Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents

1. Introduction

1.1 RoSPA is a registered charity that promotes accident prevention in all areas of life—on the roads, at work, in the home, in schools, at leisure and on or near water. Our mission is to save lives and reduce injury. We welcome the Transport Committee’s Inquiry and are grateful for the opportunity to submit evidence. Our submission has been prepared in consultation with RoSPA’s National Road Safety Committee and Road Safety Advisory Group. RoSPA has also collaborated on a separate joint response submitted by a range of road safety organisations.

1.2 Great Britain has achieved very significant reductions in the number of people being killed and injured on our roads over the last two to three decades. In the mid 1980s around 5,500 people were being killed, and around 75,000 seriously injured on our roads each year, which has fallen to 1,850 deaths and 22,660 serious injuries in 2010. Over this same period, Great Britain had comprehensive road safety strategies with road casualty reduction targets.

1.3 Therefore, the first comment that RoSPA would make is to welcome the fact that there is a Government Strategic Framework for Road Safety. For a period in mid to late 2010 it was not clear whether there would be a new national road safety strategy, and so RoSPA was both relieved and pleased to see the publication of the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety on 11 May 2011.

2. Whether the Government is right not to set road safety targets; and

Whether its outcomes framework is appropriate

Road Safety Targets

2.1 RoSPA believes that the Government should have set casualty reduction targets in the Strategic Framework for Road Safety. Experience in Great Britain and other countries demonstrates the effectiveness of setting clear, evidence-based but challenging road safety targets, supported by comprehensive strategies.

2.2 Britain’s experience with road casualty reduction targets started with the target set in “Road Safety: the Next Steps” of reducing road casualties by one-third by 2000, from the baseline years 1981–85. This was followed by more sophisticated targets in the 2000 to 2010 road safety strategy, “Tomorrow’s Roads: Safer for Everyone”. By 2010, deaths and serious injuries had reduced by 49% from their average level between 1994 and 1998, against a target of 40%, and child deaths and serious injuries had fallen by 64% against a target of a 50% reduction.

2.3 In RoSPA’s view the road casualty reduction targets and strategies helped to focus and motivate the work of road safety policy makers and practitioners, set clear priorities, ensure that resources were allocated.

2.4 Of course, setting targets does not automatically help those charged with their delivery to work effectively to achieve them. Targets in some public services have been criticised for distorting policy and diverting resources to the detriment of other, equally important, aspects of the service. However, this is not the case in road safety, where targets have proved successful.

2.5 A crucial reason for this is that the targets were based on, and supported by, an evidenced-based road safety strategy, that itself was developed from road accident data, traffic growth predictions, and research into the most common types and causes of road casualties and into the effectiveness of measures to reduce them. Also important was the involvement of a wide range of road safety professionals and organisations in the development and delivery of the strategy.

2.6 Another key factor was monitoring progress towards the targets throughout the 10 year strategy period, including two three-year reviews which helped to make the strategy proactive, responsive to changes and able to identify and tackle new priorities. RoSPA believes that the government should conduct a formal review of progress on delivering the Strategic Framework within the first half of this decade.

2.7 International evidence supports the case of setting clear casualty reduction targets:

“Quantified road safety targets in 14 OECD countries ... was associated with significant fatality reductions over a 3-year period, with an overall fatality reduction on 17.4%.”1

“Target setting ... is associated with a substantial positive effect on the time-series trend in road fatalities during the period in which the targets were in effect.”2

and for supporting those targets with a road safety strategy:

“It must also be emphasised that a comprehensive strategy framework is critical to the success of a rational quantified road safety target.”3

“Ambitious, achievable and empirically-derived road safety Targets should be adopted by all countries.”3

2.8 RoSPA is concerned that the decision to use road casualty forecasts, rather than targets, in the Strategic Framework will result in less focus on their achievement, and to an inconsistent approach across the country, with some local authorities treating the forecasts as targets, and other’s not. There is also the likelihood of inconsistency across the United Kingdom due to the different approaches taken in “Scotland’s Road Safety Framework to 2020” and “Northern Ireland’s Road Safety Strategy to 2020”, both of which include casualty reduction targets.

2.9 Therefore, RoSPA believes that the Government should reconsider its decision and develop and set new road casualty reduction targets. These should, of course, continue to be evidence-based, taking into account the research, data and analysis already conducted for the Strategic Framework and for the earlier proposed “A Safer Way” Strategy, as well as the latest road casualty data.

2.10 If the government decides not to do so, RoSPA recommends that it strengthens the Outcomes Framework (see below), instigates a formal progress review along the lines of the three-year reviews of the previous road safety strategy and gives clear guidance to local authorities and all other road safety agencies about the importance of continuing to make progress towards, and beyond, the Strategic Framework’s forecasts.

