Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum by West Yorkshire Road Safety Strategy Group (RTS 15)

ROAD TRAFFIC SPEEDS

  The role of illegal and inappropriate speed in respect of causing crashes, and the severity of accidents; reducing the quality of life in urban areas; and the consequences of illegal and inappropriate speed for urban design.

  It is clear from the outset that much more needs to be done nationally in terms of appropriate publicity to inform road users of the concerns that speed brings to local communities and of the increases in road injuries that are brought about by illegal and/or inappropriate speed. That includes information on what are illegal and inappropriate speeds.

  There is adequate information that higher speeds bring about higher rates of crashes and more serious casualties. That needs to be better communicated.

  The reduction in quality of life is again well documented including the reductions in walking, cycling and access to social and community activities—and also the harmful effects on health overall and on the development of younger people. At local neighbourhood meetings in West Yorkshire the greatest concerns of local people are the harmful effects of increasing road traffic driven at inappropriate or illegal speeds.

  The availability and reliability of research on the consequences of, and reasons for, illegal and inappropriate speed, and in particular the reasons for the very high pedestrian casualty rate.

  There is sufficient information on the consequences of illegal and inappropriate speed. The link to very high pedestrian casualty rates should not be made automatically as there are other factors that relate to pedestrian injuries. Very significant reductions in fatal and serious pedestrian injuries have been made in West Yorkshire up to the year 2000 and further actions are proposed to build on these achievements. However, recent fatalities would suggest that an equal concern is that of young male drivers or motorcycle riders killing themselves and other motorists.

  The extent to which the problems associated with speed should be tackled by: better enforcement; road re-design and traffic calming; road re-classification; physical measures to separate pedestrians and cars (eg barriers); technology (eg through Intelligent Speed Adaptation and car designs which promote pedestrian protection); education to improve drivers' and motor cyclists' behaviour and pedestrian and cyclist awareness; changes to speed limits and what specific policies should be implemented.

  Arguably speeding issues should continue to be tackled by all means available although you would hope not to have to use systems such as Intelligent Speed Adaptation as a controlling mechanism on driver behaviour. The biggest single issue is the resources required to make the changes that are needed to influence speeds, most critically in terms of the people required to carry out necessary actions in an acceptable timescale.

  Given the resources that are available, increased enforcement by way of safety cameras is the quickest way to bring about a reduction in road injuries and a change in behaviour but this must be coupled with extensive publicity led by central government. Road re-design and traffic calming are evolving with the help and assistance of local people to re-allocate road space to vulnerable users and to reduce speeds. There are indications that residential areas are becoming safer and that crashes and injuries are concentrating on the more major roads where there are difficulties of providing safety and community facilities whilst maintaining the needs of business and industry. It is here where safety cameras could be more usefully used whether or not there has been a history of road injuries.

  Road re-classification or the identification of a road hierarchy would assist in making clear that roads have specific purposes and of the type of road design and speed limit to be expected.

  Separation would seem to be a last resort, necessary only where pedestrian actions could create risk and injury. Dual carriageway roads in city centres or on the approaches may need special attention. It is important that pedestrians are also aware of their responsibilities to behave correctly and safely in a road environment.

  Education is an issue for all users—effectively to promote responsible behaviour of drivers, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians. In a responsible society every member has a duty towards ensuring their own safety and that of others.

  Speed limits should be considered as maximum speeds given the prevailing road character, although on many de-restricted roads the national speed limit can be unsafe. Advisory speed limits could be more widely used to indicate particular difficulties at locations where the general speed limit or de-restriction does not give appropriate guidance. Speed limits should relate to the road hierarchy.

  Implementation of policy in relation to speeds should not conflict with other transport policies and should take into account resources available. It was disappointing that "Tomorrow's Roads" had no assessment of resources required to deliver the road safety strategy and we should not underestimate or not take into account the personnel required to effectively address speeding issues in a reasonable timescale. Neither should policy be developed without the backing and support from local people. In general measures to reduce road speeds are supported by many people in local communities.

  The extent to which relevant bodies are taking the right actions.

  Whether local authorities, DTLR- the Highways Agency, the police and Home Office are providing a co-ordinated approach to speed management, and what they should do. Whether the sentences imposed by magistrates and judges on those convicted of speeding offences have in all cases been appropriate and what other approaches ought to be considered. Whether motor manufacturers, the national press, TV programmes about motoring and advertisers have shown all appropriate attitude to speed, and how they should change.

  Action to address speeding issues is not well co-ordinated, particularly as this conflicts with other priorities of the relevant bodies. The Police for example do not necessarily have casualty reduction targets in policing plans, neither are they uniformly structured nationally or necessarily sufficiently staffed to provide a co-ordinated response to traffic policing issues. Similarly local government has priorities within the modernisation agenda that could conflict with the resources and structure required to manage road speeds. Again, it is likely that there is not the skills base and sufficient staffing nationally to deliver the actions required even with the use of external consultants. Co-ordination should stem from central guidance and requirements with the recognition that appropriate resources and staffing structure are necessary to deliver the national road safety strategy including the issues around road traffic speed. Government itself sends mixed messages about transport issues particularly in respect of the use of motor vehicles.

  Present penalties are a deterrent but are not consistently applied and are perhaps not applied until road speeds are very much in excess of speed limits. This culture has been allowed to develop to the extent that motorists expect to exceed the speed limit generally without penalty. This is something that needs to be reversed through enforcement policy nationally to the point that motorists travel at or within speed limits.

  Increasingly media have delivered balanced items on road speeds on radio, television and in the press, recognising the very real concerns that local people have about road traffic and speed. However there is a need for a responsible attitude to motoring and the advertising that is used.

  There is a further question here—are other stakeholders taking the right action? There are many other bodies who will benefit from a safer road environment for example Health Authorities, Insurance Companies and many employers. It is very important that those interests are represented in developing actions to manage speeds.

  The role of speed management strategies.

  Speed management strategies are essential forward planning and implementation processes linking aims to reduce speeds and injuries with the needs of local people. The setting down of objectives, road hierarchy, objectives etc are essential to direct action and to monitor progress. It is most important that speed management strategies are developed with local people and local bodies to make sure that they are suited to local communities. Work done in West Yorkshire on speed management has been amended through the involvement of local people to include facilities to promote community activities and safety.

  Speed management strategies need to be inclusive and represent the interests of all stakeholders.

Steve Thornton

Chair

4 January 2002



 
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