19.The National Police Chiefs Council told us that “enforcement of the Fatal 4 [ … ] remains a priority to reduce the numbers of people killed and seriously injured”. The Fatal 4 are:
20.Contributory factors to accidents are given in information collected by police using STATS19. This system allows police forces to report all personal-injury accidents to the Department for Transport. It does not collect any information about damage-only accidents. Multiple contributory factors can be recorded for a single accident, and it is not intended nor does it purport to be an absolute measure of factors that contribute to all accidents. However, it can be used as a means to determine where the Government should be focusing its efforts, especially where these factors coincide with law breaking.
21.Exceeding the speed limit was a contributory factor in 254 fatal accidents in 2014, 16% of all fatal accidents, as well as 1,199 serious accidents; this was the fourth most prevalent contributory factor in fatal collisions. This is distinct from “travelling too fast for conditions”, a factor in 169 fatal accidents (11% of all fatal accidents) in 2014, which does not necessarily imply exceeding the speed limit. Exceeding the speed limit can be dealt with by a warning, an FPN, a diversionary course (the National Speed Awareness Court, NSAC), or court proceedings. With the increasing use of this course, FPNs for speeding have more than halved from a 2005 peak of 1.98 million to 743,100 in 2014.The use of the NSAC has more than doubled over the same period.
22.Research commissioned by the Department for Transport in 2010 showed a very real increase in risk as speed increases, particularly as speed increases above 30 mph. The research, which examined 197 injuries between 2000 and 2009 showed that the risk of fatal injury for pedestrians was increased between 3.5 and 5.5 times as speed increased from 30 mph and 40 mph. The same study showed that while relatively few collisions occurred at higher speeds, the proportion of those collisions which were fatal increased, with every collision with a pedestrian above 50 mph recorded in the study causing a fatal injury. With speeding having a clear effect on safety, vehicles capable of very high speeds are of particular concern, and we took evidence from Gerald McManus, whose daughter was killed by a driver in a high performance vehicle travelling at 101 mph. He told us that “more and more cars are being produced with a racing specification, they will never go anywhere near a race track”. With these types of vehicles on the road, being driven at illegally high speed, it is clear that credible enforcement needs to take place to protect the safety of pedestrians and other road users. It also raises questions about the appropriateness of such vehicles on normal roads.
23.The vast majority of Fixed Penalty Notices issued for exceeding the speed limit are camera-detected—90% in England and Wales in 2014, accounting for 668,081 out of 743,054 FPNs. This proportion has grown year-on-year, with non-camera-detected FPNs becoming more rare. Because of this, any discussion of enforcing speed limits is, by necessity, a discussion about speed cameras.
24.The use of speed cameras to provide evidence of speeding has been permitted since 1991. Safety Camera Partnerships (SCPs)—in place since 1999—were partnerships of local authorities, police, and other local bodies which fund and manage speed cameras in an area.
25.In the past 25 years, the funding model for speed cameras has changed several times. Initially the police and highway authorities funded the installation and operation of speed cameras themselves, with speed enforcement competing with other priorities. The Vehicles (Crime) Act 2001 facilitated greater use of cameras by allowing SCPs to claim back the costs of installing and operating cameras from the Treasury, with any surplus of fine income paid back to the Treasury.
26.This ‘netting off’ arrangement came to an end in 2006–07. After that, funding was passed to local authorities in the form of a road safety capital grant and SCPs become known as Road Safety Partnerships (RSPs), as their remit expanded beyond cameras. The road safety capital grant, much of which was spent on funding new cameras, was abolished from 2011–12, and funding incorporated into the wider local government grant. Consequently, a number of police force areas switched off their fixed speed cameras. The Greater London Authority told us that London’s unique funding arrangement protects its safety cameras from the switch-off that has occurred in some local authorities. Speed cameras on the strategic road network including motorways are the responsibility of Highways England. The revenue generated by speed cameras is collected by the Treasury and goes into the Consolidated Fund—the main account of the Treasury. It is not specifically allocated for road safety purposes.
27.Speed cameras are a much-discussed and controversial policy issue. There is a widespread suspicion that these cameras are used to raise revenue for police forces. Some argued that speed cameras were not intelligently sited, or that arguments for their effectiveness were poor. Speed camera campaigner David Finney argued that there is insufficient use of scientific trials in road safety measures. Other respondents argued that exceeding the speed limit is not inherently dangerous, or should not be enforced against so readily. For example, the Alliance of British Drivers stated that “the widespread use of enforcement technology has led to large numbers of prosecutions of essentially safe drivers”, and that the increasing use of technology in lieu of roads police has led to speeding offences being given “greater importance than they deserve” due to being relatively easy to measure.
