The latest road safety figures published last week reveal that 2,222 people were killed on UK roads in 2009, 12% fewer than in 2008.
The number of fatalities fell for almost all types of road user, with a fall of 16% for car occupants, 13% for pedestrians, 10% for pedal cyclists and 4% for motorcyclists.
It is estimated that one in every three people killed on the roads was driving for work at the time.
This puts a huge onus on fleet managers to manage this risk – driving is the most dangerous thing most employees will do while at work.
But new research by the Department for Transport may help after it concluded that educating drivers on the implications of speed is likely to have a positive impact and enable speed limits to be enforced.
It said that using education to reinforce the message that speeding is unacceptable should be seen as prevention tool rather than punishment.
In many areas of the UK, an alternative to penalty points and paying fines comes in the shape of speed awareness courses. The courses are designed to improve drivers’ skills, attitudes and behaviour.
“I’ve seen so many people come out of the courses with a profound difference in opinion,” a spokesman from AA DriveTech explains.
“They do not always think about the consequences when speeding. These courses allow drivers to come face to face with the reality of speeding and how it can affect lives.”
But speed-awareness courses do not have to be taken after an offence or as a punishment. Many companies including the AA offer courses to fleet drivers.
A study conducted in 2008 by the University of Reading demonstrated that the attitudes among drivers educated after committing a speeding offence shows they have much improved intentions to drive within the limit.
The evaluation was based on measuring the attitudes of drivers attending speed awareness workshops in the Thames Valley region. The report looked at the differences in attitudes between those drivers who attended a speed awareness course and those that received a fixed penalty.
It was found that after the classroom-based training, drivers are nearly five times less likely to think that it is safe to drive at 35 mph in a 30mph limit. In the months that followed the course drivers had a clearer intention not to break the 30mph limit.
The most common contributing factors of speeding are shown to be self-efficacy (drivers believing they can control the vehicle) and attitudes towards speeding.
Fleet drivers also need to be aware that lower speed limits, such as 20mph zones in built-up areas, are likely to become more common. And demand for lower speed limits is strengthening.
In a recent survey by Brake and Direct Line, 60% of respondents want 20mph to be the limit around homes and built-up areas and 42% would prefer a reduction to 50mph on rural roads.
Although people support the need to have safer roads, most admitted speeding themselves, 36% at least once a week.
“Our research suggests that drivers do understand that slowing down saves lives – as they overwhelmingly support lower speed limits on both urban and rural roads. At the same time, the majority of drivers continue to break speed limits, and tell us that enforcement is the main factor that persuades them to slow down,” explained Julie Townsend, Brake’s campaigns director.