The history of PACTS

PACTS, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, came into being in 1981 under the Chairmanship of Barry Sheerman MP during the debate about making mandatory the wearing of seatbelts in the front seats of cars. Barry was instrumental in moving an amendment to what became the 1981 Transport Act to ensure that such seatbelt wearing became a legal obligation. The informal group of parliamentarians, road safety professionals, casualty surgeons and academics who had come together to press the case for this life-saving change in the law then recognised the value of continuing to bring to the attention of interested members of both houses of Parliament evidence to provide the basis for other improvements in transport safety policy and its implementation. To do this, PACTS constituted itself formally in 1982 and in due course as a company limited by guarantee. As such and more recently as a registered charity, it has been funded largely by members’ subscriptions, fees for attendance at events, sponsorship of events and activities, and research grants, and sometimes by provision of services. Sponsors and sources of grants are too numerous to acknowledge individually here, but they are acknowledged gratefully by name in annual reports, in publications and at events.

The first decade

As thoughts turned to the formal establishment of PACTS, a first donation and small funded project enabled Jeanne Breen to be appointed as Coordinator and help bring this about.  Once established, PACTS began to recruit members and attract funding, and in due course Jeanne became its first Executive Director. Before long it was able to gain recognition as an Associate Parliamentary Group. Working parties concerned with the road environment, road vehicle design and the road user were formed with independent chairmen and memberships bringing expertise and insights from among the organisations and individuals who had joined PACTS.

Following the success in amending what became the 1981 Transport Act to ensure that front seatbelt wearing became a legal obligation, enabling the use of road humps in speed management schemes in the same Act was supported, and under continuing pressure the required seatbelt regulations were agreed in 1982 and came into effect on 31 January 1983.

The way in which PACTS was learning to work for road safety with Parliament and alongside relevant authorities and other stakeholders soon attracted international interest.  A notable early example of the influence PACTS began to have beyond this country relates to the State of New York becoming the first of the United States to enact a seat belt wearing law.  The New York Coalition for Safety Belt Use, founded in 1982, organised a conference in the State capital, Albany, in April 1983 to underscore the need for such legislation.   Barry Sheerman MP and Professor Murray Mackay, representing PACTS, were invited to speak before the conference to describe the benefits of the UK safety belt law, enacted in 1982, in terms of the reduction in deaths and serious injuries in the first year following passage of the law as well as the consequent savings in health care costs.  The conference included New York legislators Senator Norman Levy and Assemblyman Vince Graber who a year later, citing the UK experience, cosponsored the New York legislation which was signed into law by Governor Mario Cuomo and became effective in January 1985.

Evidence for the effectiveness of low-cost road safety engineering schemes at high-risk sites was amassed, leading to an element of Transport Supplementary Grant to local authorities being earmarked for local safety schemes from 1990. This opened up a channel of central government funding for local road safety work which continued with widening objectives for nearly 20 years. Developments in vehicle occupant protection, in pedestrian and cyclist protection and in other vehicle safety features were monitored, and pressure was exerted for continuing research in these fields and the translation of research findings into stronger mandatory crash testing requirements. Stronger enforcement of the legal blood alcohol limit for drivers was advocated, and the long campaign for reduction of the limit from 80 to 50mg/100ml was started. Evidence in favour of stronger enforcement of various aspects of traffic law was submitted to the Road Traffic Law Review.

The pathbreaking 1987 report Road Safety – the Next Steps, stemming from an interdepartmental review and setting a casualty reduction target for the year 2000, was welcomed and warmly supported, but led PACTS to give close attention to progress in its implementation. 1987 also saw PACTS begin to hold periodic road safety conferences. A Private Member’s Bill introduced by a Co-Chairman of PACTS made use of restraints by children in the rear seats of cars, where these were fitted, compulsory from 1989, and with the help of a campaign paper published by PACTS the wearing of seatbelts in rear seats where fitted became compulsory for adults from 1991. The series of annual Westminster Lectures on Transport Safety began in 1990. Further recognition of PACTS’ standing came in being commissioned by the then Department of Transport in 1992 to produce factsheets giving a concise picture of who was being killed or injured on the roads and how.

PACTS had been concerned initially with safety on the roads, where most death and injury in transport occurs, but by the end of the first decade, aviation and rail safety working parties were being envisaged alongside those concerned with road safety. Two fatal commercial aviation accidents at Manchester and Kegworth and a series of incidents involving helicopters over the North Sea initiated PACTS’ interest in aviation safety in the late 1980s. As recommendations to improve safety emerged after the Manchester accident, PACTS expressed strong support for the provision of smoke-hoods for passengers and the need to improve evacuation procedures. PACTS held periodic aviation safety conferences between 1989 and 1993. Fatigue on the flight deck and the issue of flight time limitation later became a continuing concern of the Aviation Safety Working Party. PACTS also recognises that safety at sea and on inland waterways lies in principle within its remit, but has not so far found a role in respect of these. PACTS recognised from the outset that many issues in transport safety have implications across the various means of transport, and this has been reflected in its publications and events.

The second decade

The beginning of PACTS’ second decade saw it playing a leading role in the quantitative monitoring at the national level of progress towards the road casualty reduction target – differentiating between the various kinds of road user and different age-groups. Progress towards the target depended strongly upon action at the local authority level, and alongside pressing the case for continued funding from central government, the issues of staffing of road safety work in local authorities and the need to bring together work in road safety engineering with work on road user education, training and information in the same authority and with enforcement by the relevant police force were addressed, culminating in 1999 in a briefing paper on financial and human resources for road safety work. A pattern of bi-annual PACTS road safety conferences was established in the mid-1990s.

Formation of the Rail Safety Working Party proved timely in relation to a period between the mid-1990s and the early 2000s of heightened public concern about train accidents and their consequences. This included intensive discussion whether to install a comprehensive system known as Automatic Train Protection (ATP), on which PACTS published a briefing early in 1995. This discussion led to the installation instead by 2003 of a Train Protection and Warning System providing much of the benefit of ATP but at lower cost. Severe train accidents in the late 1990s and after the turn of the century, inquiries into these accidents and their recommendations, and reorganisations of the rail safety institutions kept train protection strategy on the working party agenda throughout this period, and PACTS was able to be a voice of calm at a time when the railway industry was under strong criticism. Safety at level crossings was on the agenda at the outset, was the subject of a briefing in 1996 and has since been a recurring concern.

