January 2010

Forthcoming Parliamentary Questions in the House of Lords

• Use of hand-held mobile telephones by drivers – Viscount Tenby,  Thursday 14 January 2010

• Questions to the Secretary of State for Transport – Lord Adonis, Thursday 14 January 2010

• Making roads safer for cyclists – Viscount Falkland, Thursday 21 January

• Speed cameras – Lord Trimble, Thursday 28 January

• Questions to the Secretary of State for Transport – Lord Adonis, Thursday 4 February 2010

Update on road safety


The House of Commons Transport Committee has published the oral evidence of a session on road safety, held on Wednesday 4 November 2009. Witnesses were as follows: Richard Alldritt, Head of Assessment and Board member of the UK Statistics Authority.

Heavy Goods Vehicles (Seat Belts)

On 8 December 2009 Alan Milburn, Labour MP for Darlington secured a Westminster Hall debate on seat belts in Heavy Goods Vehicles. To read the text of the debate, click on the link.

Written Parliamentary Statement on Dangerous Driving

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice (Claire Ward): The Government has been working throughout this Parliament to improve safety on Britain’s roads. In recent years we have enacted a number of measures designed to deal more effectively with those whose driving puts others at serious risk. We have introduced the new offences of causing death by careless driving and causing death while driving unlicensed or uninsured, which have maximum penalties of five years and two years imprisonment, respectively; and increased the maximum penalty for serious driving offences, including causing death by dangerous driving and causing death by careless driving while under the influence of drink or drugs, from 10 to 14 years imprisonment (Criminal Justice Act 2003, came into effect on 27 February 2004).

But we need to do more. Dangerous driving is still too prevalent. We should not underestimate the devastating effect that bad driving can have on people’s lives. I have listened to the representations from those who are campaigning for increased penalties for dangerous driving. I have come to the conclusion that they are right, and that the current penalties are insufficient.

I therefore intend to increase the maximum penalty for dangerous driving from two years imprisonment to five years imprisonment. This will require primary legislation. An appropriate provision will be included in a suitable Bill when parliamentary time allows.

Road Safety

At the beginning of December Ministers at the DfT announced that before the new road safety strategy is published they were to take a fresh look at the issues of drink and drug driving. Based on the evidence to date, Ministers think there may be a case for reforming the current legal framework covering drink and drug driving. However both topics raise complex legal and practical issues. Ministers have therefore sought further advice from an independent expert.

Sir Peter North has been asked to provide Lord Adonis with advice on the merit of specific proposals for changes to the legislative regime for drink and drug driving, reporting by the end of March 2010.  Sir Peter is an internationally renowned legal expert whose previous studies include the review of traffic law which led to the Road Traffic Act 1991. His report will inform the final contents of the next road safety strategy.  For drink driving, the report will advise on the case for changes to the prescribed alcohol limit for driving (either reducing the current limit, or adding a new, lower limit, with an associated revised penalty regime).    For drug driving, the study will advise on whether there is a need for new legislation to make it an offence to drive with a named substance in the body.  For both drink and drugs, the study will also set out the likely impacts of any changes on driver behaviour, and the practical steps needed to support introduction of any or revised offence.

Drivers urged to check effects of medicines

Drivers will be warned about the potential effects of medicines in a new THINK! campaign launched by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark.

One million leaflets will be distributed through 2,600 Boots stores while medicine bags will be labeled with stickers prompting drivers to check with their doctor or pharmacist that they are safe to drive while taking their medicines.

This follows a major TV, radio and online campaign in August 2009 to target the irresponsible minority who drive while under the influence of illegal drugs.
For more information about the THINK! campaign please visit: www.dft.gov.uk/think/drugdrive.

 Government to allow wider use of 20 mph schemes without speed humps

New proposals to allow councils to put in place 20 mph schemes over groups of streets without the need for traffic calming measures such as speed humps were announced in December by Road Safety Minister Paul Clark.

The Government is encouraging local councils to introduce 20 mph schemes into residential streets and other roads where cycle and pedestrian traffic is high, such as around schools, shops and parks.
In the past, councils wanting to implement 20 mph schemes on groups of roads  have had to do so in ‘zones’ which require traffic calming measures such as speed humps. 20 mph limits without traffic calming were only recommended on individual roads.

However, following a successful city-wide trial in Portsmouth which suggested it is possible to significantly reduce speeds on residential streets without speed humps or other traffic calming measures, the Department for Transport plans to allow 20mph limits to be used across more streets where traffic speeds are already low without the need for such measures.

A report published in the British Medical Journal found that 20 mph zones in London had led to a dramatic reduction in the number of accidents in those areas and called for more 20 mph zones and limits to be put in place.

The Government is also reiterating its call for councils to carry out speed limit reviews of their rural roads by 2011, focusing on National Speed Limit single carriageway ‘A’ and ‘B’ roads where 41% of fatalities occur. Local authorities should consider reducing the limit on the most dangerous roads where this will have a significant impact on casualties. These decisions remain entirely for local authorities to make based on their knowledge of local roads.

The Department for Transport is seeking the views of local councils on these proposals in order to allow new guidance to be published at the earliest available opportunity.

BBC Road Safety Day

On 15 December BBC News focused news coverage on road safety. The BBC website put together a new interactive map of deaths on the roads going back 10 years, searchable by postcode so users can see the record on roads near them.

