Budget cuts batter road safety strategy 07 Mar 2011

Budget cuts threaten to reverse road casualty reduction

Britain should be braced for a possible increase in the number of road deaths because of cuts to the road safety budget and traffic growth caused by economic recovery.

Nine out of ten road safety professionals think reduced spending is going to harm road safety projects and over half believe a loss of expertise will mean there will be no further falls in the number of casualties.

When asked for their more detailed opinion a number of respondents wrote that they feared the amount of those killed and injured could actually rise.

These are amongst the findings of a report called Tackling the Deficit, Where Next for Road Safety compiled for the RAC Foundation by PACTS (the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety).

In the wake of the Comprehensive Spending Review, PACTS surveyed in detail 50 road safety professionals working for local authorities, police forces, UK Fire and Rescue services, academic bodies or consultancies.

As a result of budget cuts, councils have already reported examples of:

•    Cutting road safety engineering spending by 60-80%
•     Abolishing or reducing the number of lollipop men and women
•    Switching off speed cameras
•    Reducing road safety education programmes including those aimed at pedestrians and cyclists

The report concludes it is vital that government sets out a firm strategy for road safety over the next decade in its forthcoming Strategic Road Safety Framework. The previous ten-year plan came to an end in March 2010. A strong commitment from central government to preventing death and injury on the roads will encourage councils to spend a fair share of their reduced budgets on cutting casualties rather than diverting it to other services which they believe better reflects the view in Whitehall.

The report also recommends:

•    The need for a clear timetable for a government response to the Transport Select Committee report on Drink and Drug Driving
•    Publication of revised guidance on to implement 20mph zones and limits
•    Cross-departmental monitoring of motoring offences in recognition of the link between road crime and other criminal offences

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Britain has made huge strides in cutting road deaths over recent years, but further casualty reduction is not guaranteed. Reduced budgets and more traffic could mean more people killed rather than less.

“To avoid this, government must prioritise road safety and send out a clear message to councils that this is an important area of policy. It must also set bold targets for cutting death and injury so that safety professionals have something to strive for. The best estimates are that a 50% cut in those killed and injured on the roads is possible by 2020, but it won’t happen without strong leadership from ministers. The evidence is that countries which set firm targets have much better safety records than those that don’t.”

Rob Gifford, executive director of PACTS, said: “Great Britain has a long commitment to reducing death and injury on the roads. We need to maintain that commitment even in challenging economic circumstances. Road crashes are preventable events. By focusing on cutting these further, we can reduce demand on the health service and enhance the nation’s economic capability. In May the United Nations is launching its Decade of Action on Road Safety. It would be wrong if the importance of saving life on the highway was recognised at a global level but given less attention within these shores.”

In 2009, 2,222 people died on Britain’s roads. Figures from the first three quarters of 2010 suggest the death toll for that year will be below 2,000.

ENDS

Contact:

Philip Gomm – Head of External Communications – RAC Foundation
Philip.gomm@racfoundation.org / 07711 776448 / 020 7747 3486

Robert Gifford – Executive Director – PACTS
0207 222 7732 (work) / 01908 562025 (home)

Notes to editors:

The RAC Foundation is a charity which explores the economic, mobility, safety and environmental issues relating to roads and responsible road users. Independent and authoritative research, carried out for the public benefit, is central to the Foundation’s activities.

The Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) is a registered charity and associate Parliamentary group. Its charitable objective is: To protect human life through the promotion of transport safety for the public benefit. It provides advice and information to Parliamentarians on road, rail and air safety issues.

The results of the survey come from a questionnaire distributed to road safety professionals at conferences and events during November and December 2010 and sent to professional organisations in the sector. The answers give a snapshot of professional opinion at that time that reflects the concerns of those responding.

The report sets out the case for a clear strategic framework for road safety supported by targets and performance indicators over the next decade. This approach has been shown to bring additional reductions in deaths of between 4% and 19% in other OECD countries.

89% of respondents answered ‘negative’ or ‘potentially negative’ to the question ‘With regard to the Budget and Spending Review, how do you view the impact on road safety in 2011?’

When asked whether there were sufficient human resources and skills resources to achieve further improvements in road safety, 57% of questionnaire respondents said no, 27% said it was too early to tell, and 16% said yes.

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