Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from AIRSO (Association of Industrial Road Safety Officers)

1. Introduction

1.1 AIRSO “an association for those working for safety on the road” is a membership organisation and representative of a cross section of professional people working in road safety from commerce, industry and the public and voluntary sector. As such the membership includes Fleet and Transport Managers, Local Authority Road Safety Officers, members from all the emergency services, those responsible for training drivers, the Armed Services, Road Traffic Engineers, members from research institutions and other road safety organisations. The Association was formed in 1965 and is representative of some 700 people who are activity involved in reducing casualties on the roads throughout the United Kingdom and beyond.

2. Context

2.1 Through constant effort and motivation of practitioners and the part played by Education in terms of training and publicity, Engineering in terms of both road design and vehicle safety and Enforcement we have achieved very significant reductions in the number of people being killed and injured on our roads over the last two to three decades.

2.2 AIRSO firmly believes that the positive lead by Government’s of whatever political party to have had positive targets and strategies has played a significant part in focussing attention on the need to be positive and has delivered to date something upon which we can all be proud.

We are therefore very pleased that this new Government has chosen to set a framework document for this work to continue as the task to reduce road death and casualties becomes more difficult as number fall.

AIRSO recognises the approach which has been taken to develop a framework in which we can work together to achieve further reductions but would like to see this strengthen by some more specific detail on an annual basis to maintain the focus and motivation to achieve even greater reductions.

2.3 There is well documented evidence to show the cost of road casualties and in times of economic difficulties the cost of a reduced effort in reducing such events against the potential rise in incidents and subsequent costs needs to be taken into consideration. It therefore follows that the cost savings of doing nothing could well be outweighed by the increase in death or serious injury.

3. Whether the Government is right to set road safety targets; and

Whether the outcomes framework is appropriate

3.1 Whilst AIRSO understands that the Government do not favour the further employment of specific targets it is one of the areas in which the AIRSO Membership is quite divided between those who feel that an overall casualty target is important and as been instrumental in focussing attention and those who feel that it is time for a fresh look at the way in which we bring down casualties.

3.2 The outcomes framework is a very useful tool in establishing the priority needs to reduce casualties further in the areas which are of concern. It does however believe that we should have some identified values against each of these in terms of what we would like to achieve on a short and longer term basis. This would provide that focus which practitioners crave in their work and provide the much needed motivation which will always be required to bring down casualties.

If we expect road users to take a greater responsibility for their actions and for local communities to play an even bigger part than they have in the past then they will want to have some real measurable outcomes to which they can work.

AIRSO was disappointed to note that there is no indicator for those who are undertaking work relating driving whereas there is anticipation that around a third of our casualties are working drivers.

There also appears to be no indicator for the casualties on rural roads which we know to be a factor particularly in incidents involving death.

It does however applaud the fact that indicators are put down for road user groups and behaviours which give rise to high casualty rates amongst our current overall figures but again stresses the need for there to be some simply understood values in terms of the aims for casualty reduction against each of these indicators.

3.3 A real failing of the last twenty years or so has been the aims which we have had seem to have motivated the practitioners but not the public as a whole. In attempting to make the public take on more responsibility for their behaviour we need to make them aware of what we are collectively trying to achieve and the part which everyone has to play and not those who just “preach” the message.

Whilst we applaud the work which has been done by EuroNcap in raising the safety of our vehicles which protects people in the event of a crash and EuroRap in drawing our attention to high risk roads it is the individual who has to play their part also in using vehicles and roads in the right frame of mind.

4. How the decentralisation to local authorities of funding and the setting of priorities will work in practice and contribute towards fulfilling the Government’s vision

4.1 In general terms I am not sure we really know the answer to this at present although clearly the economic squeeze is having an effect on the manner in which road safety is being delivered at a local level.

There is certainly evidence that Road Safety Staff have been made redundant at a local level and partnership working amongst statutory bodies is not functioning in the way it did previously.

A good deal of experience has been lost as a result of these redundancies and if the vision of the Government is to motivate more locally based initiatives then the expertise to offer guidance and support will not be forthcoming. Without that essential support there is room for error, re-invention of the wheel and projects being developed which clearly we have evidence to show do not work.

There is also an issue that if we are to have locally driven initiatives there ought to be some way in which such communities can be provided with the resources which are required be that in terms of finance or expertise.

The concepts of the Big Society and Localism are great but somewhat idealistic if we do not provide the motivation and direction for people to work within.

4.2 Local Authorities have statutory duties, under Section 39 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, to promote road safety, analyse road accidents in their area and to take appropriate measures to prevent such accidents. A similar duty on the Secretary of State for Transport would help to ensure that central government maintains road safety as a key government priority.

5. Whether the Government is right to argue that, for the most part, the right legislative framework for road safety is in place and in particular whether the Road Safety Act 2006 has fulfilled its objectives

5.1 AIRSO would for the most part agree that we have a good legislative framework in place in terms of road safety. It does have some concerns about proposals to bring about additional fixed penalties which leave the judgement purely in the hands of a police officer.

The Association has always taken a view that drivers do make mistakes and it is concerned that using a system in a way in which an observant police officer at the time can award a fixed penalty does not seen right or appropriate.

5.2 The Association overall are quite content that when the Road Safety Act of 2006 is fully implemented it will fulfil its objectives but does have certain reservations about some of its implementation as mentioned above.

6. Whether the measures set out in the action plan are workable and sufficient

6.1 AIRSO would like to say that they are supportive of the Road Safety Action Plan and the measures which it sets out. It does however feel that they need reviewing and progress recorded and the results published on a frequent basis.

The Action plan should be a dynamic part of the framework being adapted to take into account changing circumstances both in terms of casualty reduction and tackling any unexplained increases which occur or bring about measures which tackle these.

6.2 As mentioned previously we note the absence of anything connected with Work Related Driving and also the lack of any engineering measures.

7. The relationship between the Government’s strategy and the EU road safety initiatives

7.1 This is of course a muddle between the EU and the British Government and indeed the UN Global Decade of Action who seek to reduce casualties by a defined number whereas we have chosen not to take that path. It is probably further compounded by the fact that Scotland and Northern Ireland have set some targets and we understand that it is likely that the Welsh Government whilst being signed up to the Strategic Framework are like to do so as well.

Whilst as I stated AIRSO are divided by whether or not there should be actual targets in the strategic framework it does make for a complicated scene when those countries which form part of the United Kingdom and the fact that we are still currently a Member of the EU have overall goals based on a numerical value.

October 2011

Prepared 18th July 2012