This is a year of elections, politics and opportunities.
The European Parliament and local council elections (in England and Northern Ireland) will be held on 22nd May and the Scottish Independence Referendum on 18th September 2014. The general election for the UK Parliament is just one year away (7th May 2015) with Parliament likely to be dissolved on 30th March. The Scottish Government, Northern Ireland Assembly and Welsh Assembly elections will be held in May 2016.
Later this year policies will be debated at party conferences and election manifestos drawn up. Meanwhile, civil servants will be considering which initiatives to put in front of future ministers and which ones to hide away.
Although important safety measures are still underway, PACTS has turned its attention to policy development in this pre-elections period. In partnership with its members and other organisations concerned with transport safety, PACTS will be working to ensure that transport safety is on the political agenda and that a future Government of whatever political colour, is in no doubt about the case for casualty reduction or the ways in which it can be achieved. The recent Summit and publications from PACTS were opening shots.
The UK Government’s road safety focus at present is on drug-driving, with new legislation and type approval of road-side screening equipment technology. DfT announced the conclusion of two public consultations on recommended limits for 16 types of drugs. This will see eight generally prescription and eight illicit drugs added into new regulations intended to come into force in autumn 2014.
On 30th April the Government confirmed its intention to set up the Highways Agency as a Government-owned company – by April 2015. It intends create a Road User Focus unit within Passenger Focus and a Strategic Road Network Monitor unit within ORR to monitor performance.The Highways Agency Business Planpledges the Agency to continuing its work to make the road network safer for drivers across the country. The Transport Select Committee has opposed the change in status, fearing reduced public accountability for the Agency.
Meanwhile the new Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), formed from the merger of the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and Vehicle Operating Standards Agency (VOSA), was launched by Roads Minister Stephen Hammond on 2nd April. (The summary of consultation responses was published on 6th March.)
In Scotland, a priority is safety on rural roads. Transport Scotland aims to reduce the number of casualties on rural roads by implementing a safe systems approach; developing safer infrastructure and speed restrictions; encouraging safer vehicles and safer attitudes amongst drivers.
Research into rural road incidents showed that young males were overrepresented amongst crash victims. This has led to the David Coulthard Campaign, a series of adverts involving the F1 driver discouraging inappropriate speeds on rural roads and warning of the potential risk of losing control.
The Scottish Parliament held a debate on GDL on the 25th March which highlighted the unacceptably high incidence of young driver injury and death, noted the clear and unambiguous evidence in favour of a GDL system, acknowledged the flexibility of the system for individual nations’ needs, voiced their regret therefore at the delay in the DFT’s proposed Green Paper and urged UK Ministers to develop and take forward proposals on GDL without further delay. [NB: updated]
In Northern Ireland the Department of the Environment (DOE) is implementing the Road Safety Strategy to 2020(2011). The Road Traffic Amendment Bill currently awaiting ratification by the NI National Executive is regarded as the next major step. The Bill includes updates to Northern Ireland’s drink-drive legislation, reducing the alcohol limit from 80mg to 50mg/100ml and limiting learner, novice and professional drivers to 20mg/100ml, with both supported by mandatory roadside testing. The Bill also includes introduction of a graduated driver licensing scheme in Northern Ireland following a nationwide consultation in 2012. The Bill proposes a mandatory learning period of 12 months, an adjustment of Northern Ireland’s licensing ages, passenger restrictions, a new syllabus and the introduction of a mandatory logbook.
Also underway in Northern Ireland is the mutual recognition of penalty points awarded north and south of the Irish border; a revamping of the road safety education service at the regional level; increased cross-governmental working and the development of a Motorcycling Safety Strategy. A review of the Cycling Proficiency Scheme is also underway along with a reformation of the taxi and bus regulation in Northern Ireland.
Transport Select Committee
The 18th Transport Select Committee Special Report of Session 2013-14, Safety at Level Crossings: Network Rail’s Response to the Committee’s 11th report of session 2013-14, was published on 14th April. Network Rail rejected the Committee’s recommendation to eliminate all deaths at levels crossings. “The solution to eliminating risk completely would of course be to close all crossings but this is a challenge society is unlikely to be able to afford and the resources needed would be disproportionate when compared with addressing the risks facing the public on the road network for example.”
