The RAC Foundation has long campaigned for reduced signage and clutter on our roads to help make streets more attractive and, in many instances, the roads easier to negotiate. It is for example well known that ’too much information’ can ‘overload’ drivers and have a detrimental effect on their ability to drive safely. ’Naked streets’ have, where trialled, proved largely effective at both improving streetscapes and road safety especially in urban environments where the road is shared by many different methods of transport. It is however important to get the balance right, (See PACTS report on shared space initiatives) and as the debate progresses all interested parties will need to ensure the pendulum doesn’t swing too far in the opposite direction!
Archive for the ‘Campaigns’ Category
Many motorists will be cheering news announced by Home Office Minister, Lynne Featherstone MP, that clamping cars parked on private land is to be banned in England and Wales from next year. The announcement follows years of scandalous behaviour by some clampers who have been charging extortionate amounts of money for clamp release, towing and storage fees.
But how have these rogue operators been able to get away with it? The answer is simple: the government let them. The majority of these clampers, some two thousand by 2010, were actually licensed by the SIA (Security Industry Authority) – an agency of the Home Office itself. The intention was good, and so inevitably took motorists on the road to Hell. The qualifications for getting a wheelclamping licence have been too few, as have the conditions for keeping the licence. For example, no limits were set for clamp release fees and other ‘services’. And the SIA could not visit enough sites frequently to ensure the public was not being exploited.
Worst of all, when things have gone wrong for motorists there has been no appeals service to adjudicate. Motorists have had access to small claims courts and other parts of the legal system. But taking a rogue wheelclamper to court – and then getting him to return your money and pay costs - has been predictably difficult and more than citizens should have to attempt for parking in the wrong place at the wrong time.
With more than twenty nine million vehicles on the roads of England and Wales, every one needing to park at some point in a journey, parking provision is big business. Local authorities cannot meet the whole demand and commercial enterprise is needed to make up the shortfall. Motorists themselves do not always think about parking provision at such regular stops as the supermarket or local sports centre; nevertheless, someone has had to provide the land and maintain it as a safe place to leave a car.
The government is used to regulating the provision of commercial services in other areas of life and should now pay attention to regulating the parking industry properly. Anyone providing parking services should be required to join an accredited trade association and adhere to a code of practice, approved by experts in the industry, motoring organisations and the government itself. Such a code could set out in detail what motorists could expect from parking providers as well as limits to penalty charges. An independent appeals service should also be established: sponsored and funded by the government with support from parking industry itself. The government must also level the playing field for parking enforcement companies and make drivers who do not pay for their parking and persistently evade excess charges responsible for paying up. Ultimately, we need a good regulatory framework for commercial parking services and an appeals mechanism for occasions when things go wrong.
The latest in a string of breath- taking adverts desperately trying to promote safe and sensible driving, features a car crash at 30mph where the driver has neglected to wear his seat belt.
It is shame such a graphic advert is required to bring home to people such a simple message- wear your seat belt. This message must be taken on board by not only drivers, but passengers too- as a previous advert highlighted the dangers of a back seat passenger not wearing their seatbelt, mainly that they can crush those in the front seat.
In a further attempt to encourage people to “clunk, click every trip” the Government is considering doubling the fine for not wearing a seat belt from £30 to £60.
1 in 6 road deaths could be avoided if seat belts are worn.
The RAC Foundation urges motorists and passengers to wear their seat belts for all journeys, which includes a 2 minute trip to the local shops as well as a 2 hour motorway journey. As seat belt wearing advocate Sir Jimmy Savile says:
“It takes 2 seconds to be thrown through a window, but 2 years to put your face back together.”
Harsh but true.
Source: The Scotsman, Shocking TV ad scares us into belting up in the car, 4/11/08
Today is Ride to Work Day, an event promoted by the motorcycle community to highlight the congestion-busting potential of motorcycles and scooters – and to encourage those bikers who normally only ride at weekends to use their bikes for work as well as leisure.
The RAC Foundation is a great supporter of the motorcycle as part of the transport mix. In urban areas motorcyclists and scooters are part of the solution to congestion, while in rural areas a bike or scooter can make it possible for young people and those on low incomes who can’t afford a car to have access to the work or educational opportunities that car drivers often take for granted. The motorcycle or scooter offers the flexibility and convenience of the car, while causing less congestion and, for the vast majority of models, less pollution.
One simple measure that would encourage motorcycle commuting and improve safety is allowing “powered two wheelers” to use London’s bus lanes. The unedited Transport for London study showed that there are safety benefits for bikers, pedestrians and pedal cyclists so it’s a real disappointment that the pedal cycle lobby remains vehemently opposed, on what seems to be ideological and emotional grounds, to this safety move. Boris Johnson made opening the bus lanes a manifesto pledge and the Foundation hopes he will stick to his guns on this one.
