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Improving Road Safety by Neil Greig, Director of Policy and Planning, IAM: Glasgow meeting: 25 March 2014

Neil Greig (far right) with visitors from Lanarkshire IAM at the Glasgow meeting.d

Neil Greig (far right) with visitors from Lanarkshire IAM at the Glasgow meeting.

© John Yellowlees 2014

The chairman, Keith Evans, opened the meeting and introduced the speaker, Neil Greig the Director of Policy and Planning for the IAM.

Joining the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) in 2007, Neil Greig's role is to set the strategic direction for the IAM's Policy and Research Division, co-ordinating its research programme and working with the media and opinion formers across the UK. Prior to this, Neil was Head of Policy, Scotland with the AA Motoring Trust having worked in a similar role with the AA at its regional HQ west of Glasgow since 1992.

He worked in motoring Public Affairs for the AA from 1986 to 1991, firstly in Scotland and then in the West Midlands throughout the mid/late 1980s and spent a short time with RoSPA at their Birmingham Head Office as Technical Manager Road Safety in 1991/92.

Neil started his presentation by pointing out his role is a national one and is responsible for the IAM's major research reports, providing statistics to the PR team and responding to government consultations and announcements as well as meeting with other road safety organizations and the government, both in the UK and in the EU.

The aims are to increase the IAM's share of voice and as an independent body does its own research. The IAM also produces reports, an example being "Don't prod me, I'm Driving", a report into the dangers of using a smartphone while driving. The research found that drivers could not stay in lane and spend half of their time looking down. Reaction times were also slowed depending on which application the research subject was looking at on the smartphone.

Another area that the IAM has conducted research is the increasing age of drivers. It was found that older drivers, that is those over 75, react just as quickly as other ages when, for example, a vehicle pulls out of them or when the vehicle in front brakes suddenly on a motorway. Older drivers tend to drive slower and leave bigger gaps between vehicles. The studies also found that older drivers tend to stop short at give way lines and tend to look in their mirrors less frequently. Overall, older drivers are safe drivers and Neil said that much of his time seemed to be spent defending older drivers in the media.

Neil looked at some of the upcoming projects he is involved with such as the impact of dementia on driving, company car drivers, what drivers thing of 20 mph limits, speed cameras, budget cuts on road maintenance and police commissioners in England and Wales.

He then provided an overview of current road safety figures highlighting some of the current statistics. In the UK road deaths fell by 8% to 1754 in 2012 and in Scotland the figure fell by 6% to 174. The number of serious injuries increased slightly to 1975 and slight injuries accounted for 10,528 casualties. The annual cost to Scotland is put at £1.16 billion whilst for the UK as a whole the figure is £15.1 billion. In most road user categories, the figures are down except for cyclists with 9 fatalities in 2012 representing a 7% increase in casualties. Overall, Scotland is the 9th safest country of the 39 countries surveyed across the world.

The long term trend is that car drivers and passengers are safer and this is due to safer cars, better engineering, the introduction of safety systems such as ABS, ESC and AEB. Also roads have become safer with black spots being removed and cameras installed. Drivers are also safer as fewer are speeding, perhaps due to the cost of fuel. There are fewer younger drivers on the roads today and figures show that there are 25% less 17/18 year olds driving. By 2030 there will be twice the number of male drivers and three times the number of female drivers over 70.

In Scotland, there are still targets being set for improving road safety and the 2030 target for reducing fatalities has already been achieved. Transport Scotland is now considering revisions to the targets as politicians feel they do not need to do anything.

However, taking the UK as a whole, if you take the projected death rate of 1,000 per annum by 2030 with 11,000 seriously injured and 150,000 slightly injured, adding this together means that some 300,000 killed and seriously injured by 2030. Put another way, that is the population of a small town.

However, there are some options and Neil outlined the annual reductions in fatalities that could be brought about by certain measures. For example, reducing the drink/drive limit to 50 mg would result in 116 fewer fatalities or enforcing the 70 mph limit on motorways could save 37 fatalities. Adopting single or double summer time could potentially result in 82 fewer fatalities per year, but this is a highly contentious issue. Introducing a graduated Driving Licence could save 41 lives per year as research shows that this would be beneficial. Young drivers would be required to follow a syllabus, keep a record of their activities and gain experience over time with minimum driving periods being specified in order to qualify for a full licence.

Turning to road safety in Scotland, Neil looked at the forthcoming changes. The planned reduced driving limit that was to have been implemented looks set to be in place by the end of the year. The delay has been caused by the requirement of the Home Office to type approve the calibrated breath testing machines for the new limit and the tester has been fully committed to other work, leading to the delay. Neil looked at the planned SMART Motorway section of the M90. This will involve hard shoulder running and will have variable speed limits and camera enforcement. He contrasted the M90 with the M42 pointing out some key differences.

The Scottish Road Safety Campaign plays an important part in getting the safety message across and produces adverts. It also campaigns to make rural roads safer. With the creation of Police Scotland, it led to a reduction in the number of road safety officers, as they were employed by the various former police forces, with the exception of the west of Scotland where Road Safety officers are employed by the local authorities. In the first year of Police Scotland, the number of fixed penalty tickets issued has doubled and the emphasis is firmly on enforcement.

The A9 Safety Group aims to improve safety of the A9 trunk road. The A9 overall is not one of the worst roads, but some sections have seen more accidents than others. The A9 has a mixture of dual carriageway and single carriageway sections and can be split into three sections, Dunblane to Perth, Perth to Inverness and Inverness to Thurso. The Dunblane to Perth section is mainly dual carriageway, but has a high number of junctions. The section of road between Perth and Inverness has both dual and single carriageway sections and many accidents are due to overtaking. North of Inverness the main cause of accidents is due to loss of control at bends.

Planned improvements include the installation of average speed cameras between Perth and Inverness and the road will be split into seven sections for this scheme. The evidence shows that average speed cameras work by reducing speeds and changing driver behaviour. HGV's will be permitted to travel at 50 mph on these sections to reduce platooning and reduce overtaking risks.

Neil rounded off his presentation by looking at the future and driverless cars and connected cars. One supplier of satellite navigation systems has postulated that in future with cars all connected electronically and with smartphones, traffic control centres will no longer be needed as cars will communicate with each other routing drivers round problems automatically in real time.

There then followed a lively question and answer session and many points were debated, covering driver licensing, speeds, taxis, cycling, pedestrians. The Chairman then presented Neil with one of the Scottish Region's engraved glasses as a memento of the evening.

Further information on the Institute of Advanced Motorists can be found on their website at: http://www.iam.org.uk/

Report by John Fender and photograph by John Yellowlees.

 

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