Fleet News

Guest opinion: Fleets lead the way on tackling safety

GRAHAM Hurdle, Pro-Drive managing director, says effective road safety solutions remain buried because they lack financial viability.

'For someone as passionate as I am about road safety, it can sound odd to criticise initiatives seemingly designed to reduce accidents.

The new ban on using hand-held mobile phones while driving is one example that has been very high on the public agenda. Speed cameras are another. Then there's the gradual tightening of the driving test to ensure we have better qualified drivers on our roads.

On paper, they are all a step forward but the Government is still nibbling around the edges of the road safety bone rather than taking a decisive bite into it.

After all, holding an appliance to your ear while driving does not create accidents and over the past few months Fleet News has been inundated with very mixed views about the new mobile phone law. Is it dangerous to hold a phone or does the real threat lie in holding a conversation, hands-free or not, with someone who is unaware of the events facing you on the road?

Similarly, does speed kill or are we safe to drive at a speed conducive with the road conditions and visibility? Evidence shows that dual carriageways and motorways, which have the highest speed limits are the safest, with the average accident rate on motorways being 11 accidents per 100 million kilometres – about one-eighth of the rate in built-up areas.

And does a more rigorous driving test deliver better drivers once passed?

The reason young drivers are being targeted is that Government figures show that 12% of drivers involved in injury accidents are aged 17 to 21 and I accept that this is a high risk age group.

However, these young drivers only account for 7% of licence holders and my experience tells me older drivers are similarly accident-prone. So why the focus on the driving test when it deals with so small a group of drivers?

I am becoming increasingly frustrated with the motivational forces behind almost every new scheme launched by the Government because they are almost exclusively designed around a penal system that generates income. Any proposals that cannot, dare I say it, make money for the Government, will never reach the top of the pile.

This means the solutions to achieve safer roads, resulting in less injury and death, remain buried because they lack financial viability.

Such solutions include:

  • Public investment in defensive driver training to re-educate motorists
  • High levels of awareness of the dangers of driving too close
  • Hard-hitting advertising campaigns – not just at Christmas and in the summer to tackle drink-driving but all year round, targeting a wide range of issues
  • Better road signage to explain why certain speed limits are set – for example, where there is justification for 40 mph on a dual carriageway, additional road signs should state why that speed limit has been set, to avoid drivers ignoring it by not seeing the relevance.

    These are just a few examples of where we could tackle road safety in Britain and we should have the foresight to understand the long-term financial benefits by removing the burden on our emergency services and hospitals, as well as increasing productivity for British industry by a reduction in time off work through injury.

    The fleet sector is leading the way to a large extent by investing in risk management and driver training but we are still at an early stage. Is this as a result of a degree of social conscience towards employees and the public? Or is it more to do with ever-stringent health and safety regulations which mean it is becoming too risky not to take action? Whatever the reasons, we should applaud our industry for once again leading the way.

    On the subject of Government initiatives, my view is that it will take many years of campaigning to change its short-termism and develop road safety strategies based on potential results, not potential earnings.

    In the meantime, let's hope the increasingly responsible attitude of the fleet sector, combined with continued lobbying, will rub off on the Government.'

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