I’m writing this from the train on the way back from a very high-quality presentation organised by Strathclyde Police and Road Safety Scotland. Like every organisation involved with road safety, the Strathclyde force is concerned about the number of newly qualified drivers coming to grief on their roads and this seminar was held to launch a new campaign, “Drive 4 Safety.“
Being neither a young person nor a parent I wasn’t in the target audience but I was very impressed by the event, especially the afternoon session which showcased a presentation developed by the South Ayrshire Community Safety Partnership called “Reckless Driving Wrecks Lives” – a short film about 4 friends, out in their car for a night and the consequences that unfold from simple decisions – seatbelt or not? – reckless overtake or the safe option? At key moments the film stopped and a member of the emergency services, a bereaved parent and a road crash survivor stepped forward to give their own testimony – what is it like stepping from A and E to meet a parent and tell them that their son couldn’t be saved? What is it like going out from the fire station on a wild, rainy night to try and cut a teenage girl free from the back seat of her boyfriend’s car? How do you come to terms with the fact that your decision not to wear a seatbelt one night has left you in a wheelchair for the rest of your life?
I always think “there but for the grace of God” on such occasions because I’ve been down a country road upside down in a Mini Metro which turned over in a corner – my friend behind the wheel wasn’t bad, or particularly reckless, or under the influence of anything except a mismatch between his ambition and his ability. In another world we weren’t lucky, didn’t land safely back on the wheels in an open field, I didn’t make it to 20, and it’s my dad speaking to an audience of solemn teenagers about how it feels to bury your child.
As the conference took pains to point out, getting a driving licence is a great thing. It’s the first step into the adult world. It’s freedom, it’s independence and it’s instant kudos with your peer group. Hopefully campaigns like this one will cut the number of people for whom it’s also a death warrant.
Urgent and decisive action is needed to bring a halt to the motoring misery caused by over-running road works, according to the RAC Foundation, as the 2008 ALARM survey reveals today (2) for the first time the true number of trenches dug by utility companies.
Every year across England and Wales utility companies are putting 2.5 million trenches into local authority roads – the equivalent of 1500 Albert Halls of holes* – and the congestion that results costs the UK an enormous £8.6 billion**.
The ALARM survey also reveals that the average local authority road surface will be eligible for a pension before its turn comes up for resurfacing: due to lack of funds, the average wait for resurfacing is now 65 years.
The RAC Foundation has been running a campaign for years to try to reduce the chaos caused by long drawn out and un-coordinated roadworks.
Long-delayed powers set out in the 1991 New Roads and Streetworks Act and 2004 Traffic Management Act will be available to local authorities from 1 April 2008. The Foundation is urging all councils to make maximum use of these new powers*** to penalize those firms who refuse to co-ordinate their works with others, who fail to complete works in time, or who leave the road surface in a dangerous state and refuse to pick up the tab for repairs.
The Foundation has also warned that fines imposed on companies who dig up our roads must not just be passed on to the consumer. Stricter financial penalties should improve the speed and performance of utility and telecoms companies, and are the only way to minimise the £8.6 billion pounds worth of delays suffered each year by road users.
Sheila Rainger, Acting Director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Trenches dug by utility companies cause congestion and delay, and can permanently weaken the road surface. Councils, who are already struggling to fund properly planned maintenance, are too often forced to “patch and mend” in their wake.
“The Traffic Management Act increases the powers of local authorities in England and Wales to set binding start and finish dates, order re-surfacing work, and fine those companies who abuse the system. We urge all local authorities to exercise these powers as strongly as possible, whether through the new fixed penalty schemes or through court action.”
* The 2008 ALARM survey calculates that 2.5 million trenches equates to 150 million cubic metres. The volume of the Albert Hall is 100,000 cubic metres.
** The Department for Transport’s follow-up consultation on Notices, Directions and Restrictions, Fixed Penalty Notices and revision of the Charges for Unreasonably Prolonged Occupation of the Highway showed that the cost of congestion of the then estimated 1.1 million holes came out at £4.3 billion.
*** The Traffic Management Permit Scheme (England) Regulations 2007
The RAC Foundation is disappointed to learn that plans to tunnel the A303 at Stonehenge have been indefinitely shelved by the Government today on grounds of cost. The Government has admitted that the tunnel is the only viable environmental option for the World Heritage site, but have still decided to go back to square one and to consult on smaller scale schemes, which are unlikely to provide the same level of environmental, congestion and mobility improvement as the tunnel option.
The RAC Foundation, which has campaigned tirelessly on the road problems at Stonehenge, recently warned politicians that the nation’s current road network is not fit to deal with future population and car ownership growth. The report ‘Roads and Reality’ specifically identified the A303 as a weak link in the nation’s road network, making today’s news all the more unacceptable. The small-scale alternative schemes suggested by the Government for the A344 and the A303/A358 are likely to have some impact, but much more radical action is needed.
