The Westminster Government has today (Monday 21st December) published its road safety statement. Working Together to Build a Safer Road System. British Road Safety Statement is intended to deliver on the Conservative Party’s manifesto commitment “to reduce the number of cyclists and other road users killed or injured on our roads every year”.
With the House of Commons in recess, transport minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon informed Parliament: “My honourable friend, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Transport, Andrew Jones, is today (21 December 2016) publishing a road safety statement that sets out the government’s vision, values and priorities for improving the safety of Britain’s roads. This statement describes the context of road safety in Britain today and the overarching scope of road safety activity for the government. It will be followed by consultations on specific issues as options are developed. The statement covers road safety policy within Britain as governed by the Department for Transport.”
The statement, Command Paper 9175, emphasises that the Government sees road safety as “a matter of national importance”. Although Britain’s roads are “very safe” by international comparisons, it recognises the cost of road accidents to individuals, to society and to the economy – in excess of £16.3 billion per year. Road safety minister Andrew Jones “want[s] everyone to enjoy the confidence and freedom to travel by whatever mode of transport they choose, in a manner that is considerate of other road users.”
The plan is for the short to medium term. It looks forward to the era of widespread “driverless cars” but “A new plan is needed to improve road safety now, whilst we prepare for that technological revolution.”
The Road Safety Statement (not a plan, strategy or framework) identifies a series of road safety priorities – hooks on which more detailed proposals will later be hung for consultation and addressed over the remainder of this Parliament. They include:
- Adopting the Safe Systems approach (although not Vision Zero, or intermediate targets)
- Protecting vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists, motor cyclists and horse riders)
- Tackling illegality (speed, drink or drug driving, mobile phones)
- Improved driver training and testing to meet real life conditions
- Work with insurers on telematics and driver skills (but not graduated driver licensing)
- Working with employers to reduce road collisions at work, including HGVs
- Encouraging uptake of safer cars through consumer information and government procurement
- Promoting autonomous vehicles that enhance road safety
- An increased budget for THINK! campaigns
- More enforcement technologies for the police
- Supporting Highways England
- A road safety management capacity review
- Further devolution of road safety powers
- Continued research and evaluation, including crash investigation
- Partnership working, including the emergency services
These are summarised in a High Level Delivery Timetable (Annex A) using the Safe System pillars.
The headline item, trailed in Sunday’s papers, is an increase in the fine and penalty points for use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving. The fine will rise from GBP100 to 150 and penalty points from 3 to 4 for car drivers and from 3 to 6 for lorry drivers, recognising the greater dangers that large vehicles pose to other road users. It stresses that the vast majority of first-time offenders would be offered an educational course in place of penalty points.
The £750,000 for police to tackle drug driving in England and Wales, announced previously, is also prominent.
Given the specific manifesto reference to reducing cyclist casualties, there is relatively little about cyclist safety, other than HGVs. The Government has already announced funding for cyclist training (Bikeablity) and the Cycling & Walking Investment Strategy is to be announced in Summer 2016. Cyclist safety would also be improved by many of the general safety measures in the statement.
Continuing its policies from the Coalition era, the Government rules out a reduction in the drink-drive limit or restrictions on newly qualified drivers (graduated driver licensing). Educational approaches are generally favoured over enforcement [drug driving] while engineering measures are seen as matters for Highways England or local authorities. No major road safety legislative proposals are put forward.
Road safety is an increasingly devolved matter and the statement is largely confined to actions for the DfT in England and Wales. It covers road safety policy “within Britain as governed by the Department for Transport. The governments and administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will seek to produce separate strategic documents where matters are devolved”. The involvement of other Whitehall departments is sometimes implied but there are few direct references and generally it is a statement of policy and action for the DfT. There is little specific guidance for local authorities which are seen as best placed to know what road safety priorities to follow locally.
Whilst the manifesto commitment to reduce road casualties is endorsed, no casualty targets or performance criteria are set. Indeed, there are few other direct references to reducing casualties – the term “road safety” is generally preferred.
The Coalition Government’s 2011 Strategic Framework for Road Safety is cited as context. In its September 2015 written evidence to the Transport Select Committee’s Road Traffic Law Enforcement inquiry, the DfT said that the Strategic Framework “remains in place”. As no new indicators or performance criteria are proposed in today’s statement, the DfT will presumably continue to report on the indicators established by the Strategic Framework (reported annually in RRCGB).
The statement is not a formal consultation paper. Consultation will be undertaken on individual proposals.
PACTS Chairman Barry Sheerman MP said
“I welcome the Government’s confirmation that road safety is a national priority and its manifesto commitment to reduce deaths and injury on our roads. The UK has a good road safety record but progress has slowed in recent years and road traffic remains the biggest killer of young people. I would not have described over 1700 deaths each year as “very safe” and some of us would have liked to see targets and performance criteria in the statement, as with previous road safety plans. I’m sure MPs will want to hear more from ministers when Parliament returns in January.”
PACTS Executive Director David Davies said
“It is helpful to see the Government’s priority areas for road safety, and relatively early in this Parliament. The statement includes many things that PACTS supports and a number that PACTS has specifically promoted, including endorsement to the safe system approach. We look forward to more specific proposals from the Government to take these priorities forward.”
“We envisage good progress in casualty reduction being made on the strategic road network by Highway England but the absence of stronger guidance and support for local authorities is problematic, given the difficulties that they face.”
Read the full document Working Together to Build a Safer Road System. Road Safety Statement at: https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/487704/british_road_safety_statement_print.pdf
Or contact: Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (an All-Party Parliamentary Group)
 PACTS Priorities for road safety https://www.pacts.org.uk/safe-system/