If, like me, you watched this week’s Panorama programme ‘Britain’s dangerous roads’, I expect you were probably shocked that the fatality rate has risen in 2020. This means that 1,460 people were killed on our roads in one year. Just take a moment to imagine this amount of people collected together in your local park, playing and relaxing. Consider how much life this really is. 1,460 dead is a figure you might read in a history book about a medieval battlefield, not about 21st century travel with electric cars, real-time monitoring and NCAP ratings.
This is a terrible amount of loss. My thoughts are with those families as they try to adapt to the painful circumstances of losing loved ones.
I find myself considering the context of the programme. Yes, I think that laws, policing and enforcement are very important factors in ensuring our safety on the roads. I think that we can all recognise that a lack of targeted investment in our road policing can be seen as a significant contributor to these deaths. However, as many ‘safety people’ know, accidents and incidents have multiple factors and drivers have to make risk-based decisions hundreds of times in each and every journey they take. People make mistakes, all the time.
I am minded to ask how the other ‘E’s of Engineering and Education contribute to our position?
Considering engineering. Clearly the correct design and ongoing maintenance of the road network is critical to road safety. The reporter’s film of the pooling water, narrow roadway and adjacent features on the A82 demonstrated very clearly the dangers that poor roads have on driver safety.
Unfortunately many UK roads are less than ideal for modern vehicles – this can mean that drivers have little, if any, opportunity to correct a mistake behind the wheel (or avoid someone else’s) before catastrophe. RoSPA members who have staff working at the roadside know very well how dangerous this work can be and can share some very scary stories. We recently welcomed the Government listening to our consultation submission and announcing the pause of all-lane running on Smart Motorways. This shows clearly that data analysis and consultation works and the lessons are learnt for each and every road development scheme in future.
We all expect that we can use well-designed, well-maintained roads that are safe for all our vehicles; including two wheels, four wheels and the rest; whether pedal, electric or ICE powered. Good transport planning, roads designed for all users, with effective road safety audits conducted by trained road safety engineers must be considered in the same way as enforcement and education.
There were numerous films of really unsafe driving shown in Panorama
, and YouTube is not short of other examples. Think about how often you have seen impatient drivers overtaking HGVs or motorhomes in terrible, unsafe places while driving. When I joined RoSPA it was drilled into me “there are no unsafe roads, only unsafe drivers” – I believe this is still true (although a group of soldiers who had returned from a conflict I spoke to a while back definitely didn’t agree). Many drivers who are actually caught speeding go through the NDORS programme; RoSPA believes in the importance of training developing good driver behaviour, leading to defensive and advanced driving skills. We have to change the mind-set of drivers into making the best choice, not making poor decisions based on aggression, frustration, adrenaline, intoxication or fatigue.
Overall from watching Panorama
, it struck me that we all actually expect effective police enforcement on our roads. But the police will never catch every poor driver or repeat offender. We know that a huge proportion of UK driving is undertaken by people who are at work and employers must organise their operations safely. Safe driving needs to be a positive choice for the individual and a minimum expectation for every employer. Training and monitoring of driver behaviours at work is completely legitimate. Employers who put drivers on the road need to make sure the roads are safer for everyone. This is the challenge for us all – the question is are we prepared to accept death and serious injury as a potential risk of driving to the supermarket, or are we all just going to ignore it, order a delivery and let somebody else take the risk instead?
Posted: 1/19/2022 12:36:48 PM