2 Leadership |
Government's vision for road safety
7. The Government describes its vision for road
safety as follows;
Our long-term vision is to ensure that Britain remains
a world leader on road safety. There have been impressive improvements
over previous decades and in recent years. We are committed to
ensuring this trend is maintained. Alongside this our aim is to
reduce the relatively high risk of some groups more quickly, in
particular for cyclists and children from deprived areas.
It sets out plans to achieve this vision through
an action plan and an outcomes framework, which uses a set of
indicators "designed to help Government, local organisations
and citizens to monitor the progress towards improving road safety".
The Government expects that this will "be used against the
figures for individual local authorities so that their progress
can be compared against the national picture."
Leadership on road safety
8. The outcomes framework has replaced the targets
which were a central feature of the previous government's strategy
for road safety.
The only countries in the EU that do not have targets as part
of their road safety strategies are the UK, Luxembourg and Malta.
The Government justified their absence as follows:
While we believe that previous road safety targets
have been useful we do not consider that over-arching national
targets are still necessary for road safety in Great Britain.
This is because we do not believe that further persuasion is needed
on the importance of road safety. We expect central and local
government to continue to prioritise road safety and continue
to seek improvements. Instead we need to move to more sophisticated
ways to monitor progress which is why we have developed the Road
Safety Outcomes Framework.
9. Most of our witnesses were in favour of using
road safety targets.
For example, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport
Safety (PACTS) told us that:
Internationally, the evidence is clear that those
countries over the last 20 years that have had a target for casualty
reduction have achieved higher levels of reduction in fatalities
than those countries without. The average over the period is 4%,
but that varies between 4% and probably about 17%. You can see
that having a target has provided leadership from Government,
which has meant that those other institutions, whether they are
local government, the private sector or the public sector, have
all had a common goal at which to aim.
Such support mostly arose from the consensus that
targets help focus efforts and resources on road safety initiatives.
For example, we heard that a target-driven approach "helps
concentrate the mind"
and would "encourage best practice and accountability",
particularly at a local level to "explain to local politicians"
why road safety should be a priority. 
In particular, targets were useful for helping prioritise road
safety resources for stakeholders such as the police.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) told us that:
The reality is that there is a whole range of pressures
on policing as there is for other public agencies about what the
specific priority is there and then. [...] Home Affairs issues
the strategic policing requirement, but it does not include road
safety and KSIs as part of it. When chief constables are looking
at how they manage their resources and deliver in terms of safety,
they will not necessarily look at roads policing because there
are no national targets.
10. Mike Penning MP, the road safety minister,
agreed that targets "have helped to focus minds" but
went on to argue that "if you have simplistic targets, then
you will get simplistic answers."
He contended it would remain best practice for local authorities
to maintain road safety efforts regardless of the presence of
targets. He also
pointed to the potential issues associated with targets:
There is no doubt that the targets did help the drive
down, but-and it is a very big but-if you set targets, it is always
the easier options that people will look at. People will do the
things that are simpler and easier, but the more difficult things
will not get done.
A number of local authority witnesses told us that
they used targets as part of their local road safety strategies.
We will be interested to see if this approach is reflected in
the forthcoming guidance for local authorities.
11. Some witnesses argued that the absence of
defined goals pointed to a broader sidelining of road safety in
the DfT. For example, PACTS argued that the absence of targets
itself might not be an issue, were it not for a context of:
ending the war on the motorist, axing grant for road
safety partnerships, cutting capital for speed cameras, however
popular or unpopular they were, moves to raise the motorway speed
limit to 80 mph, suggesting that a target does not matter, and
also moving toward a four-year MOT.
12. Despite the absence of targets, the strategy
does set out expected progress on road casualty reductions and
states that "we could see fatalities falling by around 37%
to 1,770 by 2020". However, it emphasises that "this
is neither a target nor a hard forecast".
We questioned Mr Penning on what it was therefore intended to
be. He said "it is not a target",
but went on to argue that this "does not mean there is no
target within the strategy, because there is a long term strategy
and a long-term target for it."
In terms of road safety the coalition agreement does
not say, "This is the target for the next 10 years,"
but there is a set of targets and achievements that we would like
to get through.
13. It is unclear to us what the 37% casualty
reduction figure in the Government's strategy stands for or how
progress towards or away from this figure should be viewed. The
Department should provide a clearer explanation of the role of
casualty forecasts in its road safety strategy. We recommend
that it set out in its annual report whether road safety is improving
each year in line with its forecasts, or, if not, explain what
is going wrong. The Government should also state what action
it will take if its road safety forecasts turn out to be inaccurate.
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