Safety First On The UK's Roads
Tiger.co.uk whole-heartedly supports any initiatives that help to make our streets a safer place for both pedestrians and for drivers, especially anything that reduces the risks of injury to children. A recent report published in February 2011 by the Department of Transport (Road Safety Research Report No. 123 – Road User Safety and Disadvantage) highlights a number of good ideas for improving road safety in less affluent areas where road safety problems tend to be accentuated. We wanted to share a summary of these with you in order to help to highlight both the issues in this area and the need for collective, concerted action in order to help to solve them.
The report establishes a clear correlation between living in a disadvantaged or less affluent area of the UK and a higher risk of being involved in a road accident, especially for young people and children.
The report found that disadvantaged areas are often more congested because they are more densely populated and there tends to be more “through traffic” to retail outlets and venues like football stadia. This, coupled with the fact that they also tend to be older housing areas which were not designed to cope with this sort of traffic, means that they can be harder for pedestrians to navigate safely.
There was also evidence in the report to suggest that where a new road system has been put in place, it tends to favour motorists rather than pedestrians, with badly placed crossings and traffic lights sometimes giving only limited crossing time for pedestrians.
Some of these problems are not unique to disadvantaged areas but in more affluent districts there are generally more green spaces in public areas and bigger houses with gardens, resulting in fewer children playing on the streets.
Another aspect of the problem is that some people living in disadvantaged areas lead lifestyles that leave them more exposed to risk. They are more exposed to general crime, vandalism and anti-social behaviour which means that although they were found to be as aware of the road safety risks as people from more affluent areas, these risks can take a back seat when compared to other concerns such as personal safety.
The report also highlighted that motorists in less affluent areas are more likely to drive recklessly, without car insurance or seatbelts and that the punishments for this sort of behaviour were neither sufficient nor well enough enforced to deter people. It was also noted that younger people in general exhibit behaviour that can lead to increased risks of accidents such as listening to loud music or trying to dodge traffic but this was found to be the case universally and not just affecting people from less affluent areas.
The report contains some measures that could potentially reduce traffic related incidents. These include:
- The application of thorough transport assessments for new builds and developments with regards to parking and traffic flow. These already occur for larger developments but the cumulative impact of small developments is not always taken into account.
- The implementation of practical measures such as improving signage, building better road crossings, having safe pavement areas near bus stops and increasing crossing time at traffic lights and in 20 mph zones.
- Introducing initiatives such as “park and stride” schemes that encourage parents on the school run to park in pre-arranged retail car parks and then finish their journeys on foot in order to reduce the numbers of cars driving near schools.
- Changing driving attitudes, particularly in less affluent areas, by properly and visibly enforcing existing traffic laws.
- Educating residents about the possible consequences of driving recklessly and making sure that specific groups are targeted with specific messages rather than taking a more general approach.
- Making sure that there are strong partnerships with clear roles and leaders throughout the various stakeholders involved with road safety such as the police, fire brigade and local councils, making sure that local people are not just consulted but actively involved in relevant projects.
If you would like to do something to help your local community to improve road safety or if you are concerned about the standard of road safety in your area we would recommend that you contact your local council or your local MP – you can check out who this is and contact them at http://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/.