Under the Treaty of European Union in 1993, transport safety was made for the first time a formal concern of the EU, so that the role of the EU in this respect, relative to those of the Member States under the principle of subsidiarity, began to be worked out. PACTS therefore joined with counterpart organisations in Germany and the Netherlands in that year to found the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC), modelled on PACTS, with the aim of channelling evidence-based advice to the European Commission and European Parliament to foster and assist in the development of transport safety policy in the EU. Jeanne Breen was seconded by PACTS to implement the establishment of ETSC in Brussels and be appointed as its first Executive Director, acting on secondment there until the viability of the new organisation became clear enough for her to make an indefinite commitment to it and vacate her post with PACTS. While Jeanne was on secondment, Roger Chapman acted as Executive Director to lead PACTS’ undiminished efforts until Robert Gifford could be appointed as Executive Director in 1995. From the outset, experts in the UK on whom PACTS had come to rely contributed strongly with those from other Member States in building up the influence of ETSC with the Commission, notably with its then fledgling Road Safety Unit, and with the European Parliament. This began, for example, with reports on road vehicle safety and on the influence of speed in the occurrence of collisions, and with making the case for an EU road safety strategy and casualty reduction target.

In the meantime, with the approach of the British casualty reduction target date of 2000, PACTS was active, on the basis of its own monitoring, in establishing in the road safety profession and in Parliament the success that the target set in 1987 was having in stimulating effective work to reduce numbers killed or seriously injured on the roads. Beginning with a conference in October 1995 organised on behalf of the Department of Transport, PACTS was a leading voice in advocating the setting of a further target beyond the year 2000, accompanied this time by an explicitly documented and timetabled national road safety strategy for its achievement. In 1997 PACTS joined a group set up by the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions to advise it on the shape of the new target and strategy in the context of its integrated transport policy. PACTS was helped in doing so by recent conferences addressing aspects of safety policy in relation to mobility and the environment, and held a further conference on behalf of the Department in 1998.

Beginning with a briefing in 1995 PACTS aligned itself firmly with the ongoing campaign for Britain to move to Central European Time, advancing the clocks by one hour throughout the year, in view of the substantial road casualty saving that could be expected to result; a further briefing on this subject was issued in 2003, and PACTS has since supported successive broadly based efforts to promote this change. PACTS continued throughout its second decade to make the case for improved car occupant protection through more relevant crash testing, improved provision of rear seatbelts and attachment of child restraints, and higher rates of wearing and use. The UK’s role in the establishment of EuroNCAP and related research was supported. In 1998 PACTS increased its public accountability by becoming a registered charity with the charitable objective To promote transport safety legislation to protect human life. In the same year, to mark the 10th anniversary of the Road Traffic Law Review report, PACTS undertook substantial funded research leading to an authoritative report, Road Traffic Law and Enforcement: a driving force for casualty reduction, which contained 97 recommendations addressed to four government departments and drew from the government a response similar to those normally made to reports from Parliamentary Select Committees.

Against the background of strong and continuing reduction since the early 1980s in casualties in drink-driving collisions, PACTS contributed strongly throughout the 1990s, for example through its booklet Taking Action on Speeding, published in 1996, to the identification of choice of speed as the next focus of efforts to reduce casualties by improving driver behaviour. This issue was taken up in the government review New Directions in Speed Management, identifying speed management as one of the themes of its work on a national road safety strategy – a review to which PACTS made a substantial constructive response. The strategy Tomorrow’s Roads – Safer for Everyone for the first decade of the 21st century, including casualty reduction targets to 2010, was published early in 2000 with PACTS’ full support in the role of critical friend. This support was expressed in a written response to the document, in a research briefing on road safety spending and who stands to gain from it, and by holding a high-level seminar leading to a short report highlighting principles and measures that seemed likely to attract broad support, a summer conference in association with the Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions looking at accident investigation and regulation across the modes of transport, and an autumn conference on taking the strategy forward. Because thorough monitoring was part of the national strategy, there was no need for PACTS to take on the monitoring of progress towards the new casualty reduction targets for 2010, as it had for the previous target, but it commented regularly on progress over the decade from 2000 and arranged opportunities for the Road Safety Minister to update Parliamentarians. The Westminster Lecture in 2001, entitled Road Safety: Britain in Europe, set road safety policy in Britain firmly in its European context and helped to identify priorities for PACTS in the subsequent years.

The third decade

PACTS entered its third decade as a member, alongside all the main road safety stakeholders, of the Road Safety Advisory Panel appointed to advise Ministers on the implementation of the national strategy, and provided the Chair of the Panel’s Statistics Sub-Group advising on the monitoring of progress. PACTS also had an acknowledged role in helping to inform Parliamentarians and the public about current issues in rail safety, a continuing concern about fatigue on the flight deck, and a direct line to transport safety policy developments across Europe through its founder membership of the ETSC. In addition, the Executive Director was responding quite frequently, with the Board’s support, to requests to serve on safety-related national bodies where his growing expertise was of value. PACTS presence in Westminster found physical expression when its office moved early in 2003 from St Thomas’ Hospital to Clutha House, adjacent to Central Hall and the Queen Elizabeth Conference Centre. In 2005 PACTS charitable objective was amended to become To protect human life through the promotion of transport safety for the public benefit.

An early thrust of the national road safety strategy was to accelerate the application in speed management throughout the country of camera enforcement, which had been used first in Britain in 1992, but had since spread only slowly. Despite evidence of their effectiveness, cameras aroused hostility among some drivers, which was encouraged in the media. PACTS was able to support speed management, and in particular the appropriate use of camera enforcement, by issuing a further booklet Speeding – The Continuing Challenge making 20 recommendations for action, and a briefing countering some of the main arguments against the use of cameras. This led on to PACTS’ undertaking in 2005 a substantial research review of a range of issues related to technology and traffic enforcement, leading to the report Policing Road Risk: Enforcement, Technologies and Road Safety. PACTS was also a strong supporter of practical trials of intelligent speed adaptation (ISA) and gave evidence to the Transport Select Committee inquiry into road traffic speed in 2002.

