Commons Gate

Road Safety (HC 460-ii)

Transport Committee 30 April 2008

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Evidence given by
2.45 County Surveyors' Society Rob Salmon, Assistant Head of Highways & Transport, West Sussex County Council Technical Advisers Group Chris Lines, Head of London Road Safety Unit, TfLIntelligent Transport Society UK Neal Skelton, Head of Professional Services Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Paul Everitt, Chief Executive
3.45 Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents Kevin Clinton, Head of Road Safety West Yorkshire Road Safety Strategy Group Steve Thornton, Chairman, Principal Engineer - Traffic and Highways Bradford South Association of Chief Police Officers Chief Constable Steve Green, Head of Roads Policing Chief Fire Officers' Association Stuart Smith, Deputy Chief Fire Officer, Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Services Police Federation of England and Wales Jan Berry, Chairman.

In the absence of the Chairman, Mr David Clelland was called to the Chair.

Mr. David Clelland: Good afternoon, everyone, welcome to the Transport Select Committee. This is the first meeting of the Committee since the sudden and tragic death of our Chairman, Gwyneth Dunwoody. Gwyneth, as we all know, was a consummate politician. She was very well respected on all sides of the House of Commons, not least by this Committee, its members and its staff. She will be sadly missed. She was also, of course, an expert at transport issues and well-respected in the general transport world outside. I hope you will join me and stand for a minute's silence in memory of Gwyneth Dunwoody.

There followed a minute's silence.

Q106 Mr. David Clelland: David Clelland, a member of Unite. I am not the permanent Chairman of the Committee; I am only here temporarily while the Committee sorts itself out and elects a new chairman in due course after the funeral of Mrs Dunwoody takes place.


Q111 Graham Stringer: On Mr Salmon's previous point that a 30% increase in the budget would be welcome, can you explain on what basis you have come to 30% and how many lives it would save if you got that increased investment?

Mr Salmon: I come at it from two points really. If we talk about the basic investment in intervention through road safety schemes on the ground, accident reduction schemes, speed management and so on, we know from our evaluation of those schemes roughly how much it costs on average to save one killed or seriously injured as a number and it is typically around £100,000 per KSI (killed or seriously injured). That is for a targeted scheme and we know from our bids for funding where we have tried to forecast how much effort is needed for the interventions that we put in that our bids are not necessarily realised in full, so in that sense 30% extra would give us more confidence about meeting or exceeding targets. The other point is from the road maintenance side and increasing concern about the effect of extreme climate conditions and the fairly well-understood national position from the industry that excess inflation in the industry is not matched by levels of funding year on year for road maintenance, so whilst we have a load defect level that leads directly to road accidents, probably less than 2% of casualties caused by defects on network, the fact is that if we do not maintain the standard of the road that number is likely to go up.

Q112 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Can I just follow up on that? Obviously I understand the need for road maintenance, but the idea that you are going to get 30% I find unlikely. Is there a list by county or perhaps, in the urban areas, a list of accident black spots where the problem could be solved and the casualties reduced by actually spending a specific amount of money on that, and is there a backlog of that?

Mr Lines: The general answer to your question is yes, and it comes back to the data point, that we have good data so we do know where these so-called black spots are. In a sense we have been doing it for the last 30 years and some of them come and go as the network changes and road safety engineers are always mindful of that. There is another aspect of road safety engineering as well as the black spots and that is treating what we call scatter accidents. A lot of the collisions that occur are not clustered and there are still people being killed and injured, so that needs a wider area-based approach as well, we do not just treat the black spots we treat the area-wide collisions as well. There are methods to do that and 20 mph zones are a good example of those sorts of treatments, so it is not just the black spots.

Q113 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): What I am trying to get at is the number of people being killed is reducing but is now reducing very slowly. If you anticipate getting X million pounds to treat the black spots that could have a major impact on it I suppose.

Mr Lines: Yes. As Rob says, we know that if we spend money on engineering we get reductions in killed and seriously injured, that is true.