28.Average speed cameras (ASC) are devices that measure a vehicle’s speed across a fixed route by use of automated number plate recognition (ANPR) technology. These prevent a driver or rider from evading detection by altering their speed for a brief period where a camera is active. We were told by David Davies of PACTS that “they seem to be much more popular with the public” and that the A9 scheme in Scotland, which is now the longest non-motorway stretch of road with ASC, has so far seen “safety and traffic benefits” that “so far seem to have been substantial”, though he did concede that one year is possibly too short to make definitive conclusions. The Intelligent Transport Systems association ITS told us that at “sites where [average speed camera enforcement] is used as part of a casualty reduction measure, Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) rates have dropped on average by more than 70%” but that “there has been little independent review of their effectiveness” and that “to carry out a meaningful review of casualty reduction, it is usual to compare three year baselines with three years of post-installation data”. We also took evidence that showed that only around 1 in 10,000 drivers passing through an ASC controlled zone will typically receive a speeding ticket, and the proportion of vehicles speeding in a A9 controlled zone fell from as high as 40% to roughly 10%.
29.If enforcement is going to be effective as the number of dedicated road policing officers continues to fall, the use of technology is essential. Speed cameras are an important and effective part of the technology toolkit. However, the deployment of speed cameras needs to be done in an evidence-based way that achieves better road safety. Average speed cameras can contribute to overall speed limit compliance, and reduce the impression that motorists are unfairly caught out by speed cameras. Further deployment of average speed cameras (ASC), which are generally better received by motorists than traditional fixed speed cameras, should be considered. Existing ASC schemes should be assessed for their long-term effectiveness and, based on this, Highways England should develop best practice for their deployment.
30.In pursuing any aim to improve speed limit compliance, speed camera placement must relate to safety rather than revenue, and be sited in such a way that aims to reduce casualties. We recommend that the Government monitor the placement of speed cameras by local authorities to ensure that this is the case. Where revenue is taken from speed camera enforcement, the funding arrangements must be transparent and the revenue put back into road safety grants rather than kept by local authorities or the Treasury.
31.When he was asked whether he thought the reduction of dedicated road traffic officers has had a negative impact on road safety, the Minister, Andrew Jones MP, said that the evidence of the UK’s road safety record “points the other way”. Similarly, he did not think that there was evidence to support the notion that road users believe they can break the law and not get caught. The RAC’s evidence, however, showed that the proportion of drivers believing that it was “quite unlikely” or “extremely unlikely” that they would get caught was, for example, 40% for aggressive driving, and 51% for texting while stationary. Conversely, only 28% thought that it was unlikely they would be caught for exceeding the speed limit.
32.According to Department for Transport figures, the proportion of vehicles exceeding speed limits is significant, though declining. In 2014, the proportion of cars exceeding 30 mph speed limits was estimated to be 45%. This is a decrease from the 2005–09 baseline of 49%. The most concerning part of these statistics is the proportion of articulated HGVs estimated to be exceeding speed limits. In 2014, these were 75% on 40 mph roads and 82% on 50 mph roads. The coalition Government increased the national speed limit for HGVs on dual carriageway roads from 50 mph to 60 mph in April 2015, and as European speed limiter requirements remained unchanged at 56 mph, it is now not possible for an HGV, provided it is fitted with the legally required speed limiter, to exceed a 60 mph speed limit. Departmental figures show that there are fewer accidents per mile involving HGVS than other vehicles, at 430 HGVs per billion vehicle miles in 2014, compared to 854 per billion vehicles miles for all vehicles in the same year. However, the rate of fatal accidents involving an HGV is a cause for concern, at 17 HGVs involved in a fatal accident per billion passenger miles in 2014 compared to 9.2 for all vehicles in the same year. While HGVs appear to be about half as likely overall to be involved in an accident as other road users, it is almost twice as likely that an accident that they are involved in will involve a fatality.
33.It is too early to determine the impact of increasing the national speed limit for HGVs to 60 mph. While the rate of accidents involving HGVs is lower than the rate of accidents involving other vehicles, it is more likely for any accident involving an HGV to be fatal. The Government should therefore monitor the impact of this speed limit change carefully, and make future changes if there is a negative effect on road safety.