Outcomes Framework

2.11 RoSPA supports the Outcome Framework as it will enable progress in reducing road death and injury to be monitored and measured. In addition to the main indicators relating to the number, type and rates of road casualties, we are particularly pleased to see the indicators for young and novice drivers, the number of people taking remedial driver education courses, for drug driving and for failure to wear a seat belt.

2.12 However, we believe that some additional indicators would be useful:

Deaths and serious injury on rural roads (an indicator for deaths on rural roads was proposed for the “A Safer Way” strategy).

Deaths and injuries in crashes in which at least one person was at work.

The number of urban roads with 20 mph limits.

2.13 The vehicle safety indicator appears to relate to the age of cars in collisions, which is too simplistic, as the type, size and crash performance of cars are also important. This indicator should not be restricted just to cars, but include other types of motor vehicles. An indicator related to vehicle defects would be very useful if proposals to reduce the frequency of MoTs are actually put forward.

3. How the decentralisation to local authorities of funding and the setting of priorities will work in practice and contribute towards fulfilling the Government’s vision

3.1 RoSPA believes that it is too soon to know the answer to this question. All Local Authorities are making very difficult choices, balancing the provision of a range of essential public services (including road safety) with much reduced resources. The risk is that too few resources will be devoted to road safety, especially given the lack of targets to be achieved.

Reduced Funding

3.2 We are aware from conversations with road safety practitioners that there is considerable variance between local authorities in how they are deciding to fund and deliver road safety services. The combination of reduced resources and the end of ring-fencing for road safety funding has led to significant reorganisations in most, if not all, local authorities, and in Road Safety Partnerships, the Police and the Fire and Rescue Services. Not only are there fewer road safety staff, but it has often been the most experienced staff who have left, leading to a loss of expertise.

3.3 Given the economic situation over the last few years, it is inevitable that road safety has had to face its share of cuts in public spending. However, in 2010, the value of preventing reported road accidents was estimated to be £14.9 billion, an enormous financial burden that the country can ill-afford, especially in these economic circumstances.4 Investment in road safety makes a significant economic contribution to the country and can play a substantial role in generating economic growth, as well as saving lives and preventing injuries.

3.4 There have been periods of considerable uncertainty about what road safety services (and which staff) would continue to be provided and at what level. This was particularly noticeable with safety cameras, when for several months it seemed that all cameras might be switched off. While this did not happen, there have been reductions in the number of cameras being operated and in the work of Road Safety Partnerships. A specific challenge for the future will be funding the replacement of old cameras as they reach the end of their lives with newer digital ones.

3.5 It will be some time before it becomes clear how these changes have affected the delivery of road safety services and what effect that has on road user behaviour and ultimately, on casualty numbers. This should be the subject of a thorough analysis and evaluation.

Localism

3.6 Prior to the publication of the Strategic Framework, RoSPA submitted suggestions to the Department for Transport, including our view that the right balance between national consistency and standards in road safety, and Localism is important. While Local Authorities are best placed to identify and judge local needs and priorities, it is also crucial that people living, or using the roads, in one part of the country have the same level of road safety service and standards as those living in any other part of the country. National leadership is needed alongside Localism.

4. Whether the Government is right to argue that, for the most part, the right legislative framework for road safety is in place, and, in particular, whether the Road Safety Act 2006 has fulfilled its objectives

4.1 On the whole, RoSPA agrees that the right legislative framework for road safety is in place in Great Britain, however, further changes (such as lowering the drink drive limit) would strengthen it. Laws are generally only as effective as their enforcement, and there is concern that cuts to the police service will hamper its ability to enforce road safety laws.

4.2 Local Authorities have statutory duties, under Section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, to promote road safety, analyse road accidents in their area and to take appropriate measures to prevent such accidents. Similar duties on central government would help to ensure that the safety and well being of all road users remains a key government priority.

5. Whether the measures set out in the action plan are workable and sufficient

5.1 RoSPA supports the measures set out in the Action Plan, especially the:

re-education and re-training for drivers and riders who have committed offences;

drink and drug drive measures (as far as they go);

development of the road safety research portal for professionals and the public;

website for people to compare the road safety performance of local authorities;

development of a new post-test qualification to replace Pass Plus; and

the recognition that road safety education is essential.

5.2 On the last point, the government should put sufficient resource in place to enable road safety services to be delivered to vulnerable people, especially children and young people in schools and colleges to ensure that the right attitudes and behaviours are instilled before they reach adulthood.

5.3 However, we do not believe that the measures in the Action Plan are sufficient. There are important issues that are not included, most notably road safety engineering measures and measures to improve work-related road safety.

5.4 Of course, the Strategic Framework is more than the Action Plan and contains many other measures, including a range of new tools (some of which are still being developed) to help those who deliver road safety to target limited resources at the most important issues, in the most efficient and effective ways. Of particular note is the emphasis on evaluation, and the www.roadsafetyevaluation.com website and E-valu-it Toolkit developed by RoSPA, the DfT and local authority road safety officers.