In concert with an initiative by ETSC, a comprehensive briefing on next steps towards safer road vehicles was issued by PACTS early in 2002. Strong support was provided for the resumption of on-the-spot investigation of collisions and PACTS made a proposal for analysis of collision involvement of cars by year of first registration which has since enabled statistical modelling to quantify the contribution of improving occupant and pedestrian protection to casualty reduction. The 20th anniversary of compulsory front seatbelt wearing was marked by publishing a factsheet concerning the belt-wearing situation in Britain in January 2003.

In relation to the role of local authorities in implementing the national strategy, PACTS promoted the implementation of methodical urban and rural safety management, and pressed for a counterpart for rural safety management of the Gloucester Safer City demonstration of urban safety management – pressure which helped to lead to a programme across four counties later in the decade. PACTS also carried out research to investigate provision for road safety in the first round of Local Transport Plans under the Transport Act 2000 and how the concept of best value was working in relation to road safety. The resulting report Best Value, Local Transport Plans and Road Safety: Listening to and Learning from the Profession was published early in 2003 and emphasised that funding needed to be accompanied by availability of suitably skilled staff.

When the government consulted in 2002 about a more structured approach to learning to drive, PACTS supported proposals for mandatory logbooks and extending the learning period before the practical test, but expressed disappointment at lack of proposals for graduated driver licensing to address the high collision risk among newly qualified drivers. Resulting government proposals concentrated on ways of improving driving instruction and the driving test.

A PACTS conference in 2003 on what people want from the transport system in terms of safety made it clear that policy for safety on public transport needs to consider personal security of passengers as well as risk of accidents. Promotion by employers of safe use of the roads in the course of work grew strongly in importance as a contribution to road safety in the early years of the century, and PACTS held a conference about this in 2004, and pressed without success for traffic accidents in the course of work to be made reportable in the same way as other accidents at work.

The passage of each of two Bills early in 2005 led to significant interventions by Members associated with PACTS. In the House of Lords, an amendment to the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill achieved police power to seize vehicles driven by unlicensed drivers, powers for the introduction of evidential roadside breath testing and police access to the motor insurance database. Evidential roadside breath testing was, however, delayed by a decade by dilatoriness in the type approval of equipment. In the House of Commons PACTS joined in pressing successfully for proposals to reduce penalties for lesser speeding offences to be removed from the Road Safety Bill, but an amendment moved by a PACTS Member to reduce the BAC limit from 80 to 50mg/100ml was defeated.

At the end of 2007 PACTS received a Prince Michael Road Safety Award for its effective advocacy for research-based and evidence-led policy proposals. For some years PACTS had had an informal group which helped the Executive Director and the Board with financial and management matters. In 2008 the Board formalised this arrangement by establishing a Management and Finance Committee with a remit extended to include marketing. At the same time it established a Policy and Research Committee to help to integrate the work of the working parties and look for synergies between PACTS’ concerns and issues of health, sustainability and urban design.

In 2007 thinking about road safety in Britain began to look beyond 2010, the end-date of the current national strategy, and PACTS was in the forefront with its comprehensive report Beyond 2010 – a holistic approach to road safety in Great Britain, calling for a third round of targets and a systems approach to policy development that would take full account of the many changes in society by involving the widest range of stakeholders. Progress so far in road casualty reduction in the UK in the European context was updated at a talk organised by PACTS in Westminster as part of the ETSC’s benchmarking programme PIN. Early in 2008, PACTS joined with ETSC in holding a talk about the value of alcolocks and progress across Europe in combating drink driving, A PACTS conference in March 2008 on the theme Beyond 2010 addressed a range of aspects of policy with workshops covering public health as well as specific road safety issues, and one of the papers was expanded as the research report Beyond 2010: The Role of Traffic Law Enforcement in Casualty Reduction.

In the Parliamentary Session 2007-08 the Transport Select Committee carried out a lengthy and wide-ranging inquiry into road safety, for which Robert Gifford acted as special advisor. A substantial submission by PACTS included calling again for the legal BAC limit to be reduced and drink driving enforcement to be strengthened by giving police powers for inclusive targeted breath testing and accelerating the type approval of evidential roadside testing equipment. It was a member of PACTS who provided the basis for the title of the inquiry report: Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010. The focus of this report on the adoption of a systems approach to casualty reduction was endorsed by the then government and underpinned the production of its early 2009 consultation paper A Safer Way, about road safety after 2010. Consultation by the Department for Transport in 2008 about road safety compliance provided an opportunity for PACTS to reiterate its concerns about drink driving issues as part of an extensive submission covering also questions of driver retraining and whether careless driving should become a fixed penalty offence.

Challenged in terms of funding by local consequences of global financial events of 2008, PACTS responded in two main ways. First it made a fresh declaration of its strategic objectives: to be at the forefront of shaping policy development in transport safety in order to be a strong advocate for research-based change; to be the leader in advocating the integration of transport safety considerations across the breadth of relevant policy development; and to be the pre-eminent independent authority in transport safety for Parliamentarians, practitioners and the media. Then it set out to link its pursuit of these objectives for transport safety to closely related concerns for public health, sustainability and the liveability of our surroundings in towns and villages. These links sought to identify synergies among and tensions between these concerns in order to draw support from the former and seek resolution of the latter in the interests of transport safety. First steps were a conference on Safety and Sustainability early in 2009 and embarking on a research project concerning shared space, which would report in 2010.

