Road safety – six changes for the New Year
The UK has some of the safest roads in the world, but with the ongoing debate around smart motorways, fatality statistics unchanged since 2010 and various legislative changes expected, what else does the year ahead hold for road safety?
During the latter part of 2019 and in the wake of a number of high-profile deaths, smart motorways emerged as a hot topic.
The smart motorway network, which uses variable speed limits to manage traffic and tackle stop-start congestion, will cover 488 miles by April 2020. However, with concerns over safety, Highways England are under pressure to defend the scheme.
Speed Limit enforcement cameras have been in place since July 2019 and further legislation is expected, to include a £100 fine and endorsement of three penalty points for drivers caught driving in a closed smart motorway lane shown by a red X.
Graduated Driving Licences (GDL)
In Britain, drivers under 25 make up only 7% of licence holders but represent nearly 20% of drivers killed or seriously injured in a crash. This had led to calls for a GDL system that includes a 12-month learner period, an initial test, and then a novice period when new drivers can drive independently but with restrictions.
According to the RAC, the restrictions would likely feature curfews, a limit to the number of passengers allowed as well as separate, lower speed limits than for the general driving population. P plates may also become mandatory and there could even be lower alcohol limits for new drivers.
A graduated licence scheme is set to be piloted in Northern Ireland this year, with the potential to be rolled out across the rest of the UK if successful.
Review of the Offence of Driving whilst using a Handheld Mobile Device
The Government has pledged to take forward, as a matter of urgency, work to review the offence of driving with a handheld mobile device amid concerns that the current legislation does not ‘reflect the real world’.
Ministers have ruled out extending the ban to driving with hands-free options, but the Department for Transport sets out actions it will take to deter people from using these devices while driving. The Government will refocus efforts to help police and the Crown Prosecution Service take effective enforcement action against offenders but the penalties, upgraded two years ago to a £200 fixed penalty and six penalty points, are unlikely to change.
Ministers are expected to have proposals in place by spring 2020.
Road Closures at School Time
An 18-month pilot scheme to close streets around schools to motorised traffic at peak times was launched in Cardiff on 6 January 2020. The aim of the scheme is not only to make streets safer, but to improve air quality at the school gates, increase physical activity levels and reduce traffic congestion.
Residents living on the streets affected will be issued with permits to access their properties and there will be some other exemptions, including blue badge holders and emergency services. Anyone else driving in the restricted zone at these times can be issued with a Fixed Penalty Notice charge of £70, reduced to £35 if paid within 21 days.
The scheme will be reviewed at the end of the 18 month trial with a consideration of whether it should be made permanent and/or extended.
20mph Speed Limits
In June 2019 Transport for London (TfL) announced plans to introduce 20mph limits on all central London roads by May 2020. The 20mph limits have been described as a key part of the mayor’s Vision Zero ambition to eliminate death and serious injury on the Capital’s transport network.
While no start date has been officially confirmed, the 20mph limits will initially cover all TfL roads in the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) including Millbank, Albert Embankment, Victoria Embankment and Borough High Street.
Focus on Drivers at Work
IAM RoadSmart has called for ‘urgent action’ to tackle the decade-long stagnation in the number of collisions caused by drivers at work.
A recent survey reveals that nearly one in five (17%) of employees have been involved in an incident when driving for work due to a phone call from a colleague. IAM RoadSmart says the survey highlights ‘alarming practices and attitudes’ when it comes to employers and their drivers.
Tony Greenidge, IAM RoadSmart business development director, said: “If companies are expecting their employees to use their own vehicles for business journeys, they must ensure they are doing so safely and with appropriate guidelines, if they are to stay within the law.”
For further advice or information on any of the topics raised, please contact - Kathryn Turner, Associate