Fleet News

Guest opinion: Falling death toll is down to your effort

WE’RE killing fewer people on our roads – 8% fewer in 2004 than in 2003. That’s 280 people – more than the entire population, for example, of the village where I live.

What’s more, we’re seriously injuring fewer people as well. That’s down by a similar percentage. It all adds up to a good news story especially when you consider that the regularly quoted figure of 10 people dying on our roads each day is no longer true – now it’s down to under nine.

To put this in perspective, consider that we are trying to reduce the toll on our roads from an already low base. In 1991, 4,753 people were killed on our roads. By 1998 it had fallen to 3,581 but it wasn’t until last year that we saw another significant reduction. And this was against an increase in traffic of some 19% since 1991.

Consider too that in comparison with other European countries our roads are among the very safest in Europe. In terms of deaths per million of population – the only fair way to compare rates – we lie second only behind the very safety-conscious Swedes.

But despite the already low starting point, we’re still managing to drive down deaths and serious injuries on our roads.

How? Well, in significant part it’s due to you – the fleet operator. Road safety is, at long last, starting to make its way up the list of priorities. You’re attending more road safety seminars, you’re taking the advice given in the myriad of publications on driving-at-work issues and you’re passing on in your companies a culture that inculcates work-related road safety as part of your workplace ethos.

The business car driver is no longer seen universally as the scourge he or she was once perceived to be on the road. But there is an area that worries me and that is the use of private cars for business. Whether it’s an employee who has taken the cash route or somebody who has never had a company-provided vehicle, the result is the same – a vehicle over which you, as the fleet manager, have little or no knowledge or control. It’s not a situation I’d be comfortable with.

But overall, and there is still some considerable way to go, we’re getting there. So far I’ve been talking about starting to influence and change drivers’ behaviour and what you’re doing to help that.

Now local and highway authorities have to do their bit by upgrading our roads. Motorways are without doubt our safest roads while main dual carriageways run second.

The roads where most accidents occur are on single carriageway main roads. More can, and must, be done to help cut the toll further. I’m thinking specifically of the objects, often pretty solid objects, that line our roads. Signposts with huge metal poles sunk deep into the ground, lamp posts standing on the kerb edge instead of behind the pavement, and trees. Hit even a small tree with a car and it’s the car that undoubtedly comes off worst, along with the driver and passengers. I’m also thinking about unclear or hidden speed limit signage and worn-out road surfaces with the skid resistance of an ice rink.

In addition, highway authorities in particular must place more emphasis on the safe design of major roads. Separate through-traffic from our towns and villages while slowing down the vehicles that go into them. Better signposting, even down to road names – how often do you see a road name only at the end of a street and never on a cross junction? Better, more efficient street lights. Barriers that separate cars and pedestrians. The list is virtually endless and priorities need to be established.

So, the conclusion is; so far, so good, but more yet needs to be done. Now is not the time for fleet managers to sit back and rest on their laurels. You’ve done well, but you can do more.

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