No Excuse

 

Dorset County Council is currently one of the worst performing local highway authorities in England, in terms of meeting the government’s 2010 casualty reduction targets. Based on 2008 calendar year data, the authority has seen the number of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) reduce by only 10% compared with the 94/98 base average, whereas the national average performance is more than 36% below base.

 

Between 2002 and 2006 the trend in KSI casualties in Dorset was downward and on course to meet government targets, but for reasons which are still unclear, the figures for 2007 and 2008 showed a disappointing upward trend. Provisional data for 2009 shows a slight improvement over the previous 2 years but a major co-ordinated effort amongst partner agencies is now required if Dorset is to achieve its 2010 target.

 

The government has put an economic value on road casualties, with the average cost of a KSI calculated as £311,916 based on latest figures. In 2008 there were 294 recorded KSI casualties across the Dorset County Council area, costing the local economy more than £90 million; but no cost can truly be put on the tragic impact on the individuals and families involved.

 

The government’s new road safety strategy beyond 2010 sets challenging new 10-year targets. Dorset County Council and its key partners will need to re-focus their efforts on improving the delivery of road safety locally. It must do this through better use of data evidence, more systematic information sharing, better evaluation and supporting skills development. It must also focus on dealing with certain road user behaviours that persist; tackling irresponsible road use but supporting responsible road use.

 

Detailed analysis of various interventions over recent years concluded that a combination of engineering, education and enforcement was the most beneficial in terms of KSI casualty reduction numbers. However, the number of single sites in Dorset where there are clusters of collisions that can be treated through traditional engineering methods is gradually reducing. There needs to be a concerted shift in focus towards a well co-ordinated, mass-action, combined enforcement/education/publicity push.

 

Previous experience in Dorset supports a combined long-term mass enforcement and publicity approach with good media management and communications targeting specific high-risk routes, behaviours and road user groups. The A37 between Dorchester and Yeovil was the first route in Dorset to be trialled with this approach in 2002/3. Using a detailed data intelligence-led high profile enforcement and publicity campaign over 18 months, KSI casualties were reduced significantly along the route and this performance has been sustained. This award-winning project has set the mould for combined interventions on other identified high-risk routes, but they require significant resources to deliver, particularly in relation to dedicated enforcement and media advertising.

 

In its new road safety strategy consultation document, “A Safer Way”, the government identified a successful approach delivered by Essex County Council and its strategic partners, which saw the number of KSI’s reduce by more than 30% in 18 months.  This approach replicated our own experience with the A37 project but was delivered across Essex on a countywide scale. Dorset County Council and its partners have now joined forces to fund and deliver such a project throughout 2010.

 

The year-long project called, “no excuse”, involves all the key agencies and partners working together through “Dorset Road Safe”, the delivery arm of the Dorset Strategic Road Safety Partnership.


The County Council is providing £200,000 of its government reward grant funds towards a carefully targeted publicity and education programme. Dorset Police and the Safety Camera Partnership are providing a dedicated team of officers and vehicles to undertake the additional enforcement measures require. Funding for this element is being met through the fees received by referrals to an education programme rather than penalty points being given for certain offences.

 

Members of “Dorset Road Safe”, including The Highways Agency, Dorset Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnership, Dorset Fire and Rescue Service, Bournemouth Borough Council and the Borough of Poole are providing additional resources in support of the project.

 

Several groups of road users have been identified as high priority for this project. They are;

• car drivers (particularly younger drivers)
• car passengers
• motorcyclists.

 

The key target behaviours to be addressed are;

• mobile phone use whilst driving
• non wearing of seat belts
• bad and careless driving
• drink and drug driving
• inappropriate speed.

 

Specific routes with the highest casualty rates will be targeted on a daily basis using intelligence-led overt and covert enforcement activity, delivered by Dorset Roads Policing Unit supported by the Dorset Safety Camera Partnership. All road users across the county will benefit from this approach, not just those in the target groups. Areas of social deprivation and those, through intelligence, identified with poor road user behaviour, will receive particular attention.

 

The co-ordinated mass education/publicity programme in support of the enforcement activity will include; media launches, press releases, regular news updates with case studies, production and distribution of publicity and promotional materials and carefully targeted radio and visual advertising aimed at getting maximum exposure to the key messages.

 

The key public media messages of the programme will be:

• If you break the law whilst driving or riding a motorbike in Dorset, you are likely to be caught and prosecuted
• Although we will focus on our main KSI routes and areas, you could be detected anywhere, anytime
• Road policing enforcement will be a mixture of sustained high visibility policing and covert operations
• We will focus on reducing the number of KSI casualties on the roads of Dorset to below 200 in 2010 – but we need the help of all Dorset road users
• We want Dorset’s road users to be the safest in the region

 

These messages will aim to enhance the enforcement activity and change the behaviour and attitude of road users in Dorset towards increased road safety and collision reduction. An important legacy will be that fewer individuals will have been the victims of fatal, life-changing or serious injury in road traffic collisions on Dorset’s roads.

 

Additional information