5.5 The Framework could be stronger on several key issues:

5.6 Helping drivers not to speed—It needs to be easier for drivers to choose to drive at safe speeds. The over-riding principle of speed limit signing should be to ensure that the limit is as clear and obvious as possible; drivers should not be expected to work it out. Manufacturers could do more to help drivers by, for example, improving the design of speedometers and continuing to develop speed awareness technology.

5.7 Ultimately, a digital map of the speed limits of the UK’s road network will make it possible to display the speed limit of every road within the car, so that a driver can constantly be aware of the limit and when it changes. Eventually, this should lead to the adoption of Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA) where the vehicle actively helps the driver to stay within the speed limit. RoSPA recommends that the government should fund or commission the creation and maintenance of such a digital map.

5.8 Drink Driving—RoSPA was very disappointed by the Government’s decision not to lower the drink drive limit nor to introduce wider powers for the police to breath test drivers as recommended in the North Report.5 If the Scottish Government is given the power to set the drink drive limit in Scotland, as proposed in the Scotland Bill,6 RoSPA hopes that Scotland would lead the way by lowering the limit in Scotland. Northern Ireland is also considering lowering its drink drive limit.7

5.9 Single Double Summer Time—While the Strategic Framework acknowledges that adopting Single/Double Summertime (SDST) would save around 80 lives a year, RoSPA is disappointed that it does not include an Action to introduce it. We support the Daylight Saving Bill8 put forward by Rebecca Harris MP which, if passed, would require a “cross-departmental analysis of the potential costs and benefits of advancing time by one hour for all, or part, of the year” followed by a three-year trial if the research recommended changing the current system.

5.10 Finally, there are policies that will affect road safety, but are not included in the Strategic Framework. For example, the proposal to increase the motorway speed limit and the expected proposal to reduce the frequency of the MoT test. The effect of such policies on the delivery of the Strategic Framework needs to be seriously considered, as does the effect of increased road use once economy begin to grow.

6. The relationship between the Government’s strategy and EU road safety initiatives

6.1 The European Commission, supported by the UK Government, has set a target of halving road deaths in the EU by 2020. Deaths on British roads form part of the total number of European road deaths, however, the inclusion of forecasts rather than targets in Britain’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety creates a gap between Great Britain and EU road safety initiatives, and indeed between the road safety strategies of Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of which include casualty reduction targets.

6.2 As stated in our comments on the question of targets on page 2 of this submission RoSPA believes that the Government should re-think its decision not to set targets and develop and set new road casualty reduction targets.

6.3 In a joint letter to the Times in July 2011, a wide range of organisations, including RoSPA, and four former Road Safety Ministers, called on the Government “to implement strategies that will meet the European target of reducing deaths by 50% by 2020”. We believe that this is an achievable goal.

7. Conclusion

7.1 Great Britain has made considerable progress in reducing death and injury on our roads, with very substantial reductions in the last quarter of the previous decade. The delivery of road safety strategies, targets and measures made major contributions to this, but there have also been other reasons, such as reduced road travel in the recession. Maintaining and improving upon the recent road casualty reductions is likely to be more difficult during this decade, especially given reduced public spending and increased road use as economic activity increases.

7.2 Against this background, the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety faces major challenges. It is quite rightly focussed on helping everyone involved in road safety to work more efficiently and effectively, and the development of a suite of complementary tools, including www.roadsafetyevaluation.com and the Road Safety Observatory, will be an important means of achieving this.

7.3 However, there are weaknesses in the Strategic Framework, most notably the lack of casualty reduction targets. Strong, clear government leadership in road safety is needed alongside Localism. Although reduced public spending is inevitable, the Government should recognise, and help Local Authorities to recognise, the economic benefits of investing in road safety, in both reducing the huge financial cost of road accidents and by stimulating economic growth.

7.4 RoSPA thanks the Transport Committee for the opportunity to submit evidence.

October 2011

1 “Association Between Setting Quantified Road Safety Targets and Road Fatality Reduction”, Wong et al, Accident Analysis & Prevention 37, 2006.

2 “Is the Effect of Quantified Road Safety Targets Sustainable?”, Wong and Sze, Safety Science 48, 2010.

3 “Towards Zero: Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System Approach”, OECD, 2008.

4 “A valuation of road accidents and casualties in Great Britain in 2010”, in “Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain: 2010 Annual Report”, Department for Transport, 2011.

5 “Report of the Review of Drink and Drug Driving Law”, Sir Peter North CBE QC, 2010.

6 The Scotland Bill 2010–11, Part 2, section 24.

7 “Tackling Drinking and Driving in Northern Ireland”, Dept of the Environment Consultation Paper, 2009.

8 “Daylight Saving Bill”.

Prepared 18th July 2012