Transport Oral Questions Thursday 20th March 2014, included several on road safety in relation to the ‘Get Britain Cycling’ report, bus and coach roadworthiness and road casualty forecasts. The next Transport Oral Questions are due to take place on 8th May.
Written Parliamentary Questions on transport safety up to the May Day recess have focussed on road signs and markings, speed limits, driver licensing, road repair and maintenance and level crossings. Available here.
Other Parliamentary news
PACTS Co-Chair Sir Peter Bottomley (Con. Worthing West) will sit on the HS2 Bill Committee. The other members areHenry Bellingham (Con. NW Norfolk); Ian Mearns (Lab. Gateshead); Yasmin Qureshi (Lab. Bolton SE); Robert Syms (Con. Poole); and Mike Thornton (LD; Eastleigh).
Baroness Jones of Moulescoomb has invited MPs and Peers to a meeting on 4 June with the newly-formed All Party Parliamentary Group for Justice on Our Roads.(Contactjustice@roadpeace.org). Baroness Jones Jones said “My parliamentary group will work in collaboration with the Parliamentary Groups on Cycling and Transport Safety [PACTS].” RoadPeace (a PACTS Member) is providing the secretariat.
The Transport Safety Commission, co-chaired by Sir Peter Bottomley MP, and including MPs Barry Sheerman and Dr Julian Huppert, has begun its inquiry UK Transport Safety: Who is responsible? This will examine the institutional responsibilities for transport safety. The first Oral Evidence Session took place on 10th April with Dr Yvonne Doyle (Public Health England) and Professors Danny Dorling and Jonathan Wolff giving evidence. Further evidence sessions will be held, approximately monthly. Organisations intending to submit written evidence are encouraged to do so as soon as possible – details here.
Local government – a disturbing picture
At the PACTS Summit on 27th March (below) RSGB Chair Honor Byford gave worrying account of the shrinking ability of local councils to provide road safety services to their residents. Subsequently, PACTS has learned that Southampton City Council is “deleting its road safety function”, North-East Lincolnshire Council has cut £116,500 from the Safer Roads Humber, a speed awareness partnership, to spend on tackling dog fouling, while Buckinghamshire County Council has reduced its ET&P road safety staff to one.
European Safety News
The European Commission published report on Road Deaths in 2013 revealing that between 2012 and 2013 there was an 8% decrease in fatalities on EU roads, with the EU “fully back on track to reach the road safety target for 2020”. The UK figures show a decline of only 1% in road deaths in 2013 but are provisional as the figure for the 4th Quarter 2013 is an estimate. On the basis of the casualty projections in the recent PACTS report (below), Great Britain is not going to achieve the EU target to reduce road deaths by a half between 2010 and 2020.
On the 18th March, MEPs voted overwhelmingly in support of proposals to improve the safety of Heavy Goods Vehicles. According to ETSC data 4,300 people died in collisions involving lorries in 2011 and this new legislation is intended to allow vehicle cabs with improved visibility, taking particular account of vulnerable road users. ETSC Executive Director Antonio Avenoso stated that the vote has brought Europe “a step closer to bringing innovations on crumple zones, visibility and pedestrian protection to lorries”. MEPs also declared that there should be no change in the current rules that prevent longer, heavier lorries from crossing borders in Europe. These proposals need to be agreed with EU member states before action can be taken.
On the 29th April the ETSC published its PIN Flash 27 report, Ranking EU progress on Car Occupant Safetywhich revealed that while progress had been made 12,345 car occupants were fatally injured in 2012. The report argued that 900 lives could be saved each year in the EU if car manufacturers were required to fit seatbelt reminders in the front and rear passenger seats and emphasised the risk of persistent drink-drivers and the life-saving potential of Alco-lock technology. ETSC Executive Director, Antonio Avenoso, stated that “while huge progress has been made in cutting the number of people killed in cars on Europe’s Roads; it is simply wrong that 120,000 still die every year for reasons that are mostly avoidable”.
UK Road Safety Summit
At the recent UK Road Safety Summit, Government ministers, officials, technical experts and others set out the priorities and parameters for a future national road safety strategy. Road safety minister Robert Goodwill outlined the Government’s achievements, including legal measures to tackle drink and drug driving, easier introduction of 20mph limits and funding for safer cycling infrastructure. Looking ahead, he highlighted casualties on rural roads and the potential for new technology. Generally, however, he gave little away and delegates challenged him on the Government’s failure to publish a green paper on young driver or to reduce the drink drive limit – as Scotland and Northern Ireland seem likely to do.
