Driving-style data could help prevent crashes17 Jan 2023

Information collected by vehicles could lead to pre-emptive safety interventions

Using data on driving styles collected by vehicles could be used to help understand where crashes on the road network are likely to take place before they actually happen.

This would lead to pre-emptive road safety interventions rather than those that follow as a reaction to collisions and personal injury.

The suggestion is one element of a report published today by a group of senior transport professionals who received funding from the Rees Jeffreys Road Fund. Amongst the authors is the director of the RAC Foundation, Steve Gooding.

In the study – Key questions for road investment and spending published by the University of the West of England – the researchers say that much more attention be given to “‘lead’ rather than ‘lag’ indicators across all roads – for example using increasingly available data sources (such as vehicle speeds and harshness of braking) to identify where and why safety risks are likely to arise and inform decisions on appropriate risk mitigations, while relying less on historic data (for example about individual crash locations).”

The report points out that in 2021, 1,558 people were killed on Britain’s roads which “raises questions over whether and how further improvements in road safety can be achieved, and to what extent spending on the roads themselves should be part of the solution. In 2021 road casualties showed signs of a return to pre-pandemic trends as traffic levels grew back.

“While the overall figures for 2021 were lower than pre-pandemic levels, over the second half of the year casualties returned to levels similar to those in 2019.”

The report also suggests that consideration be given to involving local authorities in speed management:

“While the prospect of enabling highway authorities to pursue moving traffic offences such as speeding could potentially reduce the historic reliance on enforcement through road policing and thus make speed management and the associated enforcement a more viable and cost effective tool, it would require the building of an appropriate skillset and a budget for running costs.”

More broadly, the group of experts – the Road Investment Scrutiny Panel – identified a range of key measures necessary to get the best out of road investment:

  • road spending decisions to be coherent and stand up to scrutiny when viewed in the context of broader policy aims, most notably the statutory duty to achieve a net zero carbon economy
  • decisions to be well-informed both in relation to the existing road network and its use (including ‘connected’ vehicles generating data on driver behaviour such as patterns of harsh braking that could allow identification of locations posing road safety risks) and in terms of future possibilities in a changing and uncertain world
  • more transparency regarding how decisions were arrived at and the underlying analysis.



For further information, images or interviews, please contact the UWE Bristol Press Office on 0117 3282208 or [email protected] or contact the Panel Chair, Professor Glenn Lyons ([email protected]) or the Co-convenor, Professor Steve Gooding ([email protected]).

Notes to editors:

The Road Investment Scrutiny Panel is comprised of Professors: Glenn Lyons (UWE Bristol – Panel Chair); Steve Gooding (UWE Bristol – Co-convenor); Jillian Anable (University of Leeds); Nicola Christie (University College London); Zoe Davies (University of Kent); Stephen Glaister (Imperial College London); Phil Goodwin (UWE Bristol); and Karen Lucas (University of Manchester). The Panel Secretary is Andrew Crudgington (freelance researcher, technical writer and facilitator).

The seven questions set out in the Panel’s report are:

  1. What would make us feel confident that decisions on future road investment, at both the scheme and aggregate level, are consistent with the legal obligation to deliver a credible pathway to the decarbonisation of the UK economy by 2050?
  2. What would make us feel confident that the policy imperative and opportunities to promote biodiversity enhancement are being recognised and pursued on their own merits, as opposed to biodiversity being ‘accommodated’ in pursuit of other goals?
  3. How can we be persuaded that the health and social impacts of road spending experienced by individual people and communities are well understood and given sufficient weight at all stages of decision-making?
  4. What would give us confidence that appropriate financial provision is being made for operating, maintaining and optimising the performance of the existing road network?
  5. What would persuade us that options for investing in improving road safety are being identified and weighed appropriately?
  6. What would persuade us that road investment and expenditure decisions – at the scheme and programme level – are the result of serious consideration of a genuinely broad range of options and their merits?
  7. What would persuade us that road investment and expenditure decisions are likely to represent value for money over the long term?

The University of the West of England (UWE Bristol) has a global and inclusive outlook, with approximately 36,000 students and strong industry networks and connections with over 1,000 employers. Research at UWE Bristol focuses on real world problems and the University plays a pivotal role in the regional economy. With over £300 million invested in infrastructure, buildings and facilities across all Campuses, UWE Bristol is creating a place for learning that is innovative, ambitious, connected, enabling and inclusive. UWE Bristol is ranked 24th in the Guardian university league table. www.uwe.ac.uk

The Rees Jeffreys Road Fund is a grant making charity, funded by a legacy from William Rees Jeffreys. The Fund’s objects are to foster improvements in the engineering, management, design and use of roads to deliver safer, more environmentally sensitive, more aesthetically pleasing and more enjoyable outcomes for all road users.  We do this principally by funding projects, research and events; and awarding bursaries to individuals pursuing relevant professional qualifications.