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Road safety action plan brings ‘mixed bag’ approach, say GBFE members

The Department for Transport has set out a major package of measures to reduce the number of people killed and injured on roads, including plans for tougher seatbelt laws and the introduction of alcolocks.

Intended in particular to enhance safety for four vulnerable road user groups – young, rural and older road users along with motorcyclists – the list of 74 measures included in the road safety plans bring a possible toughening up of the laws on the use of seatbelts in cars while e the Government also says it will investigate the feasibility of using alcolock devices as part of drink-drive offender rehabilitation programmes in the UK.

For fleets, the document says it will work with commercial operators, employers’ organisations and drivers to identify and promote good practice in work related road safety, including supporting the Driving (and Riding) for Better Business. And it will work with the Health and Safety Executive to review work-related road safety and the prevention of collisions at workplaces with a rural land focus.

And in partnership with Euro NCAP, the Driving for Better Business programme, PACTS and road safety charities such as Brake, the Government will engage with private fleet buyers and leasing agencies through a series of outreach events to get them to improve the safety of the private sector fleet.

Furthermore, as announced earlier this week, the Department for Transport will undertake a review into roads policing that could see more ‘cops in cars’ while the Government has also revealed that it’s looking to enhance road safety for young drivers by exploring graduated driver licensing, including a possible ban on night-time driving for new drivers.

Meanwhile a Road Collision Investigation project, with the RAC Foundation, is also ongoing. This is examining the cause of crashes and if there is a business case for a Road Collision Investigation Branch, which would specialise in learning lessons from serious road accidents.

However, the approach has drawn a mixed reaction from safety and motoring groups from among the Great British Fleet Event members.

Neil Greig, IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research, welcomed the plans to tackle seatbelt usage, saying: “The best way of tackling this ever-present issue is to make people believe there is a high chance of being caught. This could start tomorrow if consistent guidelines on using mobile speed camera vans to enforce seatbelt laws were issued.

“Currently there is no standard approach on using this high-profile resource across the UK. Making non-wearing of seatbelts an endorsable offence is also a quick win. Not only would it persuade more people to take the offence seriously, but it might benefit them to take a seatbelt awareness course. People avoid using seatbelts for a wide range of individual reasons and these views need to be challenged face-to-face.”

IAM RoadSmart also welcomed the focus on road policing. Mike Quinton, chief executive officer, said: “This is fantastic news as the lack of traffic officers is our members’ most common complaint. Creating new road safety laws and increasing penalties has little impact on safety unless they can be fully and rigorously implemented.”

IAM also said the commitment to some form of Graduated Driving Licence was welcome (with extra restrictions on young drivers and a lower blood alcohol limit) but the lack of any timetable for implementation is worrying.

Commenting on the overall review, Quinton added: “While this review is very welcome and has at least tackled the need for a visible police presence to deter bad road behaviour, there are many areas that have not been fully addressed. It really is a disappointingly mixed bag that will struggle to put our crash statistics back on a downward track.”

He concluded: “We will keep pushing hard to make a difference for road safety in the UK and will not give up in campaigning for the initiatives that we believe will save lives on the road.”

The RAC also commented on the plans, with head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes saying: “The Government is rightly recognising there are different challenges drivers contend with throughout their driving careers, so we broadly welcome many of these proposals.

“Of course it is right to crack down on those that do not wear a seatbelt and we welcome tougher penalties which will encourage some to belt up behind the wheel. But this alone won’t be enough to make the roads safer. A number of those who choose not to buckle up are also likely to be those that flout other road traffic laws. This reinforces the importance of enforcement and we fear some drivers will persist without the genuine threat of being caught and prosecuted for not wearing a seatbelt. That’s why the Government’s promised look at roads policing is so important – with far fewer full time officers on the roads, the prospect of many people being caught for this offence and others that increase the safety risk on our roads – such as illegally using mobile phones – is worryingly low.

“The Government is also right to focus on rural roads given that these types of roads are often where many serious collisions take place. Incorporating plans for learner drivers to get more practice on these road types as well as night time driving will be beneficial to improving overall driving standards. We would hope a rural road users panel would focus on both road design standards, appropriate speed limits and overall rural road conditions.

“At the same time, while we applaud proposals to reinforce campaigns on road safety, our research suggests that illegal habits such as handheld mobile phone use and even drink driving are on the increase. Clearly some of the messages are not getting through so this will require some fresh thinking.”

And DriveTech welcomed the roads policing review. Des Morrison, director police & public sector contracts at DriveTech, said: “We welcome the recent announcement of a forthcoming review of roads policing. It is well known that all public services are under resource pressure and it is evident that roads policing has faced significant resource challenges, with less visibility and prioritising of roads policing.

“Shining a lens across all aspects of enforcement, gaps and what works most effectively in preserving road safety can only be positive.

“We are now experiencing an increase in KSIs (killed and seriously injured) and an average of 5 deaths each day is five too many. Hopefully the review will point up best practice, encourage new initiatives and consider what we can learn from the best of Europe.”

Written by Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.

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