PACTS’ next contribution to thinking beyond 2010 was its research report Behave Yourself – Road Safety Policy in the 21st Century, addressing the challenges of influencing road user behaviour in ways which are necessary to achieving more responsible use of the road system in the interests of casualty reduction. Then in autumn 2009 the PACTS conference Beyond 2010: The Challenges Ahead addressed many of the issues raised by A Safer Way, and the 20th Westminster Lecture provided a challenging European perspective from The Netherlands under the title Putting People at the Centre: How to Enhance Road Safety in the 21st Century. PACTS made a strong response to A Safer Way, urging a stronger road safety vision and more ambitious targets for beyond 2010 than those proposed, and organised seminars for the Department for Transport as an input to the expected post-2010 strategy. With this in mind PACTS published the report Beyond 2010: Taking Stock and Moving Forward, discussing unevennesses in achievement under the strategy to 2010 and implications for the post-2010 strategy, which, however, failed to emerge before the election of 2010.

The research project on the concept of shared space and its implementation led to the report Kerb Your Enthusiasm, which identifies the potential for this concept to contribute to enhanced quality of the public realm, including enhanced safety of its users, and a process for realising this potential.

The Rail Safety Working Party followed installation of the Train Protection and Warning System through to completion, together with consideration of the timescale for eventual adoption of the European Rail Traffic Management System. It also followed the evolution of crashworthiness of passenger rolling stock, discussion of criteria for rail safety decisions and the introduction of the Confidential Incident Reporting and Analysis System CIRAS. Possible conflict between the openness required to enable learning from accidents on the one hand and the pursuit of issues of liability on the other was resolved by the creation of the Rail Accident Investigation Branch RAIB to deal with the former, leaving the latter to the Regulator. PACTS supported an amendment to the Bill providing for the establishment of the RAIB to require it to produce an annual report on rail safety. The Working Party also gave attention to a review of rail safety regulation in 2004-05 bringing regulation into line with European requirements, and a later review of law relating to level crossings, in connection with which it heard also how the issues are seen by a highway authority. The Working Party’s attention to this topic was recognised by the appointment of its first Chairman as a special advisor to the Select Committee on Transport for its inquiry into safety at level crossings, which reported in 2014. The Working Party encouraged work on station travel plans to address the contribution of risk in travelling to and from the station to the overall risk of travel by rail. It has also followed the evolving approaches of the Rail Safety and Standards Board and the Office of the Rail Regulator to risk control through management and to the measurement of safety performance. Attention has been given to safety issues in the use of the roads by rail industry staff in the course of their railway work alongside the continuing concern for their safety while working on the railway itself, and to the risks associated with the train-platform interface.

The Aviation Safety Working Party considered issues concerning the capacity of Air Traffic Control to maintain operational safety in the context of pressures on runway capacity, and also issues of impairment and stress. PACTS made a response to the government’s green paper on the future of aviation in respect of aviation safety culture. The value of the Confidential Human Factors Incident Reporting Programme CHIRP was recognised. The establishment of the European Aviation Safety Agency EASA and its role were kept under review, and following its establishment, PACTS joined with ETSC in forming a link with the Air Safety Group, thus securing shared representation in the EASA strategic safety initiative. The issue of flight time limitations has been kept under review and PACTS joined with BALPA in a Parliamentary Briefing in 2011 expressing concerns about changes recommended by EASA – concerns that have been reiterated as the recommendations have evolved and come to be adopted. Attention has also been given to working hours among maintenance staff, to cabin air quality and to the widespread adoption of electronic flight bags. A paper was published on the PACTS website about challenges facing the aviation sector, notably in the recruitment of pilots.

With a change of government in May 2010 came an overriding priority for deficit reduction and emphasis on localism which brought an end to earmarked road safety funding to local authorities and led to rethinking of the nature and role of national road safety strategy, including the eschewing of targets for casualty reduction. As a contribution to this rethinking, PACTS organised for the Department for Transport two seminars at which a range of road safety stakeholders had the opportunity to express their views to the responsible civil servants. Meanwhile PACTS had published its own briefing reaffirming the importance of shared responsibility in the safe system approach and the effectiveness of strategy and target setting, and had accepted a leading role in an informal alliance of stakeholders aiming to maintain the road safety effort in the changing circumstances. A number of members of this alliance joined with PACTS to produce a report Making it Count: spending choices which protect your community, urging local authorities, who were facing choices how to reduce their spending, to take full account of the implications of cuts in spending on road safety.

In this context, PACTS joined with a range of organisations and experts concerned with risks to children to publish a report drawing the attention of local authorities to the scale of death and injury to children on their roads and the importance of their work to reduce this. PACTS also embarked on a programme of research entitled Tackling the Deficit to monitor the response of road safety stakeholders to the challenge and opportunity presented by the changed financial climate. The first report At what cost to road safety? took stock in October 2010 of the situation in which initial cuts in funding had been made, but the government’s rethinking was still in progress.

Longer-standing concerns continued to receive attention. PACTS gave evidence to and welcomed the recommendations of the North Review on drink and drug driving and gave evidence in support of the recommendations to the subsequent inquiry by the Transport Select Committee. Following on from its research into shared space, PACTS’ autumn conference in 2010 addressed the contribution of street design to better and safer communities. PACTS also joined a Lighter Later coalition in support of a Private Member’s Bill to move towards introducing Central European Time; the bill reached Third Reading but was then talked out. The subsequent Westminster lecture presented death and injury on the roads as a public heath challenge of the 21st century. The spring 2011 conference addressed issues in improving performance and managing risk in use of the roads in the course of work.

In May 2011 PACTS co-ordinated the UK launch of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety, including the publication of commitments to action during the decade from more than 40 organisations involved in road safety. At the same event, the government launched its Strategic Framework for Road Safety, superseding A Safer Way and the associated consultation of 2009-10. Of concern to PACTS were first the substitution of forecasts of future numbers killed or injured for targets and the ambition that accompanies them, and an emphasis on bearing down on an irresponsible minority of drivers in contrast to the sharing of responsibility with the providers of infrastructure and vehicles that underlies the Safe System approach.

Earlier in 2011, PACTS brought together eminent representatives from the health sector to write to The Times making the case for lowering the drink-drive BAC limit in line with the recommendation in the North Review of drink and drug driving. PACTS welcomed government’s subsequent acceptance of many of the recommendations of the North Review, but regretted deeply the decision not to lower the BAC limit. The Select Committee’s recommendation to aim for a limit of 20mg/100ml in the longer term was seen as helping to justify deciding not to reduce the limit to 50mg/100ml in the short term.

