The DfT recently published its 2017 road casualty statistics and they make for sober reading. More cyclists were involved in fatal or serious collisions and more motorcyclists, both numerically and by rate. 19,000 collisions of all severities involving cyclists and another 19,000 with motorcyclists. Think about that. 38,000 people harmed in some way on the roads, just from those two groups.
And while it isn’t true, of course, that fleet vehicles are responsible for all, or even most, of these collisions, they often are disproportionately involved, both because of their size and their mileage.
- There were 776 fatal or serious collisions involving buses. That’s 15% up on 2016.
- 2,132 serious or fatal collisions involving vans – that’s 5% up.
- The only small chink of light is that the HGV collision numbers reduced fractionally. Only by 1.7% but we’ll take it. Any reduction in collisions is a good reduction.
Overall, however, as a nation, we’re no longer moving forwards on road safety. The significant reductions we saw between 2006 and 2010 have not continued and we now see at best a plateau, at worst, a slight decline. There are many reasons: the government says increases often reflect better police reporting. Road safety charity Brake says cuts in road traffic policing and a lack of national reduction targets are to blame.
There’s another reason, although it is hard to quantify. There is only so much you can do to reengineer roads and vehicles, set and enforce laws, and reinforce safety messages which most of us already know.
Know but do not necessarily act upon! Look at mobile phone use – the penalty went up to £200 and six penalty points. Everyone knows that using a handheld mobile while driving is dangerous and illegal. Yet an RAC study showed that, regardless, one in two drivers said they would call while stuck in traffic and one in five checks social media.
So the ultimate reason our road collision rates aren’t going down? People. Not the roads, not the weather, not the level of congestion, not the proliferation of bicycles, or drivers’ lack of skill. People’s habits, attitudes and behaviours.
So is the fleet industry failing on road safety? Well, unless managers proactively address driver behaviour in order to prevent collision, then yes.
It is essential to know not just what actions the driver takes but why. What was he or she doing before the event? Were they focused? Was their speed appropriate to conditions and not just the speed limit? Were they driving as though the safety of those around them was their number one priority and reaching their destination number two?
We all owe it to one another to think about these things, in our own driving, but most particularly if you are in charge of a fleet of drivers. Fleets have the power to do something amazing – to help model safe and considerate driving for the whole country.
- Posted by Nicola Burgess
- On November 23, 2018