Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Ninth Report

145. The Road Safety Strategy which the Government published in March 2000 at the same time as the DETR's speed review was, despite some short-comings, an impressive policy document. The Government and its agencies were to do the following to bring about safer speeds: The DETR would:

- publicise widely the risks of speed and the reasons for limits;

- develop a framework for determining appropriate vehicle speeds on all roads, and ensuring that measures are available to achieve them;

- research a number of speed management problems;

- implement An Action Plan for reducing speeding;[230]

- establish a pedestrian protection directive.

The Health and Safety Commission would consider examining work-related road safety

The Highways Agency would play its part by looking at traffic calming in villages

The Home Office would provide for higher penalties for offenders

The key measures would be taken by local and police authorities. The Government would assist them by:

- enabling them to make enforcement more effective through the National Safety Camera Scheme;

- providing more funding through Local Transport Plans;

- permitting local authorities to take into account environmental, economic and social effects of policies when assessing their ability to reduce casualties.

Targets were set for a 40% reduction in the number of people and a 50% reduction in the number of children killed or seriously injured; and a 10% reduction in the slight casualty rate.

Finally, and very importantly, the Government would give political leadership. The symbol of this leadership was the Prime Minister's launch of the strategy at No. 10 Downing Street surrounded by children.

146. With a few exceptions the Road Safety Strategy was praised. Unfortunately, in the two years since it was issued, progress has been limited, and the strategy is in danger of collapsing. Almost every Department's performance has been disappointing.

Developments since March 2000


147. The DTLR has not;

- developed either a framework for determining appropriate speeds; nor the promised urban and rural road hierarchies (see section above);

- established a publicity campaign which has made a significant impact (see section above);

- established an Action Plan to tackle speeding.[231]

While the Department maintains its impressive record of commissioning research[232], there are fears that it will fail to carry forward the results of the research into policy.

Pedestrian Protection Directive

148. Tomorrow's Roads states:

"The UK is backing proposals for the European Commission to bring forward a Directive in early 2000 to make car fronts safer. This would be challenging initiative which could ultimately reduce fatalities and serious injuries by up to 20%".[233]

149. Subsequently, however, the UK Government subsequently changed its policy and accepted a voluntary agreement rather than a directive. Motor manufacturers argued that this would produce improvements more quickly.[234] However, the decision was criticised by a number of expert organisations. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents informed us:

"It is extremely unfortunate that the European Commission has recently decided to accept a negotiated agreement proposed by the motor industry which is much less stringent than a mandatory Euro directive would be".[235]

TRL stated that the voluntary agreement would only produce a fraction of the savings of the Directive.[236] The Government should not have accepted the European Commission's decisions to introduce a voluntary scheme rather than a Pedestrian Directive. The voluntary scheme must now be carefully monitored. If it has not been successful by 2005, the Government should press the European Commission to introduce a Directive.

The Highways Agency

150. The Highways Agency published its Strategic Plan for Safety, Making the Network Safer, in February 2000. The Plan contains proposals not just for to make its roads safer for car occupants but also for walkers, cyclists, riders and others. This included the continued introduction of traffic calming schemes in villages. These proposals marked a significant change in the attitude of the Agency; it has had a reputation, in the words of one witness, of always seeming "much more interested in capacity and flow than safety".[237] The Agency prepared an Interim Guidance Note on Traffic Calming in early 2000. Further research is being carried out so that the interim advice can be incorporated in the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges. Calming schemes are installed where there have been accidents and where it is seen as the appropriate measure. Only eight schemes were completed in 2000-01.[238]

151. The Agency memorandum notes that the Rural Road Hierarchy for Speed Management Review envisages 30 mph as the normal limit for trunk roads in villages; however, the priority attached to schemes depends on the number of accidents. Where limits are imposed it is usually in conjunction with traffic calming. We were informed that "a considerable number of villages on the trunk road network now have lower speed limits typically 30 or 40 mph imposed through the limits of the village".[239] The information is not available about the number of villages with 30 mph limits on the trunk road network

152. Many who live in villages on the Highways Agency's road network endure intolerable conditions. The Agency has made some progress in introducing traffic calming and 30 mph limits, but it has been very slight and very slow. Too few traffic calming schemes have been installed. Insufficient account is given to the severance of communities and the quality of life in assessing the introduction of both schemes and 30 mph limits. The Agency should now establish a programme for installing 30mph limits and attendant speed reduction measures in all villages along its network.