Spring 2011 also saw publication of Where next for road safety?, the second report from the Tackling the Deficit programme, which found that pessimism in the road safety sector in the light of further cuts in funding was offset by enthusiasm and determination reflected in ideas for moving forward. Recommendations were made both to the sector and to the government.

Another letter coordinated by PACTS and published in The Times in July 2011 highlighted the need for Great Britain to be more ambitious in its approach to road safety. It was signed by four former Ministers for road safety (two Conservative and two Labour) in order to demonstrate the cross-party commitment to road safety that needed to be retained. The letter was also signed by researchers, practitioners, private sector organisations and advocacy groups, and argued for a halving of road deaths by 2020 in line with the declaration of European Ministers of Transport in December 2010.

In parallel with a research project on the challenge of enabling older people to enjoy mobility and independence in ways that are safe for themselves and for others, PACTS’ autumn conference addressed various aspects of this challenge. The Westminster Lecture was on the links between safety and sustainability.

Early in 2012 The Transport Select Committee took evidence concerning the effectiveness of the Strategic Framework for Road Safety and PACTS coordinated a joint submission by 15 organisations involved in road safety, which included emphasis on the importance of political leadership and vision, and the effectiveness of targets for casualty reduction. The Committee’s report called for stronger political leadership on road safety. In the implementation of the Framework, the Executive Director was appointed to the Department for Transport’s Implementation Group and was involved in the Programme Board for the Road Safety Observatory.

PACTS spring conference entitled Aiming for Zero took as its theme the need for Great Britain to become more ambitious in its approach to road safety, and agreed a Declaration setting out the need for a British vision for road safety encompassing the Safe System approach. By producing a briefing, PACTS supported an initiative by The Times to get more people cycling more safely, which was taken up in Parliament in the All Party Parliamentary Cycling Croup’s inquiry Get Britain Cycling. PACTS submitted evidence to this inquiry, and was invited to join the Department for Transport’s Cycling Forum to help ensure that safety issues are addressed in its work.

PACTS adopted revised strategic objectives to: act as an advocate for research-based change in order to shape policy for transport safety; promote the integration of transport safety considerations throughout relevant policy development; be the recognised independent authority on transport safety for Parliamentarians, practitioners and the media; encourage and support those working in transport safety by raising Parliamentarians’ awareness of the challenges facing their sector; and be an active partner in the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety by fostering the development of high quality research and researchers to undertake it. PACTS’ understanding of transport safety in the context of its charitable objective was set out in an extended definition.

The research report It’s my choice: safer mobility for an ageing population was published by PACTS in March 2012, addressing the safety of older people using all means of transport and their need for help in making choices in retaining and exercising their independence, and making wide-ranging recommendations. In May, the final report from the Tackling the Deficit programme was published with the title Checking the Health of Road Safety. This was based on a survey of local authorities carried out jointly with ADEPT and TAG, found support for the Declaration from the March conference Aiming for zero and concluded that over half of the authorities felt that their statutory duty to promote road safety would be compromised by loss of expertise, lack of funding, reductions in staffing or changes in organisation. This finding was supported by an IAM survey of reductions in local authority spending on road safety work. The situation in London provided an exception and PACTS joined a pan-London panel to help develop the Mayor’s road safety plan. Looking more widely, it joined with six other national organisations to publish in January 2013 Road safety: A Guide for Local Councillors in England to set out the responsibilities of local authorities for road safety and ways of carrying them out.

PACTS’ autumn conference addressed issues of driving while impaired by alcohol or other drugs, both recreational and pharmaceutical, in the context of the government’s response to the North Review. The Westminster Lecture in 2012, entitled Managing for ambitious road safety results, set road safety policy and practice in Britain firmly in its global context and provided clear pointers to priorities for PACTS in the subsequent years.

The fourth decade

PACTS began its fourth decade with its third Executive Director, Robert Gifford, still in post. However, the end of 2012 marked Robert Gifford’s moving on from his period of achievement at PACTS to become a consultant. His contribution was recognised at an event attended by his successor, David Davies, during a one-month handover period in which they worked side by side, and subsequently by the membership at a conference.  This was followed by refreshment of the membership of the PACTS Board of Trustees, a fresh look at its range of activities, and the announcement of its intention to establish a Transport Safety Commission to inquire into transport safety matters in order to assist with the development of policies that will reduce risk and bring about continued reduction in transport-related casualties. This intention was realised when the Commission began its first inquiry early in 2014.

In February 2013, PACTS hosted on behalf of the UK members of ETSC an ETSC PIN Talk at which concern was expressed about the pause since 2010 in the cross-party commitment to targeted road casualty reduction that had persisted since 1987, but note was also taken of more positive indications since ministerial changes late in 2012. One of these was an intention to publish a green paper on young driver safety, which led PACTS through an initiative by the Road User Behaviour Working Party to publish the report Getting young drivers back on the road in safety, urging the government to investigate a comprehensive evidence-based approach drawing upon a range of possible measures, with particular attention to the scope for graduated licensing. This was the subject of a breakfast seminar in Westminster.

On the initiative of its Policy and Research Officer, PACTS set up a network for transport safety professionals in their early-mid careers. This will help maintain knowledge and expertise in the sector and PACTS’ awareness of these, while providing members of the network with peer support and the opportunity to make new contacts.

The spring conference Lies, damned lies and statistics addressed the quality of road collision and casualty data and some of the reasons for the rapid decrease in road deaths since 2006. The particular issue of risk to pedestrians was addressed jointly by the three Road Safety Working Parties and PACTS commissioned the report Stepping Out, which provided a picture of the occurrence of pedestrian casualties in Britain in time for the UN Global Road Safety Week that focussed in 2013 on pedestrian safety.

