Supplementary memorandum by The Institution
of Highways & Transportation (RTS 38A)
ROAD TRAFFIC SPEED
Carlton Roberts-James attended the Committee's
Inquiry on behalf of the IHT. During questioning he agreed to
supply supplementary information concerning a seminar on Rural
Road Speed Management on 12 February 2002. This note provides
that supplementary information.
It is easy when thinking about the effects of
road traffic speed to focus purely on safety considerations and
casualty reduction. We are keen to stress the relationships between
speed and social, environmental and economic well-being. We suggest
that there is a balance to be struck and that, broadly speaking,
reducing the highest speeds would serve to improve the first twosocial
and environmental well-beingwhile not unduly compromising
the lattereconomic (ie increasing journey times for business
and commerce). The question of speed is not just about transport
per se, it needs to be integrated with a number of policy areas
and targets and a broader view is desirable: CO2, health (the
ability to walk and cycle in safety), the urban and rural renaissance,
countryside, perceived risk and casualty reduction.
In terms of speed, rural areas need more attention
than urban areas. Since 1985 there has been a 52 per cent decrease
in fatalities on urban roadsthe corresponding figure for
rural roads is just half that. Speed is the crucial factor in
the higher number of more serious accidents on rural roads.
In our evidence we offered to report back on
the key findings of a national seminar we held on 12 February
2002 on Rural Road Speed Management attended by 170 plus delegates.
We would like to report on three key themes.
1. Resourceshuman and financial (both
capital and revenue);
2. Techniques and research; and
3. Public acceptance and the need for Government
action and perseverance.
Our written submission highlights the need to
ensure that the move to the Single Capital Pot for LA capital
expenditure does not end up as it did in Scotland where, due to
competing spending pressures, transport spending decreased dramatically
in the years after introduction. But "capital" does
not spend itself. That needs people with the right skills which,
in turn, requires revenue funding. We face a situation where LAs
are "capital rich" but "revenue poor", where
money is often allocated on the basis of "challenges",
which require a lot of effort with, quite often, no return.
But the question is not just one of money, it
also is one of "prioritising" work as effectively as
In terms of training in speed management we
believe that there is a need to strengthen and raise the profile
of vocational qualifications which focus on competence and practical
The development of a rural road hierarchy for
speed management was a major theme in the seminar. We concluded
that a new rural road hierarchy for speed management is not a
panacea but it is important as part of a wider programme to set
appropriate speed limits, based on the function of the route in
question, to obtain better compliance on the rural (non motorway)
network and provide a consistent road environment in terms of
design and driver information. The ongoing DTLR work on this needs
to be taken forward promptly. In particular, we believe it would
be immensely worthwhile to conduct some practical trials to demonstrateand
most importantly disseminatewhat works best . . . a "safer
countryside project", broadly along the line of the Gloucester
Safer Cities project. But the issues are far more complex in rural
areas and what works in the urban context may not be appropriate
in the rural context. The bottom line is that we must bring theory
into practice more promptly and think strategically about whole
routes and not just "hot-spots". Officials in the Department
have been most helpful and responsive in preliminary practical
discussions, but a positive recommendation from the Committee
to conduct practical trials would be most welcome.
We have a problem with policy presentation and
public acceptance of measures to reduce speed. Many people believe
it is safer and acceptable to "bend the law" and drive
too fast. Spending is not seen as "bad driving" to the
extent that is should be. And who can blame them when resource
constraints, and it seems Home Office directions, shift policing
priorities away from road crimes, and enforcement of traffic laws,
to other criminal activities?
Policing priorities are an expression of a society's
values, what it thinks about itself and how citizens should behave.
Leniency towards speeding is not acceptable, perceived or otherwise.
We urge the Committee to recommend that, in respect of consultation
on the Police Reform Bill, road traffic enforcement is an essential
ingredient in a national policing plan. Speed reduction seminars
for speeding offenders have proved successful in a number of local
It is also important to "win hearts and
minds" and educate the nation about the risks associated
with speed. This is at the heart of the issue. Road safety campaigns
have, in the past, focused on the urban problem. We believe that
it is time for a public information campaign to tackle the problems
of excessive and inappropriate speed on our inter-urban and rural
roads. There is a lot of groundwork to do on public attitudes
to speed if the advancements in intelligent transport systems
and, in particular, roadside and in-car technologies to manage
speed, are to be accepted and rolled-out.
THE CSS (FORMERLY
We produced the seminar in partnership with
the CSS. The CSS also presented a paper and a summary of the issues
they raised is attached as Appendix 1.
Solutions will only be found through a balance
of measures to improve engineering (creating a safer and more
consistent road environment), education (changing public attitudes
and behaviour) and effective enforcement of the law and, ultimately,
Carlton Roberts-James, Deputy Chief Executive
and Director of Technical Affairs
Institution of Highways & Transportation
26 March 2002