Health and Safety Commission and Health and Safety Executive

153. The Road Safety Strategy stated that the Commission and Health and Safety Executive 'wanted to do more' to prevent work-related road incidents. The Commission agreed with Ministers to set up 'an interagency task group' to make recommendations and to promote a public debate on best practice. As soon as possible the group was to publish a Discussion Document.

154. This proposal was widely supported for a number of reasons. RoSPA stated:

"Research by the Transport Research Laboratory suggests that company car drivers have a 30 to 40 per cent greater involvement in road accidents than those driving for domestic purposes. The victims of "at work vehicle accidents" include not only company drivers and passengers but other road users including cyclists and elderly and child pedestrians. These facts are highly relevant to all organisations in the light of the legal and moral duty of care to manage the risks faced and created by their employees who drive on the road as part of their work".[240]

155. Secondly, there is no good reason why Health and Safety procedures are not applied to those who are driving as part of their work. It means that there are different approaches to road safety than to safety at work, as the following table indicates.[241]
Safety Policy

The Government

At work

On roads


Vulnerable people taken care of or excluded

Vulnerable people expected to take care, (excluded on motorways)


Seminars with updates — usually compulsory

TV ads which you might happen to see


High standards

Regular updates

Driving test — basic minimum

No updates


To protect people from their errors

Safety over convenience

Mostly to sell cars, safety secondary

Law enforcement


By luck

156. The interagency group has met and reported. It recommended that much needed to be done in this area. Subsequently the report has been considered by the Health and Safety Executive. It is believed that the Executive decided that taking on work-related road safety policy would result in an excessive increase in work. Crashes which occur while drivers are working are very common, and deaths caused in this way are probably the largest single cause of work-related fatalities. The HSC would be negligent if it failed to extend its activities to this most important safety issue. The fact that it would cost money is not an excuse for ignoring it. If it does not do so, the Government must demand that it reconsiders the matter. It must provide the money to ensure that the HSE can employ the necessary staff. Clearer guidance to employers on managing road risk is urgently needed. We recommend that the Transport Committee investigates this in more detail.

The Department of Health and health authorities

157. Road deaths are one of the most important public health issues, as those health organisations, which submitted evidence to this inquiry stressed.[242] Other diseases kill more people, but few kill more young people in the prime of life, and therefore make such a contribution to the years of life lost.

158. The Department of Health memorandum echoed these serious concerns about the consequences of speed - both in respect of the number of casualties, their cost and the obstacles created to healthier life-styles.[243] However, the memorandum also makes clear that the Department's role in influencing speed policy is as yet fairly minor. It supports others work in reducing speed and injuries through:

- developing 'green transport' plans in the NHS;

- the Healthy Schools programme (asking parents to consider letting their children walk or cycle to school); it is a member of the School Travel Advisory Group; and it funds BRAKE to help it mount road safety campaigns.

Its major role is in the Accidental Injury Task Force, where it brings together Government departments and others to prevent accidental injuries, including road traffic injury. The report "is still being finalised; it will recommend more co-ordinated efforts to reduce accidents.[244]

159. Co-ordination between health authorities and other organisations is improving if in a piece-meal way. In a few areas health authorities are part of the safety camera partnerships with local authorities, police authorities and magistrates. Health organisations are consulted about Local Transport Plans.

160. However, while many doctors, especially those who specialise in public health, are concerned about these matters, road safety and traffic speed have not yet become a priority for the NHS. The Government's White Paper, Our Healthier Nation, does indicate the seriousness of road safety: it sets targets for reducing accidents (including a separate target for reducing accidental deaths among 16-24 year olds), which will not be achieved without a large reduction in the number of young people killed in road accidents. However, there is no reference to road safety or to speed in the NHS Plan.

161. If any other activity were to cause as many deaths and injuries as car crashes, it would be treated with much more concern and much more vigorous action would be taken. The Department of Health and health authorities should:

- take road safety and speeding more seriously as a public health issue, and encourage public health officers to do so as well;

- take a lead in major Government publicity campaigns to promote responsible attitudes to speeding; and promote such attitudes in GP surgeries and hospitals;

In addition,

- partnerships should be established locally between local authorities, police authorities, magistrates and primary care trusts and other health organisations;

- a national road accident database of the type already working in Cambridge;

- in preparing Local Transport Plans, local authorities should consult public health departments and primary care trusts, seeking their opinions on the plans at an early stage of preparation; they should also ensure that health improvement programmes are linked with Local Transport Plans;

- the Department of Health should be represented on the National Safety Camera Project Board.