34.Exceeding the speed limit is a contributory factor in 16% of fatal collisions. The proportion of vehicles exceeding speed limits is decreasing, though the current number is still too great. We recommend that the Government, in considering how to reduce road casualties, identify where drivers are exceeding the speed limit in particularly dangerous areas. Support should be given to police force areas in deploying specialist roads police officers in those locations, and also in deploying educational campaigns to make road users aware that enforcement is underway.
35.The percentage of drivers killed or seriously injured (KSI) in collisions where a driver is over the legal blood alcohol limit has been steadily decreasing over the past decade, from 2,250 (8% of all KSI) across 2005–09 to 1,340 (6% of all KSI) in 2013. The Minister, Andrew Jones, told us that he considered the fall in drink-driving fatalities to be “very good progress by any definition”. The proportion of drivers who were breath-tested after a collision who failed that test has also decreased, from 4% in 2005–09 to 3% in 2014. However, 1,340 people killed or seriously injured in drink-drive collisions is a matter of great concern.
36.The Scottish Government decreased the legal blood alcohol limit in Scotland from 80 mg/100ml to 50 mg/100ml in December 2014. Garry Forsyth told us that this was being watched “with very great interest” and that what is being seen is “people choosing simply not to take any risk whatsoever and not having any alcoholic drink if they are driving”. Asked what his view was on R-UK having the highest blood alcohol limit in Europe, Andrew Jones said that while “drink driving is clearly wrong” that “making progress on drink-driving is not a question of limits alone; it is a question of enforcement as well as education”.
37.The June 2010 North review into Drink and Drug Driving law made the recommendation that the legal blood alcohol (BAC) limit be reduced to 50 mg/100ml, with a view towards considering the “effectively zero” limit of 20 mg/100 ml at a later time, but that it would be “too great a step” at that stage. The review received strong support for a BAC limit of 50 mg/100 ml from the majority of consultees. It also pointed to evidence that “the public mood is supportive of the current limit being reduced to 50 mg/100 ml”, adding that “the number of deaths and serious injuries that such a change would avoid is, even on the more conservative estimates, very considerable.” A subsequent Transport Select Committee Report concluded that:
“We are concerned that a reduction in the limit to 50 mg/100 ml would send out a mixed message with the Government’s official advice to not drink and drive at all, particularly in light of the strong evidence of public uncertainty about what constitutes a “legal drink”. In the long term, we believe that the Government should aim for an “effectively zero” limit of 20 mg/100 ml but we acknowledge that is too great a step at this stage. Instead of an “interim” reduction to 50 mg/100 ml, the Government should concentrate on working with individual police forces to achieve a stricter enforcement of the current limit and beginning a public education campaign to help achieve public acceptance of a 20 mg/100 ml limit”.
The Government response to these recommendations was that “the priority on drink-driving must be to make the present regime work better. We do not propose to lower the prescribed alcohol limit for driving as well”. Five years later the Government view has not changed.
38.No data is collected within either the key outcome indicators of the strategic framework for road safety, or STATS19 data, that details how many non-fatal collisions occur where road users are within the legal blood alcohol limit, but have been drinking. The STATS19 factor “Driver/Rider impaired by alcohol” does exist, but is specifically intended for use “whether or not they were above the legal limit” according to Department guidance. This is not the case for fatal accidents, where the blood alcohol content (BAC) of the deceased is reported by coroners and procurators fiscal, and is reproduced here for the years 10–13:
Table 3: Proportion of killed drivers/riders resulting from reported accidents by BAC category, Great Britain, 2010–13
No alcohol present (0 – 9 mg / 100 ml)*
Alcohol present but not over the limit (10 – 80 mg / 100 ml)
Over the limit (81 mg + / 100 ml)
* The definition of “no alcohol present” as 0 – 9mg is to account for alcohol which may be naturally present in the body or is due to the consumption of medication or products such as mouthwash.
39.This indicates that a small but significant proportion of fatal accidents involved road users who had been drinking but were not above the legal limit. The 11% of drivers with alcohol present but not over the limit in 2013 represents 122 fatalities who would not be guilty of having alcohol in the blood above the prescribed limit if tested prior to an accident.