A link to the map can be found on the PACTS website https://www.pacts.org.uk/news.php?id=403

Fast Forward: can technology help the vulnerable road user?

Wednesday March 10 2010

University of Birmingham Conference Park, Lucas House, 48 Edgbaston Road, Edgbaston, B15 2RA

As we come to the end of the current casualty reduction target period, it is timely to look at the challenges that lie ahead of us over the next decade. One of these is clearly the growing use and availability of technology. The question for policy-makers is the extent to which this technology can help to achieve policy objectives.

The aim of this conference is to look at how technology can help to cut casualties among the more vulnerable road user groups. In this context, the conference takes a deliberately wide definition of vulnerable, including not only pedestrians and motorcyclists but also young and older drivers, two groups most at risk on our roads.

The conference is also a first for us in the choice of venue outside London. We hope that the move to Birmingham will give more people a chance to attend the event without having to travel too far. In 2009, members suggested in answers to a questionnaire that London was not always the best place for a conference. Birmingham offers an opportunity to take conferences around the country rather than expecting people to travel to London.

To book go to https://www.pacts.org.uk/events.php?id=15.

A discounted price is available for members of PACTS and ITS UK.

Roads, casualties and public health: the open sewers of the 21st century?

21st Westminster Lecture, Tuesday 23 November 2010, One Bird Cage Walk, SW1P 3AY

Every century comes with a major public health warning about the harm that we inflict on ourselves. In Britain in the nineteenth century it was the diseases we spread by tolerating open sewers. In the twentieth century it was tobacco that we slowly learnt to love, then fear. In the twenty first century it is the way we tolerate how cars are allowed to travel on our roads. Accidents involving cars are responsible for more deaths among children and young adults in Britain than can be attributed to any other causes.

What remains the same over time is our intolerance of suffering, of ourselves and those around us. Slowly, one by one, the causes of the greatest damage to health are progressively removed. This lecture brings together maps, statistics and arguments to suggest that we should now view our road transport system as the greatest current avoidable toll on public health.

Danny Dorling is Professor of Human Geography at the University of Sheffield. Danny’s current research interests include the visualization of spatial social structure through drawing atlases; the changing social, medical and political geographies of Britain as revealed by the 2001 Census.

Along with colleagues, Danny produced The Grim Reaper’s Road Map which analyses over 14 million deaths over the 24 year period 1981-2004 in Britain. It gives a comprehensive overview of the geographical pattern of mortality in Britain and features:

• The most common causes of death at different ages
• 10 groups of death mapped – all deaths, and deaths from cardiovascular, cancer, respiratory, infections, mental disorder, transport, suicide or undetermined, homicide and external causes.
• 99 separate causes of death mapped, including individual cancers, suicides, assault by firearms, multiple sclerosis, pneumonia, hypothermia, falls, and Parkinson’s disease
• Each map is accompanied by a detailed description and brief geographical analysis, together with the number of people who have died from that cause, the average age of death and ratio of male to female deaths

Put the date in your diary. Brochures and booking forms will be sent out in July.

20th Westminster Lecture on Transport Safety

The 20th Westminster Lecture on Transport Safety was given on December 1 by Fred Wegman, Managing Director of SWOV, the Dutch road safety institute, and part-time Professor at Delft University.
Fred took as his title “Putting People at the Centre” and gave us a challenging account of progress in the Netherlands through the approach known as Sustainable Safety and a comparison of progress both there and in Great Britain. For some time, there has been a genuine debate within road safety about the benefits of the approaches taken in Sweden (through Vision Zero) and the Netherlands as compared to the more pragmatic strategy adopted in this country. The lecture helped all who attended to put the three models in perspective.

Sustainable Safety takes as its core approach five key principles. The road network must demonstrate
• Predictability
• Functionality
• Homogeneity
• Forgivingness and
• State awareness by the road user

Road designers also must begin to apply the systems based approach adopted in other transport modes as demonstrated in the “Swiss Cheese” model of James Reason. This seeks to identify the latent errors within the system and the dangerous actions that an individual may take. If we can begin to design out the errors in the system and to ensure that dangerous actions are enforced, engineered or educated out, then we can begin to make the system significantly safer.

Fred also argued strongly for a better understanding of the factors that can “nudge” human behaviour into different directions. These factors, taken from the work of the American writers Thaler and Sunstein, can best be summarised as

• iNcentives
• Understanding mappings
• Default settings
• Giving feedback
• Expecting error and
• Structuring complex choices.

In his response to the lecture later in the evening, Richard Allsop described Fred as the “Johan Cruyf” of road safety. What we clearly heard was a powerful discussion of the challenges facing us over the next decade as we begin to think about better management and design of the road network to prevent crashes and as we continue our focus on making the transport system as safe as possible for all classes of road user.

A copy of Fred Wegman’s lecture will be on the PACTS website soon.

Safety and CO2: Can we both tackle climate change and continue to make road transport safer?

On November 23, PACTS, the Low Carbon Vehicle Partnership and the Institution of Mechanical Engineers held an afternoon event on the issue of Safety and C02 and looked at how we can tackle climate change and further enhance road safety in the UK.

The presentations from the event are on the LCVP website. Click on the link, which will take you to the LCVP website.

Intelligent Transport Systems:  Lean, Clean and Efficient Transport

1 day seminar, 15 April 2010
Institution of Mechanical Engineers, One Birdcage Walk, London SW1H 9JJ
Book now or view the full programme: www.imeche.org/events/s1520

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