Mr Skelton: I would just emphasise the point that Mr Lines was making. The particular technology there is intelligent speed adaptation, which has two forms: one is the voluntary whereby a motorist is advised of the speed limit and can accord to that; there is a second level which generally speaking at this stage has not been perceived as a way forward, and that is that it becomes a mandatory thing, i.e. the vehicle is managed as it goes past particular areas, for example a 20 mph zone past a school, that sort of thing, so that it ends up with the vehicle's speed being monitored. It does raise lots of issues with regard to driver control because the driver has to maintain control under the Road Traffic Act legislation; as soon as you remove that control it does raise serious and severe issues as to prosecution against whom.

Q121 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Just on that point, are you saying if this technology is to be introduced then we are going to have to change the law?

Mr Skelton: In certain areas that would have to be the case. I am not suggesting that technology is a panacea to everything, I am just suggesting that it has a significant role to play as part and parcel of daily monitoring, but in certain circumstances there would be a requirement to redraft legislation accordingly.

Mr Salmon: Two points: just to respond on the question of speed, I agree that it is still one of the primary areas of activity that we have to keep a focus on. The danger in that is that the public at large tend to see authorities, including central government, as over-interested in speed management to the point where it turns off public perception about responsibility, so it is a bit of a battle really. What we have got to do somehow is get people to understand more widely that speed is a component of all sorts of other aspects of collision causation, so if you are overtaking in the wrong place actually it is a speed issue. Controlling speed helps all these things, but if you just go on about speed and nothing else then we do not get the message across to the public about the responsibility for the whole driving experience, and we need to think hard about that. On the question of technology there is a fundamental principle about whether we are starting to transfer risk and responsibility from the driver to some other body, organisation or simply the manufacturer of a vehicle. At the moment implementation is about leaving responsibility with the driver, and I appreciate that those involved in developing a technology, which is all a very positive activity, are very conscious of that and that is the line that we are taking at the moment. If we move that line to the point where we are saying we will take responsibility away from the driver, then you have a very tricky legal situation to consider, so until we can take a view about whether we go beyond the 100% driver responsibility situation, we are going to have to live with the fact that it is the drivers we need to be tackling in terms of their attitudes, irrespective of how much technology can help us mitigate the effects of collisions.

Mr Lines: Can I just point out that there is a third option that Mr Skelton was referring to. There is the advisory ISA, there is the mandatory ISA and the one in the middle is a voluntary ISA where people have the equipment fitted and they can turn it off if they want to. There are advantages in having speed adaptation on the vehicle if you run fleets of vehicles or whatever and there are benefits in terms of fuel consumption, there are benefits in terms of emissions, so it is possible that some people might be happy to use it, and tests abroad and in Europe have shown that people actually quite like using it after a while and would voluntarily fit it.


Q126 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Just on technology, you mentioned the ABS; that is not new technology, is it compulsory yet on cars?

Mr Everitt: There was a voluntary agreement and it has been fitted as standard on vehicles since 2004.

Q127 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): My concern is that there are technologies out there, but because of costs and lack of legislation they are not introduced quickly.

Mr Everitt: There are two issues: one is the availability and, obviously, a legislative route is always available and, again, that tends to be a time-consuming process. One of the difficulties we as vehicle manufacturers have is these things are available and, as you rightly say, if I am selling a vehicle that has to still retail at £9,999 it is quite difficult to include all the potential technologies in that package. Where we would look to see greater assistance is in, if you like, the fiscal incentives that are available, so insurance companies as an example would clearly benefit from a significant reduction in the number of accidents yet very few of the technologies that could help that would lead your insurance premiums to reduce. In some cases, if we were looking at things like sensor technology, they would actually ensure that your insurance premium went up because the potential damage that might be done if you were to back it into a wall, because it has a whole bunch of sensors in it, would mean that you would be paying more, so we have a perverse incentive in some cases. From a vehicle manufacturers' point of view what we are good at is responding to our consumers who are society at large. It is not because we do not want to make it available, it is an issue that we need to make it available at a price the consumer actually is prepared to pay and we would be prepared in a lot of situations to work with others to try and find ways of doing that.

