The Safer Essex Roads Partnership
The Safer Essex Roads Partnership (SERP) has brought together the three local authority areas of Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council to provide a road safety service across ‘Greater Essex’.
The other SERP partners are Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue Service, Highways England, The Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust, The East of England NHS Trust and The Safer Roads Foundation.
The partnership’s purpose is to reduce death and serious injury on Essex roads to zero, an ambitious vision and one which we cannot tackle alone: each road user plays a part.
We have set a challenging interim target to reduce death and serious injuries by 40% by 2020 (from the baseline average of 2005-2009), which equates to fewer than 607 deaths and serious injuries, and fewer than 4,108 slight injuries, by 2020.
The reason for the ambitious target is that 607 lives cut short, permanently changed, or involved in serious injury resulting in hospitalisation and time off work each year, is far too high. Many more lives – of the families and friends of those injured – are also changed in the instant their loved one is injured in a road traffic collision.
In 2014 there were 39 deaths (more than three each month), 708 serious injuries (more than 13 each week) and 4,728 slight injuries (more than 13 each day!). Records indicate that for every injury collision reported to the police, there are 10 damage only collisions; so that’s 130 ‘bangs, knocks and bumps’ in Essex every day.
Our plan (JRSDP)
We promote road safety and casualty reduction through a number of activities, interventions, programmes and products which involve a combination of education, engagement, engineering and enforcement.
In order to achieve our target we review the previous year’s collision data to evaluate what we have achieved and understand whether we are targeting the right road user groups in the right way at the right time.
This analysis forms the basis of a Joint Road Safety Delivery Plan (JRSDP) which is being delivered for the first time this year (2015). During the year we will monitor data on a weekly basis to allow us to evaluate our activities and change the plan if necessary by redirecting resources to road user groups experiencing high numbers or unexpected increases in fatal or serious casualty numbers.
The JRSDP details the activities each partner will deliver with partnership support and funding. We will interact directly with more than 270,000 Essex road users each year and will, we hope, reach a total of 600,000 using various media for campaigns.
In 2014 we delivered more than 47,000 NDORS (National Driver Offender Retraining Scheme) courses to drivers and riders who were caught having committed an offence such a speeding or careless driving or riding; most caused by a momentary lack of concentration or lack of awareness.
Next year we hope to provide courses to more drivers to improve hazard perception skills and to improve their knowledge of the laws and consequences of poor driver behaviour.
Following feedback from drivers who have enjoyed the educational opportunity these courses provide, we would also like to deliver a course to drivers who have not been caught offending but who would simply like to brush up their awareness and hazard perception skills.
Each week we ‘Surround-A-Town’ (SAT) in Essex, Southend or Thurrock for a day. We stop drivers displaying the ‘fatal four’ behaviours; speeding, drink or drug driving, not wearing a seatbelt or using a hand held mobile phone. Drivers are offered the chance to attend one of our ever-popular courses but are also spoken to about road safety by one of the SERP partners. Our partners not directly involved in the enforcement element will be in the town centre talking to shoppers and commuters about road safety issues relevant to them.
Other teams also go into schools to deliver ‘Speedwatch’. This activity stops drivers who speed past the school, offering them the choice to pay their speeding ticket or to talk to the children. With the children asking drivers tough questions such as, “What would you tell my Mummy if you ran me over and killed me today?”, this is far from an easy option.
We also deliver road safety messages in schools to years 7, 9 and 11 through theatre in education (TIE), with each play focusing on the issues our data shows is relevant to that age group. Wherever possible, TIE is delivered as part of a SAT day to enable children to talk about what they have seen when they get home – and generate as many road safety conversations as possible in each household that evening.
We also try to deliver our year 5 and 6 road safety training in primary schools on SAT days for the same reason.
Volunteer groups also help us to ‘Surround the Town’ by delivering Community Speedwatch in their local area because they care about the speed of traffic through their community. Essex Fire and Rescue is already heavily involved in the delivery of these days using our ‘Community Wheels’ vehicle and fire service volunteers to talk to people about issues of concern. Last year we engaged with more than 34,500 people during these days.
