1,792 people deserve action

 

Last week a friend mailed to tell me that their 12-year old nephew had just been killed in a road crash.

It’s so very easy to be numbed by the scale of death and injury on our roads, when the totals quickly run into the thousands, and even when we think that this averages out to around five people per day being killed on Britain’s highways it still feels like more of a statistic than a tragedy.

”Local
Taking action: Steve Gooding

But when you hear the story about one person and see the devastating effect on their family first-hand the tragedy is suddenly all too real.

So it was good to hear a set of Government announcements over recent days that suggest road safety does still feature on the Department for Transport'’s to-do list, alongside the collapse of the railway timetable, decisions about airport runway capacity and plugging the nation’s potholes.

Roads minister Jesse Norman told Parliament that he was commissioning a fresh two-year action plan to address four priority user groups – young people, rural road users, motorcyclists and vulnerable old people. As Mr Norman said, the first three groups are routinely, and depressingly, over-represented in the road casualty stats, while demographic changes mean we have to start getting to grips with the needs of an ageing population.'

Mr Norman also set out how the money available from the Safer Roads Fund was being allocated to local authorities to tackle the 50 most dangerous stretches of ‘A’ roads in England. And he went on to allocate funds for a competition to develop evidential breath testing equipment.

But it won’t surprise you to know that the announcement we welcomed most heartily here at the RAC Foundation was that we were being given nearly half-a-million pounds to plan and manage a three-year project to explore the case for better investigation of road crashes.

This is not to cast doubt over the adequacy of current crash investigations handled by the police, which are thorough and highly professional. Rather it is to pick up and parallel something that happens in respect of maritime, aviation and rail incidents.

The premise is simple: where the police priority is rightly to establish blame and prepare evidence for a possible prosecution, the aim of our initiative is to focus on cause, and then look again at the options for preventing crashes happening and reducing their impact when they do. We’ll be looking for common threads and themes, not just in distinct force areas but across constabularies.

Mr Norman’s money will in large part be used to cover the cost of employing additional civilian staff in a handful of police forces whose task will be to gather and interrogate information about the causes and the circumstances surrounding crashes, with direct access to investigating officers.

The question has been posed for many years as to why rail, air and sea warranted their own accident investigation branches (AIBs) but roads do not. After all the casualty numbers are far higher on our roads. In part it is that very scale which has militated against establishing a highways AIB – there are simply too many crashes for each to be independently investigated in great depth.

We’ve also got to face the fact that on our roads there is no established operating industry ready to act on an AIB’s recommendations. We’re going to have to think creatively about the best approaches to prompt safer behaviours. Our project will start with no assumptions about the possible structure of such a unit, save to observe that the shape of each of the existing AIBs is already tailored to the relevant sector.

That said, there are aspects to the way the existing AIBs operate that are relevant. As Chris Jackson and Nicola Kyle explain in a new report for the RAC Foundation, the existing AIBs provide a ‘safe space’; a forum in which people can be utterly open without fear of reprisal. It’s the distinction between the pursuit of blame and the discovery of cause.

Jackson and Kyle underline the importance of the separation of evidence between criminal and safety investigations: statements made by individuals to an AIB can only be used in criminal or civil proceedings with the express permission of the courts, and this permission is only exceptionally given.

Our project cannot replicate every aspect of existing AIB activity, that would require new legislation. But we think that we have the potential, with the help of many agencies including the police, to make the case for looking into road crashes in a different way.

Our roads might have an enviable road safety record relative to many other countries, but they are still far from being safe. Just ask the family and friends of the 1,792 people killed in crashes in 2016. That’s a statistic and a tragedy, and if we’re going to tackle it we’re going to have to think about it in a different way. Wish us luck.

 

Also see

Register now for full access


Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

 
comments powered by Disqus
 
 
highways jobs

Head of Economic Development & Regeneration

North Worcestershire
£65k (more may be available depending on skills & experience)
Our vision for North Worcestershire is that it will be a destination of choice for employers Worcestershire
Recuriter: North Worcestershire

TRANSPORT FOR WALES APPOINTMENT OF NON-EXECUTIVE CHAIR

Transport for Wales
£425.00 per day
Transport for Wales (TfW) is a not for profit company, wholly-owned by the Welsh Government and established in 2015. Wales
Recuriter: Transport for Wales

Fire Safety Contract Manager

Camden London Borough Council
£40,028 to £46,431
We are currently seeking an experienced Fire Safety Contract Manager to lead and co-ordinate activities and to ensure that the service is managed Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Pest Control Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£27,093 to £29,188
As a Pest Control Officer within Environmental Health, Business and Consumer Services your focus will be to deliver pest control treatments Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Senior Waste Prevention Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£35,913 - £41,657
We now have an exciting opportunity for a talented and enthusiastic individual to join us and be part of a team tottenham
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Senior Waste Prevention Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£35,913 - £41,657
We now have an exciting opportunity for a talented and enthusiastic individual to join us and be part of a team developing a new vision Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Operations Manager – Waste and Recycling

Bath & North East Somerset Council
£38,052- £40,858.
This is an exciting opportunity for an experienced waste management professional Bath, Somerset
Recuriter: Bath & North East Somerset Council

HGV Driver/Loader

Torridge District Council
£18,070 - £20,138
DRIVER/LOADER (HGV) Driving and loading a refuse/recycling collection vehicle up to 26 tonne gross weight, you will collect recycling or household ... Bideford, Devon
Recuriter: Torridge District Council

Principal Transport Officer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£37,320 to £40,198
The role will require close dialogue with developers and their agents and necessitate strong partnership working with District Councils... Cambridge, Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Senior Engineer – Traffic and Road Safety

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 - £38,994 per annum
Redbridge Council is an outer Borough, working to improve the environment and its services for residents and businesses. Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Trainee Technician – Active and Sustainable Travel

Redbridge London Borough Council
£20,667 - £22,424 per annum
Redbridge Council is an outer Borough, working to improve the environment and its services for residents and businesses. Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Senior Engineer – Parking

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 - £38,994 per annum
To be responsible for the delivery of parking engineering design and implementation of schemes across the borough Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Senior Engineer – Highway Maintenance/Asset Management

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 - £38,994 per annum
To be responsible for highway asset management, reactive and planned highway maintenance, highway safety and structural surveys and inspections. Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Trainee Technician – Projects

Redbridge London Borough Council
£20,667 - £22,424 per annum
Redbridge Council is an outer Borough, working to improve the environment and its services for residents and businesses. Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Senior Engineer – Flood Management/Civil Engineering

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 - £38,994 per annum
To provide expert advice on highway and land drainage, flood risk management, sustainable drainage, highway structures and bridges... Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Senior Engineer – Development Control

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 - £38,994 per annum
To be responsible for assisting and supporting the operational delivery of the Council’s highways development control function and to assist the lead Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Engineer – Projects

Redbridge London Borough Council
£30,930 - £32,638 per annum
To assist with the delivery of highway and land drainage, flood risk management, sustainable drainage, highway structures and bridges... Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Engineer – Parking

Redbridge London Borough Council
£30,930 - £32,638 per annum
To assist with the delivery of parking engineering design and implementation of schemes across the borough Ilford, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Engineer (Bridges)

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
You will have experience in the development, planning, design and implementation of transport infrastructure and related projects Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Pest Control Officer

Brent Council
£25,746 - £27,342 p.a. inc.
Salary range
Recuriter: Brent Council