40.We recommend that information on whether a driver or rider has been drinking alcohol but is not over the legal alcohol limit is incorporated into non-fatal post-collision data collection and is published. By incorporating this level of detail into the existing STATS19 post-collision data collection, in which “Driver/Rider impaired by alcohol” already exists, the costs of implementing this can be kept to a minimum. Producing this data would have the benefit of assessing the impact of drivers and riders who are impaired by alcohol but have remained within the legal limit, and this can be used to inform future policy decisions.
41.As the Government and the police are in agreement that it is safest that people do not drink at all if they are going to drive, we recommend that the Government assess the experiences of other countries that have lowered their legal blood alcohol limit, particularly Scotland.
42.In 2014, 21% of the 797 car occupants killed in road traffic collisions were not wearing a seat belt. It is not possible to determine whether this is part of any trend, because reliable data is not available before 2013. While seat belt interlocks can be deployed in vehicles, there is no legal obligation to fit an interlock, and any such requirements on manufacturers would need legislation on a European level. Not wearing a seat belt while a driver of or a passenger in a vehicle is an offence, though there are limited exceptions to this offence such as when a vehicle is reversing. FPNs for seat belt offences have been decreasing year-on-year since a peak of 234,600 in 2005, to only 35,600 in 2014. There has been an increase in use of the “Your belt, your life” diversionary course since its introduction in 2012, but numbers remain relatively low (43,867 attendees in 2014).
43.Generally, compliance for seat belt use is very good. As part of the Department for Transport’s seat belt and mobile phone use survey, 98% of drivers observed in 2014 in England and Scotland were wearing seat belts, along with 96% of front seat passengers, 91% of child rear seat passengers and 81% of adult rear seat passengers.
44.Speaking for the NPCC, Garry Forsyth stated that seat belts are an ideal area where technology could be used to ensure compliance, stating “It is a great example of where we could exploit technology to our advantage for road safety. Quite simply, it is possible to disable the vehicle if the seat belt is not engaged.” Despite high compliance with the law being observed, we were told that “Seat belts remain stubbornly there as a significant factor of fatality [in road traffic accidents]”. Andrew Jones commented that there was an issue, for both seat belts and drink driving, for groups who did not consider that the issues affected them, which he called “self-excluding”. It is potentially difficult to reach these groups with educational campaigns.
45.The proportion of road traffic fatalities not wearing a seatbelt is a concern. This is an area where enforcement cannot be easily implemented by external technology. According to Department for Transport surveys, the proportion of drivers using seat belts is very high and amongst passengers reasonably so. We recognise that legislating for any mandatory in-car technology requires assurances that it would not interfere with normal, legal use of the car, that the existing exemptions (to the law) are replicated in the technology, and that unjust costs will not be passed to consumers. For this reason, we do not recommend that the Government pursue any form of mandatory seat belt interlock legislation. Instead, we recommend that a new education campaign be used to reduce the number of road traffic fatalities not wearing a seat belt.
46.We were told by Inspector Steven Cox of Wiltshire Police, and the south-west chair for the National Roads Policing Intelligence Forum, that use of a hand-held mobile phone while driving “is becoming more socially unacceptable; fewer and fewer people are doing it”. Department for Transport research shows that any overall decrease is modest, with 1.5% of drivers being observed in England and Scotland in 2014 using a hand-held mobile phone, down from 1.8% when records began in 2002. The number of FPNs issued for use of a mobile phone while driving has also decreased, falling year-on-year from a peak in 2006 of 166,800 to 29,700 in 2014. It is difficult to establish whether diversionary courses have filled the gap, as courses offered following a mobile phone offence appear to be subsumed within the broader category of a “What’s Driving Us?” course. Actual findings of guilt at courts have halved, down from a peak of 32,547 convictions in 2010 to 16,025 convictions in 2014. Use of a mobile phone is statistically a minor contributory factor in all accidents reported to the police, accounting for 1% of fatal accidents.
47.There is no specific offence of using a hands-free mobile phone while driving, though Roger Geffen, Policy Director for the cycling charity CTC, told us that the wider issue of distraction in a vehicle, rather than mobile phone use specifically, was becoming more of a concern. If an officer believes that a driver is distracted while driving, such as by a hands-free mobile phone, that driver can be charged with careless driving.