The autumn conference in 2013 addressed the synergies and tensions arising in seeking to promote objectives of safety, sustainability and public health concurrently through policies for the transport system. The meeting was linked to a substantial PACTS research project leading to the report Achieving Safety, Sustainability and Health Goals in Transport, published in March 2014. This set out the need for more joined-up working nationally and locally towards such goals, especially in the light of the transfer of responsibility for public health to local authorities in 2013. The Westminster Lecture addressed the issue of fatigue in transport and its contribution to risk.

Under the title UK Road Safety Summit: the Way Ahead, the PACTS spring 2014 conference opened up debate about the future of UK road safety policy and practice in the light of the diversity of challenges and road safety policy which has developed of late across the countries of the UK. On the same day, PACTS published Projections of road casualties in Great Britain to 2030 to give an indication of likely future numbers in the absence of renewed determination to reduce these.

Soon afterwards, the Transport Safety Commission began to take written and oral evidence in response to its first inquiry: This was a major undertaking, resembling a select committee inquiry. Senior figures across the safety industry gave evidence, including the road safety minister. PACTS published the Commission’s report UK Transport Safety: Who is responsible? in March 2015. The Commission found that, in contrast to rail and aviation, the structure of responsibility for road safety was complex and unclear, resulting in diffuse accountability and leadership. Among its key recommendations were the establishment of a Road Collision Investigation Branch and a much greater role for the HSE in raising safety standards in driving for work.

As a result of changes to the rules for All-Party Parliamentary Groups in 2014, PACTS was obliged to change its status from Associate Parliamentary Group to All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). Under the new rules, only Parliamentarian members have voting rights and non-Parliamentarians were able to join PACTS only as “honorary” members.

In July 2016 the PACTS Board of Trustees and the AGM of the All-Party Parliamentary Group agreed to clarify the relationship between the charity and the APPG. The charity continues to be known as the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) while the APPG is known as the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Transport Safety. The APPG invited PACTS to support it and to provide the secretariat.

Although the separation of PACTS from Parliament was in some ways regrettable, it greatly clarified lines of accountability and decision-making. The Board made clear that the PACTS commitment to working with parliamentarians was undiminished.  

Throughout the decade PACTS supported parliamentarians in both Houses with transport briefings, draft PQs, EDMs and background information. The annual Road Safety Constituency Dashboard provided detailed, unique and specific information for MPs and their constituents. PACTS worked with the secretariat of the Cycling and Walking APPG as membership and interests often overlapped. All this helped to raise the profile of transport safety in parliamentary debates and to move it up the priorities for ministers.  

Since its foundation, a key objective of PACTS had been to promote legislative change to improve safety. This continued and efforts were made to  

  • include provision for mandatory confidential reporting in the Bus Services Bill;  
  • support amendments by Members of the House of Lords to reduce the drink-drive BAC limit;  
  • make failure to wear a seat belt an endorsable offence, with at least three penalty points;  
  • provide the legal basis and powers for a Road Safety Investigation Branch; 
  • adopt new vehicle safety standards, in line with those now pertaining in the EU; 
  • introduce safety regulations for e-scooters, based on PACTS research recommendations; and  
  • amend or defer the Retained EU Law Bill. 

PACTS continued to work with ministers, civil servants and Members of Parliament, to try to persuade them to adopt more effective policies – increasingly seen as Safe System.  

In the text below, the PACTS contribution and development over the remains of the decade are set out thematically.  


PACTS research was often seen as helpful and authoritative by civil servants for policy development, in some cases undertaking research funded by the Department for Transport, and sometimes exploring topics that were off-limits for them. Notable examples included Developing Safe System Road Safety Indicators for the UK, 2018, Seat belts: the forgotten road safety problem, 2019, Roads policing and its contribution to road safety, 2020 and several reports on drink and drug driving and alcohol interlocks.  

PACTS focused most of its research on mainstream issues that needed new policy interventions. It also used it multi-modal remit to investigate new issues, sometimes outside the traditional scope. This was the case with its work on suicides in transport, first raised in the 2015 Westminster Lecture and followed up, in collaboration with Samaritans, in Suicides on UK Roads. Lifting the Lid. 2017. Sometimes PACTS brought a fresh interpretation to seemingly familiar facts. Its alternative analysis of official casualty data, provocatively entitled What kills most on the roads? 2020, generated substantial interest. The analysis was soon adopted in mainstream statistical reports.  

2021 was the 40th anniversary of the mandatory seat belt legislation, achieved by the founders of PACTS. Whilst celebrating the benefits that seat belts had brought, PACTS highlighted the remarkably high numbers of deaths of unbelted car occupants still occurring. It called for action, underpinned by its latest report Seat Belts: Time for Action, 2020. DfT ministers responded favourably, but legislative action did not follow.  

Not all the PACTS research recommendations were implemented but they did not go unnoticed by the government or safety stakeholders. They also helped provide a better understanding of the issues.  

Working parties  

Working with the PACTS research staff, it was the PACTS working parties that provided much of the technical expertise to undertake research, to respond to consultations, and to comment authoritatively. These met every four months and examined issues which they thought were of interest or where the secretariat wanted guidance. They often assisted with responses to official consultations, particularly on self-driving cars, type approval and vehicle safety regulations. Sometimes they produced their own reports, notably Fit to Drive? 2016 and What Does My Car Do? 2019 

It was usually through its technical working parties that PACTS was able to fulfil its transport safety remit, rather than road safety alone. The rail safety working party comprised senior people with key safety responsibilities across the rail sector. With its help, PACTS responded to the Williams-Shapps Plan for Rail, a major proposal for legislative reform of the railways. As well as addressing safety issues specific to rail, the working party also looked at risks that crossed the modes. For example, collaborating with road and air safety experts in PACTS, it organised a one day seminar with IMechE Driver and Pilot Alertness – 2019. Rail working party members were also very helpful in the PACTS campaign to establish a Road Collision Investigation Branch. Westminster Lectures by the chairman of the United States National Transportation Safety Board, Robert Sumwalt and the former head of the UK Rail Accident Investigation Branch, Simon French, were very pertinent.  

For advice on air safety, PACTS continued to rely on the independent Air Safety Group. Their officers reported to PACTS member meetings and sometimes took part in road and rail working party meetings. They helped PACTS to consider issues such as fatigue, distraction and automation which apply across the modes.  