David Holmes, Chairman of the RAC Foundation said, ‘ A price should not be put on our heritage in this way. We are extremely disappointed that the Government has condemned Stonehenge to further environmental damage and the A303 to chronic congestion due to their failure to act. Our report, ‘Roads and Reality’ clearly states that the problem of congestion will not go away. Years of misery lie ahead’.
The family of Mr Richard Cooper, who was killed last year after skidding on a diesel spill, have been awarded £110,000 in compensation by the Motor Insurance Bureau. While no amount of money can make up for the loss of a loved one, this decision is hugely significant for the ongoing fight against diesel spills. The MIB provides compensation for injuries and deaths caused by negligent, uninsured drivers. Mr Cooper died in a wholly preventable crash caused by someone else’s carelessness. Spilling diesel on the roads makes the road surface as slippery as ice. It can be caused by deliberate over-filling, failure to replace the fuel cap, or by continuing to use damaged tanks. It kills motorcyclists and other road users, and there is no excuse for it.
Theme two for National Motorway Month was roadworker respect, since despite roadworkers providing an essential service for the public they receive abuse from motorists whilst doing so.
A survey, conducted with roadworkers employed by Amey and BEAR Scotland, revealed that 81% had been verbally or phsically abused by motorists, 40% of which was experienced on either a daily or a weekly basis. The fact that a third of this abuse was reported to involve acts of ‘extreme aggression’, including having food and bottles hurled at them, is particularly distressing.
In the past year, twio roadworkers were killed and nineteen were seriously injured whilst working on England’s roads. Such unacceptable figures are a clear indication that a radical change in motorists’ attitudes is required, in order to put an end to this unprovoked hostility.
Edmund King, Executive Director for the RAC Foundation said:
“In the summer, motorists can become especially irritated with delays on the roads, since thet are eager to reach their holiday destination. There is no excuse for attacking roadworkers or driving wrecklessly through road works in an attempt to speed up the journey. Ironically- speeding through roadworks leads to accidents and hence further delays”.
“The RAC Foundation would urge holidaymakers to plan ahead this summer, leaving ample time to get to their destination in order to account for delays caused both by roadworks and increased traffic flows. It is essential that ‘back- seat drivers’ do not put pressure on their driver to up the pace- when there is clearly no option to do so.”
Drivers approaching road works are advised to:
- Keep within the speed limit- it is there for your safety.
- Get into the correct lane in good time- don’t keep switching.
- Concentrate on the road ahead, not the roadworks.
- Be alert for works traffic leaving or entering roadworks.
- Keep a safe distance- there could be queues in front.
- Observe all signs- they are there to help you.
Hard shoulder safety was the theme for week one (6th-12th August) of National Motorway Month- an initiative jointly promoted by The Royal Automobile Club Foundation, Amey, BEAR Scotland, Transport Scotland, the Highways Agency, the Freight Transport Association, the Suzy Lamplugh Trust and the RAC to encourage safer driving on our motorways this summer.
The RAC Foundation and the Suzy Lamplugh Trust conducted a poll of motorists to find out what people think is the safest way to act when forced to pull over onto the hard shoulder. The Highway Code and RAC recommend drivers park as far left on the hard shoulder as possible and get out of their car and wait on the left hand side away from the traffic.
However, the poll revealed that a quarter of motorists would wait in their car if it was raining- effectively putting vanity and comfort over their safety, since they will be putting themselves at a higher risk of being hit by other vehicles. One third of women asked said that “security” was the reason they would remain in their car.
This point about personal safety was focused on in the second part of the poll which asked motorists whether they would stop to offer assistance to someone who was broken down on the hard shoulder. Twenty-one per cent of men said they would stop to offer help, rising to 60% if the motorist was a woman with young children. This response, whilst well- intended, can lead to stranded motorists, especially women, feeling even more vulnerable since they become anxious when approached by a stranger.
The Suzy Lamplugh Trust would urge motorists not to stop to offer assistance as this not only puts themselves at risk but often prompts the broken down motorist to get back into their car, thereby putting themselves in danger of being hit.
It is also important to note that stopping on the hard shoulder is illegal, except in an emergency i.e. if you have problems with your vehicle, if told to do so by the police, or if emergency signs or signals indicate.
Edmund King, Executive Director of the RAC Foundation said:
“Waiting on the hard shoulder can be made more bearable by planning ahead and packing an umbrella and a coat- especially given the weather conditions this summer. The safest journey is the one that doesn’t involve an unscheduled stop. Motorists can reduce the chances of a breakdown by having their car serviced before setting off.”