48.We were told by Brake that the current level of fines creates the impression that mobile phone use is a “minor infringement”. This has now been addressed in the Government’s road safety statement, which announced proposals to increase the fixed penalty fine for use of a hand-held mobile phone to £150, and increase the number of points to 4, rather than the present 3. In addition, HGV drivers committing the same offence would have their licence endorsed with 6 penalty points.
49.Garry Forsyth told us that the technology to detect mobile phone use exists, but cannot detect who is using the phone in a vehicle. Without this, a charge cannot be made. PACTS’ written evidence advised that this technology was “under development”.
50.The proportion of drivers detected using hand-held mobile phones while driving has remained relatively constant since 2002. The changes to penalties proposed in the Government’s road safety statement are welcome and may have a beneficial effect, but they do not address the difficulties with detection. This is an area in which future technology may be used to fill the gap left by a reduction in specialised road traffic officers. In addition, the use of hands-free mobile phones presents a problem of distracted drivers, which should be addressed. We recommend that the Department fund research into the development and effective deployment of technology to detect illegal mobile phone use while driving.
23 National Police Chiefs Council ()
24 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS50001
25 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS41001
26 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS50001
27 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS50001
28 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS50001
29 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS50001
30 Home Office, , November 2015
31 Department for Transport, , September 2010
32 Gerard McManus ()
33 Home Office, , November 2015
34 Home Office, , November 2015. Non-camera detected FPNs for speed limit offences comprised 18.8% of all FPNs for speed limit offences in 2011; 16.5% in 2012; 14.0% in 2013 and 10.0% in 2014
35 For example, there is currently no fixed camera enforcement in Wiltshire aside from that on roads controlled by Highways England.
36 Greater London Authority () “Transport for London provides funding in the region of £100m per annum to the Metropolitan and City of London Police, and also provides support to the DVSA to enhance the level of traffic law enforcement in London”
37 Greater London Authority ()
38 David Finney ()
39 Alliance of British Drivers ()
40 Q152 (David Davies)
41 A trade association for the transport technology industry
42 ITS United Kingdom ()
43 Vysionics ITS Ltd ()
44 Q273 [Andrew Jones]
45 Q275 [Andrew Jones]
46 RAC ()
47 Department for Transport, ,September 2015, table RAS41001
48 Department for Transport, ,September 2015, table RAS41001. Speed limit estimates used as outcome indicators are from DfT traffic estimate data, which is derived from a sample of automated traffic counters, which measure the speed of a passing vehicle and determine what type of vehicle is being measured.
49 Department for Transport, ,September 2015, table RAS41001. Against a 2005–09 baseline of 76% and 84% respectively
50 Department for Transport, September 2015, table RAS20001
51 Q282 [Andrew Jones]
52 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS41001
53 Q254 [Garry Forsyth]
54 The UK minus Scotland
55 Alongside Malta, where the limit is also 80 mg/100 ml
56 Q280 [Andrew Jones]
57 Sir Peter North CBE QC, , June 2010
58 House of Commons Transport Committee, Drink and drug driving law, First Report of Session 2010–11, 24 November 2010, HC
59 The Government’s Response to the Report of Sir Peter North CBE QC and the Transport Select Committee on Drink and Drug Driving, , March 2011
60 Department for Transport, , September 2011
61 An offence does exist under section 4 of the Road Traffic Act 1988 of being “Unfit to drive through drink”, which does not refer to the level of alcohol in the blood.
62 Department for Transport, , September 2015, table RAS41001. These figures do not state whether the victims were drivers, or front and rear seat passengers.
63 A device which stops a vehicle from being used, or limits its use, unless seat belts are worn.
64 Home Office, , November 2015
65 Department for Transport ()
66 Department for Transport, , February 2015
67 Q223 [Garry Forsyth]
68 Q247 [Garry Forsyth]
69 Q304 [Andrew Jones]
70 Q16 [Steven Cox]
71 Department for Transport, , February 2015; The Department urges caution in making direct comparisons to previous years however, due to changes in methodology in the interim.
72 Home Office, , November 2015
73 AA DriveTech’s “Call Divert Scheme” course, for example, is a “What’s Driving Us?” course.
74 Ministry of Justice, , May 2015
75 Department for Transport, , September 2015
76 Q175 [David Davies]
77 Brake ()
78 Department for Transport, Road safety statement: working together to build a safer road system, , December 2015, p. 7
79 Q221 [Garry Forsyth]
80 PACTS ()
Prepared 11 March 2016