Executive Director’s Report
This report covers the period since November. This is always a pretty busy part of the year for PACTS. If I have omitted or underemphasised any part of our work, please do not hesitate to raise anything with me.
Members should have received a copy of our latest Occasional Research Report: “Behave Yourself: Road Safety Policy in the 21st Century”. As you will be aware this was a follow-up to the report on Beyond 2010 published in October 2007. Further hard copies are available from the PACTS’ office and electronic copies from the website.
I am grateful to Becky for the work that she put in to complete the report on time. A report lasting twelve months from beginning to end is a substantial commitment, especially when it is concerned with a very complex area such as human behaviour.
The report began with a fairly simple question: why do we appear to have won the argument on drinking and driving but not on speeding? However, it also ranged far wider covering the behavioural change approach that had been adopted to achieve the ban on smoking in public places and to raise the level of commitment to recycling. The conclusions are, as ever, complicated: a number of behavioural change approaches are available to transport safety professionals. The crucial issue is to identify what outcomes are to be achieved and the means to achieve them. Some change can be found through personal encouragement and the provision of individual tailored solutions. At other times, legislation is the only option.
Copies of the report have been circulated to Parliamentarians and to the Ministerial team at the DfT. I am awaiting the opportunity to talk to Ministers about the report. Becky, as you may know, has secured a new post in the Policy Unit at Westminster City Council and I would like to put on record my thanks to her for a report that challenges many of our preconceptions and encourages us to take a wider perspective on transport safety. I also believe that the report has a relevance beyond road safety to transport safety as a whole, especially in the section about sustainable travel towns.
At the same time, our earlier report continues to have currency within government circles. On February 9, I attended a meeting of the Road Safety Advisory Panel for an update on thinking for the strategy to improve road safety further beyond 2010. One slide included options for a Vision beyond 2010 and the three candidates were Vision Zero (Sweden), Sustainable Safety (the Netherlands) and Relative Risk (PACTS). I never knew we moved in such exalted company!
One of the important points identified in the briefing is the reliability of data. Both the rail and aviation sectors are, I think, much better at data management and analysis than the road sector. Perhaps that is explained by the large number of road crashes and incidents compared to the other sectors. Nevertheless, one factor that explains the better performance of some local authorities is the understanding of what is happening on their roads. In the next round of casualty reduction, we will need to be even smarter in this area.
On January 21, in combination with the Air Safety Group, PACTS gave evidence at the Transport Select Committee inquiry into airspace capacity. This current inquiry is looking at the extent to which current airspace is adequate for the amount of flying currently undertaken. It is also looking at the potential conflicts between military and civil aviation. In our joint submission, we emphasised the need for a planned approach to airspace management and the need for better management of airspace used by both military and civil sectors. The latter should change when new airspace definitions come into force in March.
On March 4, PACTS will be holding a briefing for Parliamentarians on Intelligent Speed Adaptation to be led by Oliver Carsten. A briefing on the issue has been circulated to our Parliamentary members and is available on the web-site. The briefing also follows on from an earlier briefing on Intelligent Transport Systems circulated by the Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology.
On a linked issue, answers to Parliamentary Questions and relevant weekly business are now loaded regularly on to the PACTS website. I hope that you have made use of this feature of the site. If not, please do have a look at the contents and tell us what you think. The intention behind the site is that it should be a first point of contact for anyone interested in transport safety.
Since the last meeting, we have held the Westminster Lecture and are about to host our conference on March 11. Thank you to all who have attended or registered for either of these events as they are important part of our work to disseminate research and practice in transport safety.
Obviously, we are in strained economic times when it comes to attendance at conferences. Both October and March events have attracted lower number of delegates than in previous years. I suspect this is because there are a very large number of conferences to choose from these days and far less money to spend in this area. This year, we have also chosen topics that are important ones to stretch the boundaries of transport safety: personal safety and security (in October) and safety and sustainability (in March). If you have not booked your place for March 11, please feel free to contact us. The presentations on the day will include discussions about safe walking and cycling and the need for safe and sustainable approaches to driving for work.
Advisory Committee members may be interested to note that I have been asked to chair the Stakeholder Group for the Driving for Better Business initiative funded by the Department for Transport. This project has been funded for a further three years commencing in April and aims to raise the issue of driving for work among the business sector. I look forward to raising the issues of transport safety with a wider group of users than we have been able to reach before.