Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-239)



  220. Do you feel that in this sense local authorities, like yourselves, are closer to public opinion than the media?
  (Dr Thompson) Certainly. Local authorities have a statutory requirement to consult on traffic calming and they go well beyond that. That is certainly the case in Nottingham. There is overwhelming support for schemes in that consultation process.

Mr Campbell

  221. In Northamptonshire you have a programme of diversionary speed workshops. I understand that that is an alternative to fixed penalty notices and penalty points. Is there any evidence of re-offending rates among drivers who have undertaken that programme?
  (Mr Shortland) I am sorry to tell you that it is too early to say, but we have instigated a research project. I shall report those results when it comes out.

  222. Have you any early indication?
  (Mr Shortland) You have to give people enough time to re-offend.


  223. Can you explain what you are doing in that diversionary speed workshop?
  (Mr Shortland) Yes. In Northamptonshire we are offering people who have exceeded the enforced speed limits by small amounts the alternative of going on a three-hour workshop course, instead of paying the £60 and getting three points. We get an 86 per cent take-up rate. People have travelled from Cornwall and Aberdeen to take part in that. The research that we have carried out on the change in attitude that takes place—we have concluded that research—has shown a marked change in attitude. There is a marked difference in the replies given on a form before they come on the course compared with those that they fill in after they have been on the course. I have received positive feedback from people saying how much they welcome the course, how valuable they felt it was and how they wish it could be available for everybody.

  224. They will have saved £60.
  (Mr Shortland) No, it does not save them £60. They have to pay that as a course fee. Currently, we have put 7,000 people through that course. It has been very successful.

Mr O'Brien

  225. Over what period of time.
  (Mr Shortland) We started in April last year and we are running at 300 people a week.

Mr Campbell

  226. I was not aware that the course fee was £60. The speeding fine is £60 so why would 87 per cent of drivers embark on a course that does not benefit them financially to any degree?
  (Mr Shortland) They benefit by not receiving the penalty points. Afterwards they feel that it was worth while coming on the course for the educational experience.

  227. In Nottingham, Mr Thompson, with reference to education on its own not being sufficient to reduce speeding, what part do you think that the media, in particular television, can play in trying to reduce that?
  (Dr Thompson) We have a very good relationship with the Nottingham Evening Post as part of our casualty reduction partnership, although it is not actually within the partnership. It has been very supportive of the casualty type approach that we have been adopting. A simple example of what they have done on our behalf is that in one case the newspaper distributed leaflets and information sheets that were circulated by the vendors on the streets so that the public were given information with the Evening Post. It also has taken on board the case of a young boy, Christopher Marlow, who tragically was killed in Nottingham by a speeding motorist and it has handled that issue very sensitively and explained why we are doing our bit to try to reduce casualties. That is why we are carrying out the work that we do. We are in the process of trying to prevent tragedies like poor little Christopher's death through our actions. That is an example of positive support that we can receive from working closely with the media. I have to say that there have been other examples that have been totally the reverse. We have had some very strong criticism from some directions. Many of the criticisms have been inaccurate as well. The reporters have not done the work in terms of finding out what the actual findings are from the partnerships that have been operating these processes.

Mr Cummings

  228. I shall direct this question to Gloucestershire. You have submitted evidence in relation to rural speed limits. What needs to be done to prevent the mismatch of speeds on rural roads?
  (Mr Radford) We need to continue to look at the same principle as that which is behind the Safer City Project. We need to look at the hierarchy and to think in terms of what traffic the roads ought to be carrying and then look to direction signing as appropriate, so that we do not sign traffic through routes that are unsuitable for people who are following signs. Generally, they tend to be the long-distance driver. Then we need to rationalise the current problem with the national derestriction sign. The national derestriction sign—the white disc with a slash through it—simply means that the national speed limit applies. On a single carriageway that is 60 miles per hour. As we try to control speeds on some of our lower grade A roads and B roads with 50 miles per hour limits, we have a problem when a driver turns off into a country lane and sees the national speed limit sign which means 60 miles per hour. I do not know that that is a big problem in terms of engineering; I think it is more of an education problem. Drivers are being given the wrong message. When they turn off a main road the sign does not suggest any speed and it is not giving any advice. In fact, it suggests that you can forget about controlling your speed now and drive as appropriate. Maybe driving as appropriate is a good thing, but perhaps we should look for some new kind of signs when entering rural lanes similar to that which is a combined advice and speed limit sign, but that would have to be backed up by some change in the national derestriction regulations.

  229. Do you think that that can be achieved through the rural road hierarchy?
  (Mr Radford) The rural road hierarchy is a good template for thinking about the problem. That is the rural road hierarchy suggested in the Babtie Ross Silcock report.

  230. Who is responsible for implementing it?
  (Mr Radford) With regard to the national speed limit, it would have to be done by Government; it would have to be done centrally. But the implementation of the hierarchy is something that the local authority would have to devise.

  231. In a nutshell, what do you believe that the Government should do to reduce the casualties?
  (Mr Radford) I suppose to continue to support the work that the local authorities are doing and provide the local authorities with the resources to put ahead some of the ideas that the authorities have. The netting off scheme, for example, is an excellent opportunity for local authorities to take more control over how to manage speed in their areas and to come up with their own strategies.

  232. Did your local authority come up with its own strategy? Do you see no need for national guidance or national direction?
  (Mr Radford) Absolutely. There has to be national guidance. By saying that local authorities should come up with their own hierarchy, I meant within that framework. They need to look at roads and traffic movements in their areas and that cannot be done on a national scale. That would be within a speed framework guidance based on the research that, say, Babtie Ross Silcock are doing.

  233. We understand that the Home Secretary wishes to raise the motorway speed to 80 miles per hour. What will be the effect of that move on the number of casualties?
  (Mr Shortland) It will increase them.

  234. Will it be possible to enforce strictly an 80 miles per hour limit?
  (Mr Shortland) It will technically be possible, yes.

  235. Do you have evidence to support what you have just said, relating to the number of accidents?
  (Mr Shortland) I can supply that, yes.

Helen Jackson

  236. I am still doing my sums. To return to the savings, if there are significant savings to the health authorities from the reduction in the numbers that you have described, and if there are significant savings to police authorities due to the reduction of call-outs to accidents, do you feel that those authorities, as well as your authority, should have a responsibility for monitoring the financial impact that the reduction of speed represents?
  (Mr Shortland) I think that the police certainly have a monitoring role. In Northamptonshire the health authority is keen to take part in that and has agreed to provide figures on the number of beds saved.

  237. That is helpful. What about Nottingham?
  (Dr Thompson) That process is currently being investigated by the two area health authority. Since about September last year the two area health authorities have joined the casualty reduction partnership that operates the netting off process. They are giving a commitment to being active members in that partnership. That is one of the areas that they want to address. At the moment it is difficult to establish within their computing systems the tie-up between casualties that they receive from their hospital system with the kind of information that we have in terms of road traffic casualties.

  238. Have the police put a figure on it?
  (Dr Thompson) The police would have to put a nominal figure on the reduction in call-out times and come up with an estimate in terms of savings. Certainly, if we look in terms of the casualty savings that we are talking about, there must be a knock-on effect to the health service and to the police service.

  239. What about Gloucestershire?
  (Mr Radford) In Gloucestershire we are not yet involved in the netting off process, but we hope to form a partnership with the health authority and to do that kind of research. The health authority can identify accident and emergency victims who are the result of a road traffic accident, so the information is available, but it has not yet been put in a form that is generally available.

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