New highway schemes and developmental infrastructure should ideally be designed and implemented in accordance with safe systems principles. One way to help achieve this is through the appropriate use of road safety audits, non-motorised user audits and quality audits. There have been significant developments in this field in the last 12 months with Transport for London introducing a new Safety Audit Procedure in May 2014 and more recently the publication of the long awaited departmental standard for Road Safety Audit; DMRB HD19/15. The new HD19/15 standard, which supersedes both HD19/03 and IAN 152/11, incorporates enhanced requirements for auditor competency, and is intended to provide clarity in terms of roles, responsibilities and the process relative to the audit function. It is mandatory for use on trunk road and motorway schemes and can optionally be adopted for use on local authority administered infrastructure schemes.
For those professionals working in the fields of road safety, highway design or traffic engineering, it is important that they are aware of these recent developments. It is also useful to understand why audit and other road safety related casualty prevention and reduction interventions are so important.
In 2013 1,713 people died on the roads of Great Britain as a result of traffic collisions. A further 21,657 people were seriously injured and 115,290 people were slightly injured. Although this set of casualty figures were the lowest since records began and Britain is one of the best performing countries in the world in the terms of road safety, this level of death and injury is still unacceptable and needs to be continually addressed. Traditionally, road safety intervention has involved the identification of locations where clusters of collisions have occurred and the introduction of measures to reduce the number of future collisions. As collision frequency has reduced, locating problem sites and developing effective remedial measures has become increasingly difficult; accordingly alternative approaches need to be considered.
In 2011, the United Nations launched the Decade of Action for Road Safety. The primary aim of this ten year initiative is to raise the political profile of road safety and to ensure action is taken to reduce worldwide fatalities by 50% by the year 2020. The core principle of the Decade of Action is to recognise that road users will make mistakes and that no one should die for making a simple mistake whilst using a road. Roads, vehicles and road user education should be developed in a manner to accommodate human frailties and ensure that when a collision does happen, that no one receives fatal injuries as a consequence. In essence we should be striving to achieve 5 star drivers, in 5 star vehicles, on 5 star roads. This approach is referred to as ‘Safe Systems’.
Transport professionals can play a key role in the development of 5 star roads. However, the design of roads can only go so far in improving road safety. Over 90% of all collisions involve some element of human error. Therefore professionals should ideally have some appreciation of the role that human factors manifest in road collisions and furthermore how education and enforcement can be used to effectively complement remedial engineering and road safety audit.
Projects Director, Mott MacDonald Integrated Transport
Join John at one of our upcoming Road Safety Audit courses to learn more about this timely topic!