After many years at the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), I recently joined the Road Safety Foundation. It was always going to take a lot to prise me away from TRL, having become ‘part of the furniture’ there, but the opportunity to work for the Road Safety Foundation (RSF), and with the iRAP team, was too good to turn down.
One of many attractions about RSF is the way the Safe Systems approach is embedded in its work: like the team I’ve come from at TRL, RSF believes that collisions which result in people being killed or seriously injured are entirely preventable despite the inevitability of human beings making errors. For example, intelligent road design and vehicle design can reduce the likelihood of road users making mistakes and allow errors that road users still make not to have the consequence of anyone being killed or sustaining a life-changing injury. The public expects this in the air, at sea and on the railway, so why shouldn’t it be expected on road?
By road users, of course, we don’t just mean drivers and passengers, but also motorcyclists, pedal cyclists and pedestrians, often collectively referred to as ‘vulnerable road users’ and for good reason. These road users simply don’t have the protection afforded to vehicle occupants by modern vehicle design. Subsequently, they are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured as a result of the actions of other road users than their actions are to result in the death or serious injury of others. While it is possible to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries by focusing on vulnerable road users, there is little question that far bigger reductions can be achieved by focusing our efforts on the users of motorised vehicles.
Improvements in vehicle design were responsible for much of the reduction in the number of people being killed or seriously injured during the ‘noughties’ but since 2010, despite improvements in vehicle design continuing to permeate through the fleet of vehicles which use our roads, the figures have stopped falling. In Britain, some 70 people are still being killed or seriously injured on the road every single day according to the official figures recorded by the police. Each one a tragedy, which is surely preventable.
There has never been a better time than now to reinvigorate efforts to improve road safety for all and, in my new role, I look forward to doing what I can to help.
Programme and research manager, The Road Safety Foundation