Researchers at TRL collated and analysed information on traffic offences and collisions across the Thames Valley and Hampshire. The findings were then related to evidence from previous research on the impact of different methods of police enforcement on offences and collisions.
The result is a series of recommendations for the Joint Roads Policing Unit to consider and use to adapt their strategies in an evidence-based way, including:
• The randomisation of locations and times of general roads enforcement to increase road users’ perceived risk of detection, and consequently decrease offending behaviours
• Mobile phone enforcement focussed towards weekdays during working hours
• Campaigns to reduce mobile phone use should be aimed at employers and work-related road safety and should highlight the dangers of both hand-held and hands-free phones, since the general collision risk is similar (although hands-free phones are legal)
• More priority given to evening and weekend enforcement of drink-driving.
• Fixed speed cameras are a deterrent for general offenders and further fixed camera locations should be considered where a particular speeding issue exists.
• As digital fixed speed cameras are introduced in the region, a smart approach could be taken in terms of operating these at the times of highest risk.
Chief inspector Henry Parsons, Thames Valley and Hampshire Police, said: “We recognised that this research has been needed for quite some time.
“With a reduction in resources due to budget constraints, we realised that the impact that we can have on reducing traffic offences and consequently collisions can only be sustained if we become more efficient at protecting the public.
“The figures are cold hard evidence of the number of lives and serious injuries that can be avoided through improving driving behaviours.
“The findings and recommendations that have resulted from this work are already impacting on our strategies, allowing us to focus on the most effective methods of policing.”
Dr Louise Lloyd, TRL’s principal statistician, said: “Our collaboration with Thames Valley and Hampshire Police has demonstrated that the number of people who are injured or killed in road accidents could reduce substantially if road users recognised the risks involved in dangerous behaviours such as using a mobile phone while driving, drink-driving, exceeding the speed limit and not wearing a seatbelt.
“Sadly, many accidents caused by those who are committing traffic offences also have a significant impact on the lives of individuals and families of other road users.”