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Road safety? It's just a matter of luck - report

THE Government relies on 'luck' as its safety policy for company car drivers, according to a hard-hitting report from the House of Commons Select Committee on Transport.

The scathing report, published last week, compares and contrasts the health and safety procedures adopted by the Government to protect staff in the workplace and to protect employees when driving on business.

In the workplace, said the report, employees must undergo a high standard of training with regular updates. On the road, employees pass the driving test and most then receive no training updates. At work, vulnerable people are taken care of. On the roads, vulnerable people are expected to take care. And, the report continued, law enforcement at work is 'strict', while on the roads it is 'by luck.'

The powerful Select Committee also calls on the Government to provide the Health & Safety Executive (HSE) with the resource to play a full part in the implementation of the recommendations of the Work-related Road Safety Task Group (WRRSTG). Last week the Health & Safety Commission said the HSE did not have the manpower either to investigate road accidents involving at-work drivers or to enforce employers' duty of care to at-work drivers – two of the key recommendations of the WRRSTG.

'Crashes which occur while drivers are working are very common and deaths caused in this way are probably the largest single cause of work-related fatalities,' said the Select Committee report.

'The HSC would be negligent if it failed to extend its activities to this most important safety issue. The fact that it will cost money is not an excuse for ignoring it. If it does not do so, the Government must demand that it reconsiders the matter. It must provide the money to ensure that the HSE can employ the necessary staff. Clearer guidance to employers on managing road risk is urgently needed.'

The Select Committee cited evidence from Professor Stradling of Napier University whose research has found that drivers who are most likely to make Highway Code violations and aggressive violations when behind the wheel: 'tend to drive larger engined cars, to drive higher mileages, to drive company-owned cars, and to drive as part of their work.'

The Committee report also criticised the Government for failing to take road safety and speed seriously, and called on the Home Office to make sure all police authorities treat road traffic policing as a priority, at a time when some police forces are withdrawing traffic officers and relying instead on speed cameras.

And on the issue of the controversial proliferation of speed cameras, the Select Committee strongly criticised the Government for its new rules about the location and visibility (painting yellow) of cameras.

'Crashes do not just occur at accident blackspots. There was no scientific research to support this decision. People will die as a result. Police and local authorities should decide where to locate cameras and whether they should be visible,' said the report.

  • The report is available at www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200102/cmselect/ cmtlgr/557/55702.htm
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