The end of the beginning?

On Friday, MPs will return to the House of Assembly. When they finish for the summer break, it will be the end of the Parliamentary year and legislators should have passed a law allowing the introduction of roadside sobriety tests.

At least that is the pledge. If it happens I will be among the first to say, ‘well done’ (and about time) but I am a cynic by nature, my glass is always half full. So, we’ll see.

If it does happen, however, that is not the end, it is just the beginning of the end as roadside breath tests will make inroads and be a deterrent to some, but it will not stop the behaviour we see on the roads daily. Nor will speed cameras, or a graduated licensing scheme.

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The latter two are aims of the commendable Drive for Change campaign in The Royal Gazette and will help, but they are just some pieces of a much larger effort that is needed, and which successive Governments have, for some reason, failed to initiate.

Speed cameras have been shown to have some success. A study by the Road Safety Observatory found:

  • It is clear that speed cameras placed on major roads are more effective at reducing RTIs than cameras on minor roads – installing cameras on minor roads appear to have a limited effect.
  • Cameras installed on roads with speed limits above 40 mph are also more effective at reducing fatal RTIs.
  • As expected, the effectiveness of camera reduces as the distance from its installation point increases.
  • Overall, the cameras reduced all types of RTI by around 30 per cent, which varies significantly depending on class and zone of influence considered. However, it is certain that their introduction has resulted in a negative effect on the occurrence of RTIs in all cases.

According to Safe Research on the effectiveness of roundabouts: Based on a meta-regression analysis, converting junctions to roundabouts is associated with a reduction of fatal accidents of about 65% and a reduction of injury accidents of about 40%. The full report is here: https://www.saferresearch.com/library/road-safety-effects-roundabouts-meta-analysis

Safe Research also looked at fines and said: For increases up to about 100%, violations were reduced. For larger increases, no reduction in violations was found. A small reduction in fatal accidents was associated with increased fixed penalties, varying between studies from less than 1-12%. The full report is here:

According to this report about the effectiveness of random breath testing in Australia, there was a considerable impact on driving behaviour.

The report said:

The results of intervention analysis indicate that RBT has substantially reduced traffic accident mortality in all four states since it was introduced, particularly among 17-20 and 21-30 year olds. NSW received the biggest total net effect from RBT implementation on traffic deaths with estimated reductions of 1132 and 1267 for 17-20 and in 21-29 years old drivers respectively from 1983 to 2010. Traffic accident deaths of young drivers between 17 and 20 years old in VIC were reduced by an estimated 1099 from 1977 to 2010 following the implementation of RBT. In contrast, RBT produced no significant reduction in traffic mortality among 30-39 year olds.

Discussion and conclusions: Controlling for the declining trend in traffic accidents, the implementation of RBT has generated a huge effect, preventing an estimated 5309 traffic accident deaths in Australian four states over 27 years. This provides further evidence that RBT is an effective policy for reducing traffic accidents, particularly among young people.

Although my research is hardly scientific, it does help to prove the point that a much larger effort needs to be employed – there is no one, catch-all, solution.

While we have excellent work being done by groups such as CADA and the Road Safety Council, I see no-one taking the lead which is where I believe Government comes in. If people will not voluntarily change habits that threaten their own and other lives, well, they must be made to do so.

This report  by the World Health Organisation lists some key recommendations.

(Before I list them, it is interesting to note that WHO should be doing this.  An organisation perhaps better known for investigating things like communicable diseases (this is a link to the ‘about us’ section) clearly sees road safety it as a risk to our health.)

This is a summary of the recommendations:

  • Prepare a national road safety strategy and plan of action. Each country should prepare a road safety strategy that is multisectoral – involving agencies concerned with transport, health, education, law enforcement and other relevant sectors – and multidisciplinary – involving road safety scientists, engineers, urban and regional planners, health professionals and others. The strategy should take the needs of all road users into account, particularly vulnerable road users, and should be linked to strategies in other sectors. It should involve groups from government, the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, the mass media and the general public.

 

  • Allocate financial and human resources to address the problem. Well-targeted investment of financial and human resources can reduce road traffic injuries and deaths considerably.

 

  • Implement specific actions to prevent road traffic crashes, minimize injuries and their consequences and evaluate the impact of these actions. Specific actions are needed to prevent road traffic crashes and to minimize their consequences. These actions should be based on sound evidence and analysis of road traffic injuries, be culturally appropriate and tested locally, and form part of the national strategy to address the problem of road crashes.

 

  • Identify a lead agency in government to guide the national road traffic safety effort. Each country needs a lead agency on road safety, with the authority and responsibility to make decisions, control resources and coordinate efforts by all sectors of government – including those of health, transport, education and the police. This agency should have adequate finances to use for road safety and should be publicly accountable for its actions.

 

I would say that the last recommendation is key to helping to start making in-roads (excuse the pun) into a problem that hospitalizes some 1,500 people a year and which has claimed too many lives.

The report highlights two examples of how working together has helped reduce road accidents. One is Vision Zero in Sweden which seems an ideal example to ‘Bermudianise’.

The WHO report concludes: Road traffic crashes are predictable and therefore preventable. In order to combat the problem, though, there needs to be close coordination and collaboration, using a holistic and integrated approach, across many sectors and many disciplines. While there are many interventions that can save lives and limbs, political will and commitment are essential and without them little can be achieved. The time to act is now. Road users everywhere deserve better and safer road travel. Enough said.

 

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