Roddy Graham's Blog: 8 July 2010 - Road safety budgets get the chop
08 July 2010
Roddy Graham is chairman of the ICFM and commercial director of Leasedrive Velo
It seems we are all being fattened up for the big chop. Talk of 25% cuts in government budgets on public spending have given way to news that departments are also being asked to prepare budgets for a second potential scenario, that of 40% cuts in government spending. Health and international aid are the only ring-fenced departments not due to suffer cuts and the likes of defence and education are due to be protected as far as possible. Guess which department will really be for the chop? Yes, Transport surprise, surprise. Apparently, road repairs are the only costs that are likely to remain unaffected but we'll have to see about that.
Already comes news that £17.2 million will be cut from the road safety budget. This follows latest government statistics showing the number of deaths on Britain's roads fell by 12% last year to a record low of 2222 in 2009, while child deaths fell from 124 to 81. Total casualties, including slight injuries, were 4% down. It is troubling to think that complacency may be creeping in on road safety at a time when the trend for fatalities is consistently downward.
Naturally, various organisations are up in arms over the news, led by road safety charity, Brake. However, as with other areas of government spending, Whitehall is looking at avoiding the prevalent duplication of activities by various departments and organisations. Such an approach would make natural sense but not at the expense of road safety.
The potential consequences of the deep cut in road safety budgets should cause considerable concern among fleet managers. As we all know, the benefits of proper risk management, including road safety, far outweigh the costs.
It's not as if that, while road deaths are on the decline, our roads are the safest. Indeed, the UK is ranked only the fourth safest in Europe for its road network. The European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP), which rates the safety risk of roads in Europe, considers just 53% of the UK's roads to be 'low risk'.
The EuroRAP score assesses roads on how well their design protects users from death or disabling injury in the event of an accident with the safest awarded four stars.
In the UK, half of the motorways under the Highways Agency's control achieved a four-star rating while 78% of dual carriageways were given a three-star rating. EuroRAP considers the protection offered if a vehicle runs off the road, the risk of a head-on collision and the safety of junctions.
Half of motorways do not protect users if they run off the road while for dual carriageways the figure is a high 90%. Ninety-seven per cent however do offer protection against head-on collisions. Single carriageways lacked the most safety features, 62% rated two stars.
According to EuroRAP our road safety network is just not consistent enough. For example, Scottish roads are twice as risky as roads in England and Wales and the safest country, Sweden, has managed to design single carriageways with safety records even higher than motorways, something believed not to be achievable.
Meanwhile, the Road Safety Foundation suggests that a lick of paint can work wonders. Fatal and serious collisions can be reduced by over 70% by improving road markings and signage, applying high-friction anti-skid treatments at known accident junction hot spots and generally improving the signage and layout of road junctions.
When the cake gets smaller, it is has to be sliced better. Prudent wielding of the knife does not necessarily mean deep cuts have to have the severe repercussions that may be first anticipated. Government and local councils ignore road safety at their peril. If they do and this results in a reversal of the downward trend in road deaths all fleet managers will have to step up to the plate and provide even better driver training and guidance to their 'at work' drivers.
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