The summit was organised by PACTS in association with Landor LINKS and sponsored by insurers esure. DfT, Transport Scotland, DoE Northern Ireland, TfL and ETSC were conference partners. Details and speaker presentations are available here.
The Government has produced forecasts for national road traffic volumes, carbon emissions from transport and delays to 2030. It has even predicted levels of cycle traffic. But it has produced no forecasts for casualty levels. PACTS has filled this void. Projections of road casualties in Great Britain to 2030 by Kit Mitchell and Prof Richard Allsop finds that, on past trends, a third of a million people will be killed or seriously injured on GB roads by 2030. PACTS Executive Director David Davies commented: “Business as usual is not good enough. Ambitious targets and properly resourced interventions are needed. Work should start now on a new national road safety strategy. We can no longer rely on the recession to reduce casualties.”Publication was supported by donations from IAM and the GEM Motoring Road Safety Trust
Safety, sustainability and health
On the first anniversary of the return of public health responsibilities to local government, PACTS published Achieving safety, sustainability and health goals in transport, which outlines growing overlaps between the three sectors and the potential synergies. PACTS concludes that central and local government need to dramatically step up road safety measure if their policies for increased walking and cycling are to be realised without increasing casualties.
PACTS Member news
PACTS members are involved in many transport safety initiatives and we cannot provide a comprehensive account. We briefly summarise below those we are aware of. If we have missed you or would like inclusion in a future newsletter, please let us know.
Young Driver Focus conference organised by RSGB and First Car, hosted by ARVAL on Wednesday 14 May 2014http://www.youngdriverfocus.org.uk/index.html
The Motorcycle Industry Accreditation Centre (MCIAC) has launched an initiative to improve consistency and raise standards in motorcyclist training.
Thatcham Research has launched the Stop the crash campaign to accelerate the introduction of Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) into the UK vehicle fleet. According to Thatcham, the systems fitted to Volvo cars are amongst the most effective.
Fatigue in transport was the subject of the 2013 Westminster Lecture. Shell has issued advice on how to manage fatigue to its staff and to the public.
Following a presentation to the PACTS road safety working parties and to PACTS Co-Chair John Leech (Lib Dem, Manchester Withington), reVUE has published a “White Paper” on combining safety technology and driver coaching to reduce casualties, particularly for vulnerable road users.
First Car has published the Ultimate Guide to Cycling with assistance from Road Safety Analysis.
UK Road Safety Week (9-15 June 2014) is being supported by a coalition of highways and road safety organisations. The Chief Fire Officers Association (CFOA) is leading.
New PACTS Members
PACTS is pleased to announce that Alcosense and MAG have joined PACTS.
Alcosense produces a range of pocket-sized breathalysers designed for easy self-testing. Marketing pays particular attention to reducing the problem of unintentional drink-driving the “morning after”. AlcoSense is a trademark of Now Group UK Ltd, owned and operated by British racing driver, Hunter Abbott, a passionate advocate of reducing the UK drink drive limit.
The Motorcycle Action Group (MAG) represents the interests and rights of Powered Two Wheeler (PTW) riders in the UK. A core aim is to help ensure that the safety and legitimate interests of PTW riders are accorded equal levels of attention and respect along with other Vulnerable Road Users.
A core belief for MAG members is that all road users – especially the most vulnerable ones – can, and should, take as much responsibility as possible for their own safety. Success for us is to heighten awareness of the similarities rather than differences between riders of all single track vehicles – and irrespective of whether they are powered by motors or pedals – or both. We also hope to help ensure that fresh thinking about road safety is increasingly evidence based, and that PTW riders are given equal consideration in the policy development processes from which new proposals emerge.
MAG has re-joined PACTS for two key reasons: The use of single-track vehicles such as motorcycles, scooters and bicycles offers many benefits that are being better recognised than ever as such in environmental, social and economic terms. The need to optimise the safe use of two wheelers has also never been greater, and MAG is hoping to help PACTS deliver improvements along those lines.
1st May 2014