Mr Skelton: Just to follow on from Mr Everitt's point there, the black box which has been looked at by Project Veronica would help to analyse a lot of the information that Mr Everitt spoke about, which is about collating that data in order to make vehicles that much better, safer and to allow user profiles to be that much more readily identifiable, but at the same time as we are looking at in-vehicle technologies we need to look at the issue of roadside technologies and the infrastructure and the availability that is in those systems by the roadside and having a whole series of acronyms of VMS and ATM and AMPR. The reality is that these are roadside infrastructures which can offer assistance and advice and direction to motorists to give greater safety. Where the really clever part comes into play is where the two technologies speak to each other to give greater information to the motorist in every respect, as to better route guidance, warning of problems that are coming up ahead, congestion, unexpected delays et cetera, and it is the development of this to give greater notice and anticipation so that action can be taken to prevent the collisions which are causing the increase in fatalities.

Mr Lines: If we are talking about vehicles and how they benefit road safety, by far the biggest one is in collisions with pedestrians. In most urban areas something between 60% and 75% of killed and seriously injured are not in a car, they are outside it; the majority of those are pedestrians and the technology required to actually mitigate those collisions and save lives has actually been known for a long time. I know we are going to end up by having technologies that avoid them, hopefully, but it seems a pity that that is often forgotten, that we can improve vehicle technology to save those casualties. Cars can be designed to be more pedestrian-friendly in terms of collisions; at the moment they are designed such that they hit in the leg region and accelerate the head throughout the momentum onto the base of the windscreen, which is quite hard. We have known this for 30 years and there is no doubt that by altering the design of cars they could be much more friendly in collision with pedestrians.

Mr Everitt: That is actually happening, it has been subject to legislation for a umber of years and there are a number of vehicles that are going onto the market and have been over the last three or four years that are somewhat different to things that have been on the market before.

Q128 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): We do not have any bull bars any more.

Mr Everitt: Not for a long time. It is an EU problem to be honest.

Mr Salmon: Just on technology there is a developing area of technology which is very exciting with regard to in-vehicle capability and that is the ability to monitor the behaviour of the driver whilst the vehicle is being driven and use that to feed back that behaviour. I am not an expert in this area directly and have been somewhat divorced from that development for some time, but certainly the ability to analyse how the driver is responding to the road environment and is being driven is something we do not understand very well, so if we are looking to improve driver behaviour and ability to cope with the changing circumstances along the route, different levels of traffic and so on the technology that can actually help us monitor this and evaluate it would be very positive.


Q143 Mr. Eric Martlew (Carlisle): Can I perhaps go on from that to the issue of the influx of foreign drivers? There are two issues; one is the left-hand drive vehicles, especially heavy goods vehicles, and the other one is the people who are coming, very often from Eastern Europe or Portugal where they do not have a very good safety record. Do you think that has added to our problems and if so how do we solve them?

Mr Salmon: It is in some areas. I believe you are talking to the police later on and they will have a very definite view on this, but some areas are suffering from an increased level of concern about the number of those sorts of drivers. I do not think it is a huge problem in terms of the total numbers of killed or seriously injured at this time, but it is an area that we have to watch very carefully. One of the problems is sometimes even a lack of insurance and a lack of awareness of the rules, some of the vehicles are actually substandard, vehicles come into the country for a short time without any standard test or roadworthiness capability and, on occasions, they are involved in a crash, but at the moment it is a small but potentially growing problem and one that I would look to the police for a very specific view.

Mr Everitt: I know that in terms of heavy goods vehicles there has been a particular step-up in enforcement in the UK and that is finding a higher proportion of foreign hauliers either breaching the drivers' hours or roadworthiness conditions. Some of the issues are actually about how it is that those trucks are managing to pass through a large part of Europe without anybody else bothering to check those vehicles and there is an issue about how other European countries regard road safety and the enforcement of roadworthiness, particularly for HGVs. In terms of the growing number of passenger cars, again that is an issue about enforcement and visibility.

This is an uncorrected transcript of evidence taken in public and reported to the House. The transcript has been placed on the internet on the authority of the Committee. Neither witnesses nor Members have had the opportunity to correct the record. The transcript is not yet an approved formal record of these proceedings.

The full transcript may be read here.

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On behalf of Eric Martlew, 3 Chatsworth Square Carlisle Cumbria CA1 1HB