Enforcement is an essential part of road safety but we aim to use it as a means to engage and educate. It is far more beneficial for a driver to attend an awareness/training course than simply pay a fine and accept points on their licence. We receive many letters from course attendees commending our trainers and the content and delivery of the courses. Thank you to everyone that takes the trouble to write to us to help us improve our service.
In 2014 Essex Police stopped more than 21,000 drivers, riders and cyclists and, as well as offering education, they also seized more than 600 unroadworthy vehicles (including no insurance or MoT) and made 337 arrests for crime and serious traffic offences. The partnership therefore supports the police objectives and combines resources to tackle multiple issues including removing criminals from the roads.
Motorcyclists are a key target group as they comprise less than 1% of the traffic but have 26% of fatal and serious collisions (154 in 2014). 42% of these involved male riders aged 16-25 years.
We engaged with more than 15,000 riders last year, by the road side; offering coffee and a burger for those stopping to talk to us, at large motorcycle gatherings and in colleges. We deploy a variety of tools including ’Firebike’, magazines, advertising campaigns and questionnaires and deliver a range of rider improvement opportunities through the Essex Police Bikesafe scheme and the Essex FireBike Better Biking and Advanced Machine Skills courses.
In addition to our education and engagement activities with riders themselves, we undertake campaigns targeting other road users to encourage them to be aware of, and constantly look out for, motorcyclists and other powered two wheeler riders.
Young drivers up to the age of 25 years (particularly young men) are also a key group as they make up 30% of all deaths and serious injuries among car drivers. They are more over three times more likely to contribute to a fatal or serious collision than other car drivers.
Last year we spoke directly to more than 37,000 young drivers at our Roadster events in schools and colleges; at pre-driving courses; through driving instructors discussing the ‘Honest Truth’ ideas with their pupils; through Firebreak and National Citizenship Services summer camps; by using the Ford driving simulator at Waltham Abbey fire station; at Freshers’ Fayres and at evening gatherings; and we reached around 100,000 young drivers through advertising campaigns.
Road safety education in school
We aim to influence young drivers long before they get into a car by starting a young person’s road safety education in school. We deliver instruction to year 5 pupils in over 400 schools to help them make independent journeys before secondary school. We also support district councils delivering ‘Crucial Crew’ to year 6 students and ‘Reality Roadshow’ to year 9 students – and we put road safety plays into years 7, 9 and 11/12. In total we reach more than 82,000 children in this way.
Also in schools we offer the national Bikeability training scheme, and trained 7,780 children last year. We also offer this to adults, as well as working with various group to promote safe cycling as a sustainable transport option.
There has been a rise in pedal cyclist casualties but this has been caused largely by the behaviour of car drivers – small changes and better understanding is needed from both parties. Over half of all pedal cyclists who were to blame for their collision were aged under 25 years.
Deaths and serious injury among elderly road users is increasing. There are difficult issues to tackle in helping elderly people understand when they should give up driving. However, our aim is to keep elderly drivers driving safely for as long as possible. We are keen to work with any groups that engage with older people to help us deliver the right interventions to improve safety for older people on the roads.
We deliver additional targeted enforcement and advertising/awareness on trunk roads and motorways, working with neighbouring police authorities to provide a continuous presence on major routes.
For 2015, the partnership has match funded a contribution from Essex County Council to provide patrols on the A12 to improve safety and hopefully reduce congestion. Close following is a particular problem and small changes all drivers could easily make are to slow down a little and leave a bigger gap.
The partnership has been able to provide an additional rapid response vehicle for the Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust to provide essential cover when the helicopters can’t fly.
We also identify collision sites where cost effective engineering solutions can be implemented to reduce casualties at these locations.
We also undertake safety audits on all schemes affecting road user behaviour on the highway to minimise risk through design (including risks to those who have to maintain the sites).
We also investigate each fatal collision to ensure that we use all the information available to improve the highway and to provide information to other similar road users who may be unaware of the risks involved with certain behaviours.
We are dedicated to reducing death and serious injury on the roads in Essex to zero. However, as with all safety issues, each road user has to take responsibility for themselves and their actions. We also urge you to take responsibility for others too; those who are more vulnerable than you because they have less protection or because they are less skilled, less aware or just being daft.
If we all make a small change to our driving, think about what we are doing, and take care of each other we should all be able to use the roads safely and make it home.
Nicola Foster MSc. FIHE, I.Eng.