Transport CommitteeWritten evidence from the Caravan Club

Introduction

1. This submission is made on behalf of The Caravan Club. The Club represents the interests of around one million caravanners, motor caravanners and trailer tent users, who collectively own 600,000+ cars and 90,000 motorhomes. While closely aligned with the representation made by the Parliamentary Advisory Committee on Transport Safety (PACTS), this submission is intended to emphasise issues of particular focus for our membership.

Is the Government right not to set road safety targets and is the outcomes framework appropriate?

2. As outlined effectively in the PACTS submission, Britain has a lengthy track record of target-based progress towards improvements in road safety. The effectiveness of these strategies, and by implications therefore, the effectiveness of target setting as a means of defining goals and measuring performance is clear. A shift from target-led to outcome-led strategy is likely to be seen by many as little more than a change in semantics, and must be done with care to ensure that established good processes are not sacrificed. What really matters, however, is that the right targets or the right outcomes are defined, rather than the language used to describe them. Perhaps the best option would be to have a mixture of targets and outcomes?

3. We would back the PACTS submission statement that urges the Committee to recommend to the government a re-think on the issue of target-setting given the overwhelming evidence that targets work in this area.

4. As far as the outcomes framework itself is concerned, while this contains many effective indicators, it neglects some of the performance measurement targets which help monitor changes to the underlying network performance, and thus enable progress towards the headline outcomes to be understood and controlled through effective project definition and implementation. Additional indicators in the area of vehicle safety would be particularly desirable (eg indication of casualty statistics in relation to EuroNCAP ratings, or the fitment of specific safety technologies). This would help encourage the take-up of such vehicles where technologies are not yet mandated, and further would enable those like The Club who have a powerful role in influencing the section of vehicles by our members to relate vehicle choices directly to casualty risk reduction.

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

5. Clearly, there are instances where good knowledge of local road safety concerns (as highlighted by the best of the road safety partnerships) can be highly effective at address genuine issues. However, this must be balanced against nationwide priorities, and a consistency of implementation and enforcement. Caravan Club members travel widely around Britain (and beyond), using all classes of roads. They will be unaware of local accident black spots far from their home, yet may regularly travel through them, and thus will appreciate the empowerment of local agencies to address these concerns for the benefit of locals and visitors alike. However, while travelling the length and breadth of the country, the need for a degree of consistency and fairness in enforcement strategy is also a priority, or those travelling away for their home region may suffer unfairly due to unfamiliarity with local priorities.

Is the Government right to argue that the right legislative framework is in place and that the Road Safety Act 2006 has fulfilled its objectives?

6. The headline performance indicators in terms of casualty reduction in Britain have, with a few notable exceptions (motorcyclists, perhaps), indicated an effective framework for road safety improvement. This is no cause for complacency, however, and a drive for further improvements should be enshrined in law and obligated upon those in positions of relevant responsibility. As suggested in the PACTS submission, we would urge the committee to recommend placing a duty on the Secretary of State for Transport to maintain and improve the safety of road users in Great Britain to ensure that the government achieves its vision of the safest roads in the world.

7. Where evidence of specific concerns and the availability of effective mitigating strategies exists, the Government should not step back from extending the existing legislation to address such issues. Example include drink and drug driving, and elevated risks which appear to arise from foreign-registered vehicles, notably HGVs. The Club welcomes the specific concentration on both these issues in the Strategic Framework document.

Are the measures set out in the Action Plan workable and sufficient?

8. Against this point, The Club agrees wholeheartedly with the comments in the PACTS submission, namely that while in principle, the measures set out in the Action Plan are workable and sufficient., there are two qualifications that need to be placed upon them. First, they are primarily short-term actions with nothing considered beyond the period of the current Parliament. Road Safety improvement inherently requires a long-term commitment, and this should be recognised.

9. Secondly, they are unambitious and do not fully reflect the challenges facing road safety. There is nothing in them about continuing investment in road engineering measures or very little about engagement with Europe. While the emphasis on educational alternatives to offenders is laudable, there has been little research into the effectiveness of such courses. It will be vital to ensure that any interventions are based on a robust research base and are evaluated rigorously to ensure that they achieve long-term behavioural change.

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

10. Road vehicle technology enhancement is not a national issue, nor is the underlying framework of technical standards and regulations which influence vehicle design. Driving licences are defined in a European context, and both business and please journeys across Europe as a whole are vital part of our society and culture. As such, an isolated approach to road safety strategy is likely to limit effectiveness, perhaps by failing to work with international vehicle manufacturers to drive technology enhancements, or perhaps by failing to draw on the best practice from other countries. Britain currently has an enviable position in European road safety rankings, but it would be unfortunate to lose that due to an unwillingness to engage successfully with other efforts by our neighbours, especially when some are already adopting far more ambitious aims for casualty reduction. It is further worth noting that road safety initiatives extend globally, and not merely Europe wide, notably with initiatives such as the iRAP road assessment programme and the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. This latter campaign received Governmental support at the highest level at its launch in May this year, with a press call in Downing Street, yet receives only a passing acknowledge in the Strategy Framework.

11. We would therefore urge the Committee to recommend to the government that the framework is revised to indicate a more integrated approach to European and international efforts for road safety improvement, allowing Britain to set the standard for other in areas where we excel, but also adopt best practice from the widest possible range of partners where others have taken a lead.

Membership of The Caravan Club currently stands at 388,000 families, representing around one million caravanners, motor caravanners and trailer tent owners.

The Caravan Club is by far the largest touring organisation of its kind in Europe and members have access to over 200 top quality sites in Britain and Ireland, as well as a further 2,500 member-only ‘CL’ sites.

The Club has been run by its members for its members for over 104 years.

We have a strong interest in road safety issues, and have made our own commitment to supporting the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety. Working in partnership with organisations such as the Highways Agency, PACTS and the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile, we seek to ensure that our own members and others can enjoy their road travel in safety and comfort.

October 2011

Prepared 18th July 2012