Those who participated in the working parties saw them as a key benefit of PACTS Membership and the Board recognised their unique value to PACTS.  

Conference programme 

PACTS continued its annual spring and autumn conference programme which addressed a wide range of topical issues. Some were directly related to transport safety, such as young drivers, autonomous vehicles, post-crash response, work-related road safety and the gig economy, and drink and drug driving. Others addressed the safety implications of wider issues, such as Brexit, transport decarbonisation and environmental sustainability. All were designed to provide a mix of technical information, diverse user perspectives and policy implications, often liked to PACTS research and policy objectives. Many were held in partnership with other organisations, such as those hosted by Thatcham Research and Birmingham City Council.  

National road safety strategy  

The DfT’s 2011 Strategic Framework for Road Safety was replaced in 2015 by the British Road Safety Statement. This acknowledged the Safe System but again rejected casualty reduction targets and lacked anything significant on safe speeds, infrastructure or performance indicators. In 2015, PACTS published a comprehensive set of campaign priorities based on the Safe System. One of these was for the DfT to commission a road safety management capacity review, which it did in 2017. The resulting report was detailed and ambitious. Despite support from PACTS, this proved too much for ministers and there was no direct implementation although the report remains an important reference.  

The 2015 framework was replaced with The Road Safety Statement 2019. PACTS welcomed the new action plan but pointed out its weaknesses. Its three parts addressed safer people, safer roads and safer vehicles but again omitted safe speeds, targets or indicators. It contained a two-year action plan with some valuable items, not least the Road Collison Investigation Project – a key stepping stone to establishing a Road Collison Investigation Branch. Officials told PACTS that 2019 statement was a holding plan during which time the building blocks would be put in place for a more ambitious, comprehensive, long-term strategy. Various public consultations followed and PACTS responded to most. These included several on self-driving cars, drug driving legislation, and roads policing.  

Much collaborative work went into preparing a Road Safety Strategic Framework, and PACTS acted as critical friend to the DfT. This included in 2021 a joint report by leading groups and the high-level Road Safety Stakeholder Workshop organised by PACTS for the DfT. However, by mid-2023 the framework had still not emerged. PACTS submitted repeated FOI requests to obtain the consultation and research outputs, such as the report on the benefits of road safety targets. These were rejected by DfT on the grounds that they would be published “sometime”.  

Despite the lack of progress on strategy at Westminster, there were notable individual successes, and PACTS contributed to these, including: 

  • investment in the Safer Roads Fund;  
  • investment in active travel (supported by Gear Change and the establishment of Active Travel England); 
  • improvements in casualty reporting (CRASH) and analysis;  
  • the joint Review of Roads Policing leading to inclusion of roads policing in the Home Office Strategic Policing Requirement for the first time ever; and  
  • commitment to establish a Road Safety Investigation Branch.  .

The last two outcomes in particular were long-standing campaign priorities for PACTS and PACTS contributions were acknowledged to have instrumental.  

Beyond Westminster 

During the decade, responsibilities for UK road safety were increasingly devolved, to the governments in Scotland and Wales, and to city mayors in England. For example, the Scotland government lowered the statutory drink-drive blood alcohol level and the Wales government committed to a national 20mph speed limit for minor roads. PACTS highlighted the diversity and the more ambitious approach outside Westminster, using PACTS conferences and briefings to do so. PACTS engaged with officers in these administrations to lend support and to provide comment where possible. PACTS was an active member of the TfL safe system stakeholder group and responded to consultations on delivering the London Mayor’s Vision Zero strategy. PACTS also lent support to the establishment of vision zero partnerships across the country, including Kent and Vision Zero South West.  

International contributions 

Although the PACTS remit is primarily for the UK, it continued to contribute to transport safety in Europe and internationally, where resources permitted. 

As a Founder Member of ETSC, PACTS remained an important board member and several PACTS members undertook important advisory roles for ETSC. Following the UK’s decision to withdraw from the EU, PACTS and ETSC issued a joint statement emphasising their commitment to continue close collaboration. PACTS has remained an active member of ETSC and, via ETSC, contributes to road safety policy in Europe, even though EU Directives no longer directly apply to the UK.  

PACTS responded to requests from individual countries, usually to meet with visiting officials and parliamentarians, including delegations from Turkey, Kenya and Australia. The Executive Director was invited to Thailand and India to speak about how an organisation like PACTS might contribute to road safety in those countries.  

PACTS also made contributions to global road safety initiatives via the UN and its lead agency, the WHO. In December 2016, with the WHO and Towards Zero Foundation, PACTS co-hosted a conference which resulted in the Westminster Declaration and establishment of the Global Network For Road Safety Legislators, chaired for five years by PACTS Chairman, Barry Sheerman MP. In February 2020, shortly before Covid prevented international travel, numerous PACTS individuals contributed to the WHO’s Road Safety 2020 conference in Stockholm. PACTS also supported the launch of the second UN Decade of Action on Road Safety (2021-2030).  

Covid-19 and PACTS 

The Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 had major implications for PACTS.  

Like many organisations, PACTS was concerned about how the pandemic might affect it. Staff were obliged to work remotely and the many meetings and conferences that PACTS usually held in-person were not possible. PACTS soon adapted and replaced them with virtual meetings. While this had limitations, by the end of the year it was clear that there were some advantages. More people were able to participate, more easily, even from overseas. Engagement in the working parties thrived and conference “attendance” reached record levels. PACTS has continued with a mix of in-person and virtual events. During the period, PACTS managed its resources effectively and support for PACTS grew.  

During periods of lockdown, levels of traffic and road casualties dropped dramatically, while active travel increased. The government talked of “building back greener” and PACTS called on the government to capitalise on these safety and environmental opportunities. By 2022, however, traffic and road fatalities were almost back to pre-pandemic levels.  


Over the decade, the workings of PACTS developed significantly, sometimes intentionally and sometimes by necessity.  

Membership of PACTS and income (subscriptions, sponsorship, grants etc) suffered in the wake of post-2009 austerity. However, this trend was successfully reversed, with PACTS modest financial surpluses rebuilding reserves in almost every year.  