The Government Offices in the Regions

162. The DTLR is one of several Departments represented in the Government Offices in the Regions. There must be better co-ordination between Government Offices and local authorities, regional planning bodies, and health professionals; and between the Government Offices in the Regions and the DTLR's Local Transport Plan Division and Road Safety Division.

163. There also needs to be very significant improvements in the co-ordination between speed management strategies and the Regional Economic Strategies of the RDAs and Regional Planning Guidance.

The Home Office

164. The strongest criticism was reserved for the Home Office. Nottingham City Council had concerns about its role.[245] The Association of Chief Police Officers was critical of the "mixed messages emanating from Government, particularly the position of the Home Office".[246]

165. The specific criticisms made by witnesses were that the Home Secretary had

- played a key role in imposing the new rules about safety cameras;

- failed to implement the proposals in the 2000 Consultation Paper on Road Traffic Penalties;

- pressed for an 80 mph speed limit on motorways; and

- failed to make traffic policing a priority, and was reducing its relative importance.

166. Witnesses were concerned that the present Home Secretary, in line with many of his predecessors, did not consider road policing to be very important.[247] In addition, new proposals from the Home Office have caused some concern. A National Policing Plan has been proposed by the Home Office in the White Paper on Police Reform, Policing a New century: A Blueprint for Reform. ACPO is disappointed that it makes no mention of road policing. and has recommended that the Plan include a clear statement of the importance placed by the Government on road policing and casualty reduction.

167. The Home Office is also to reducing the number of police's performance indicators, and has considered the abolition of the only best value indicator which relates to road policing, No.132 - the number of road collisions involving death or injury per 1,000 of the population.[248]

168. In response to these criticisms Bob Ainsworth MP, the Parliamentary Under Secretary at the Home Office the Minister told us that road policing was one of the overarching objectives of the police force, He was surprised at Commander Brunstrom's comments, and believed that there were no grounds for thinking that the Home Office was not interested in this area of policing.[249] He thought that the fact that road policing was not mentioned in the National Policing Plan was not relevant because the Plan was about police reform.

169. We recommend that the Home Office emphasise that road traffic policing is a priority and that the National Policing Plan contain a commitment to that effect. The best value indicator relating to traffic policing should be retained.

230   The DETR's "New Directions in Speed Management - A Review of Policy", March 2000, (p.31) stated that a speed Action Plan would be initiated . The Plan proposed that "the Government:

- develops a national framework for determining appropriate vehicle speeds on all roads, and ensuring that measures are available to achieve them;

- publicises widely the risks of speed and the reasons for the limits;

- researches a number of speed management problems to develop and test new policies; and

- ensures that policies take account of environmental, economic and social effects when assessing their ability to reduce casualties." Back

231   ACPO supported the Government's speed policy review recommendations but was concerned that the Action Plan proposed before the election had not yet materialised (RTS 137). Back

232   The SSI noted that "the DTLR has a valuable research programme that underpins much of the best recent policy development (RTS 34). Back

233   Tomorrow's Roads, p. 59. Back

234   RTS 140. Back

235   RTS 16 Back

236   RTS 27. Back

237   RTS 17. Back

238   As part of the LMNS programme; see RTS 155. Back

239   RTS 155. Back

240   RTS 16; the research referred to is TRL Report 317: P Lynn and C Lockwood - Accident liability of company car drivers.


241   Submitted by West Yorkshire 2000. Back

242   Eg see the memos from the Faculty of Public Medicine (RTS 4), the BMA (RTS150) and Wakefield Health Authority (RTS 20). Back

243   RTS 151. Back

244   In the summer of 2000, the Task Force was set up to advise on the prevention of accidental injuries, promised in the White Paper, Saving Lives: "Our Healthier Nation". It is chaired by the Department of Health and involves other Government Departments as observers. Its terms of reference are:

Taking account of Saving Lives and other initiatives in hand to reduce the burden of accidental injury, advise the Chief Medical Officer on:

-the most important priorities for immediate action in order to meet the target

-the development of an implementation plan, consulting with other stakeholders whether the necessary delivery structures are in place to take forward the implementation plan

-how progress on the implementation plan should be monitored how to develop and publicise a more unified approach to accident prevention across Government and the National Health Service.

A report with recommendations should be submitted to CMO within one year of its first meeting.  Back

245   RTS 9. Back

246   RTS 137. Back

247   The ACPO has long asked Home Secretaries to regard road policing as "core policework of the highest importance" Back

248   ACPO states: "A worrying recent development has been a proposal to remove from the police service the only road policing related performance indicator." It notes that "What gets measured is what gets done." Back

249   QQ479-80. Back

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