|You are in: Road Safety News: 23 April 2007
Evolving roles in road safety
A report by The Audit Commission, first published in February 2007
The suffering caused by traffic accidents means that road safety must always be a priority.
The Audit Commission’s national report, Changing Lanes, says that to maintain progress in reducing road casualties, the focus must shift from making the roads safer, to making people use them more safely and sustainably.
The report is intended to help local agencies work more effectively together to reduce the number of deaths and injuries on our roads.
In summary, the report says:
Improving road safety will always be a priority…
- Almost 3,000 people die each year on roads in England; a person is seriously injured every 20 minutes.
- Road traffic accidents cost the English economy nearly £8 billion a year.
- While Britain has better statistics than most countries, motorcyclists and young drivers are disproportionately at risk, as are child pedestrians, especially in deprived areas.
- Anti-social driving and speeding vehicles are key quality of life issues that also have a road safety dimension.
…but building on the success of the past will be difficult because it means persuading road users to behave more safely
- Casualties have been reducing for many reasons, including better vehicle design, improved emergency medical treatment, seat belt wearing, enforcement of drinking and driving laws and well-planned road engineering.
- Returns from engineering are diminishing, because many accident black spots and dangerous stretches of road have been improved.
- Human behaviour contributes to almost all accidents; road conditions and vehicle defects are involved in fewer than 20 per cent.
- People often hold mutually contradictory attitudes to road safety, which are different when they are driving, riding or walking, or if they live near a road.
Local authorities need to work closely with the Highways Agency, police, NHS, and fire and rescue services…
- Many local agencies engage in road safety work, and they have more impact when their efforts are well coordinated.
- The Local Government White Paper describes a place shaping role for local authorities, in which they take a lead in coordinating local activities.
- The most effective approach is to achieve a balance across the three Es of road safety: engineering; education, training and publicity (ETP); and enforcement.
- Local activities can helpfully reinforce national publicity campaigns.
…to target at-risk users, as well as at-risk locations, and achieve value for money
- Behaviours are unlikely to improve unless public agencies engage effectively with road users and communities to understand and change their underlying attitudes.
- Data need to be analysed for information about the behaviours that put different groups of people at risk, as well as where accidents happen.
- Approaches to education and enforcement need to be appropriate for the people who need to change; for example, firefighters may be best placed to work with disaffected teenagers.
Local public bodies should work together better, both informally and in established partnerships, based on the framework in this report…
- To analyse data better, including anonymised data from the NHS, and use it to target ETP and enforcement, as well as engineering.
- To target activity on specific groups of people and on where they live and work, as well as accident black spots.
- To engage with the public to improve people’s understanding and gain commitment, support and trust, with local councillors taking a lead in both their community representative and scrutiny roles.
- To make good use of all available local resources to reinforce messages, including teachers, police officers, firefighters and volunteers.
- To evaluate the effectiveness of local schemes, to guide future decisions about priorities for expenditure and the contributions of different partners.
…and use the self-assessment tools provided by the Audit Commission on its website:
The Audit Commission
The Audit Commission is an independent body responsible for ensuring that public money is spent economically, efficiently and effectively, to achieve high-quality local services for the public.
Its remit covers around 11,000 bodies in England, which between them spend more than £180 billion of public money each year. Its work covers local government, health, housing, community safety and fire and rescue services.
As an independent watchdog, the Commission provides important information on the quality of public services. As a driving force for improvement in those services, it provides practical recommendations and spreads best practice. As an independent auditor, it ensures that public services are good value for money and that public money is properly spent.
For further information
For further information, or the read the full report, go to: http://www.audit-commission.gov.uk/roadsafety/