After almost 16 years in Clutha House, PACTS was obliged to vacate the offices at the end of 2018. It moved a short distance to Buckingham Court (close to St James’s Park tube station). The new offices were in many ways suitable (more spacious, ground floor, fibre optic broadband etc) and no more expensive.  

Towards the end of the decade, accelerated by the Covid lockdown, digital media become increasingly important. The Board recognised that PACTS needed to do more to exploit opportunities. A part-time communications officer was appointed in 2019. This resulted in greater use of Twitter, LinkedIn and newsletters, as well as the establishment of the PACTS YouTube channel 

In 2020, the Board embarked on a major review of its governance effectiveness. While the trustees were confident that PACTS was compliant and generally well-governed, they decided that a thorough review was due. They were aware of a need for better documentation, particularly on the roles and remit of trustees. An external consultant took soundings from Board members and facilitated a workshop, producing a report for the Board. The key recommendations were accepted and a comprehensive framework and action plan adopted in 2021. The importance and central role of PACTS members was endorsed, with meetings again termed the PACTS Council of Members.  

The review led to the creation of the post of PACTS President and Barry Sheerman MP, chair of PACTS since its beginning, was invited to take this role on. His place as Chair was filled by Tony Ciaburro, a PACTS trustee since 2015.  

Conclusions on the decade 

Reflecting on the decade, the overall conclusion must be that it was a difficult period in regards to national leadership, action and outcomes for road safety in the Westminster Parliament. A great deal of effort had been expended by officials and the road safety community to move things ahead but higher political priorities evidently prevailed. There were also difficult circumstances such as economic austerity, Brexit and Covid-19. The DfT concluded that GB road fatality trends had “plateaued”. PACTS pointed out how this complacency coincided with a lack of national casualty targets and concerted action.  

There were, however, specific achievements and outside Westminster the approach was often more positive. As an umbrella group with over 100 members from across the transport world, PACTS increasingly became a strategic spokesperson for the safety community, prepared to speak up where others could not. For an organisation with modest resources, PACTS was often said to have “punched well above its weight”.  

As an organisation, PACTS ended the decade in a strong position. Its reputation was good, it had built partnerships with many complementary organisations and its views were often sought by the national media. It had adapted to the challenges of Covid, strengthened its governance and rebuilt its finances.  

The fifth decade (2022 to date)

With its governance refreshed, the PACTS board decided that a review of strategy was now the priority. It consulted PACTS members and other stakeholders and held a thorough internal debate, starting early in 2021. The resulting Achieving Our Vision was published in July 2022. The document renews and refines the priority aims. The headline vision is now “A transport system free from death and life-changing injury, in which all users feel safe.” The centrality of PACTS members was emphasised and strengthened by reconstituting the member meetings as the PACTS Council of Members. Achieving the strategic aims underpinning the vision would be a priority for the board and the secretariat in the years ahead. 

The refreshed vision was launched to coincide with the PACTS 40th anniversary celebration on 14th July 2022. In glorious sunshine on the terrace of the Palace of Westminster, over 150 PACTS members, parliamentarians, supporters and others, past and present, some from overseas, came together to celebrate 40 years since the formal establishment of PACTS. In all the speeches and celebrations, the need to achieve more was not forgotten.  

As the decade progressed, PACTS continued its research and conferences, support for parliamentarians, and thought leadership. An ongoing theme was exploring the practicalities of implementing Safe System in the UK. This was the theme for the PACTS conference in March 2022 Safe System: from principles to practice 

A specific campaign priority over several years was to persuade the UK government to adopt the revised and much-improved vehicle safety regulations, as specified in the EU General and Pedestrian Safety Regulations. When a member of the EU, the UK government had been fully in support of these revisions. PACTS pointed out how a failure to adopt them would not be a “Brexit benefit” but harmful to UK road users and its automotive industry.  

PACTS also worked hard to persuade parliamentarians and ministers of the dangers of the Retained EU Legislation (Revocation and Reform) Bill. This risked abolition of a large number of long-standing transport safety regulations. In May 2023 the government backtracked and published significant concessions. The Bill was enacted in July 2023. PACTS continues to promote legislation which promotes transport safety, acknowledging that there is a lot to learn from European experience. 

Through its involvement in ETSC, PACTS was alerted to the introduction of various new forms of “micromobility”. In particular, e-scooters were becoming a feature of cities in mainland Europe and North America. Trial schemes for rental e-scooters were authorised by the DfT in England in mid-2020. The use of private e-scooters in public places, however, remained an offence. PACTS recognised the potential environmental and mobility benefits but was aware of safety concerns, particularly with regard to the private use which was exceptionally high in the UK. PACTS undertook detailed research to fill the information void, notably The safety of private e-scooters in the UK, 2022. By May 2023, DfT ministers had changed their stance, telling the Transport Committee that e-scooters reduced active travel and posed safety concerns. The PACTS research was acknowledged as significant evidence. The project was awarded a prestigious Prince Michael International Road Safety Award in December 2022. The PACTS recommendations were then proposed for the EU in a joint report with ETSC. The PACTS micromobility conference in March 2023 was an opportunity to disseminate findings and broaden the scope.  

After four years at Buckingham Court, PACTS again had to look for office accommodation. The owners wanted to convert the offices to residential use. The Board confirmed that it wanted to maintain a physical office, in the Westminster area, while also offering flexible working options for staff, trustees and members. Transport Focus kindly offered desk space in their Albany House office, only three minutes’ walk away. In December 2022, PACTS moved in. This proved satisfactory to both parties and the arrangement continues.  

In 2022, the Executive Director, David Davies, informed the Board that he intended to retire, eventually finishing in March 2023 after more than 10 years in post. Jamie Hassall, an experienced road safety professional at National Highways, was appointed, becoming the 5th Executive Director of PACTS, starting in May 2023. In addition, the Board decided to strengthen the senior leadership of PACTS and promoted Margaret Winchcomb (Senior Research and Policy Officer since 2021) to the newly created post of Deputy Executive Director.