London Road Safety Council
Uploaded to Knowledge Centre
20 September 2021
This research project set out to investigate current and future provision of road safety education by local authorities across London, by means of a series of in-depth interviews with senior management and elected members from within these authorities.
These interviews highlighted concerns about reductions in funding and consequent restructuring among road safety teams, which has led to less funding for traditional ETP activities and in many cases fewer staff to deliver interventions.
Other issues highlighted during the course of the research included:
• Lack of understanding and use of casualty data by some local authorities
• Widespread lack of evaluation of road safety interventions
• Concerns about road safety officers’ ability to use social media effectively to promote and advise on road safety issues
• Reductions in the provision of a comprehensive school crossing patrol service across London.
The report stresses the importance of road casualty reduction being viewed as a priority at all levels of strategy planning and implementation in local authorities – including heads of transport and elected councillors.
Local authorities in Britain have a statutory duty to provide road safety information and support to their residents and other road users. In the current context of financial cuts to local authority budgets over recent years, the London Road Safety Council (LRSC) understood that a number of authorities in London were reducing their provision of road safety education, training and publicity (ETP).
There has been no recent research into the extent and nature of road safety ETP provision in London and this research project was designed as an attempt to fill this gap.
The research objectives were to discover the extent of current road safety provision amongst the 33 London authorities – with particular reference to ETP – and to understand the barriers and challenges to maintaining this level of service in the future.
LRSC anticipated that challenges would include uncertainty about future funding leading to pressures to identify savings such as reductions in staffing numbers – and that there would be consequential loss of expertise, and that mergers between teams would lead to a reduction in services provided.
The project hoped to establish the extent of reductions in this provision over the last five years, and to understand the nature of these cuts. The project team also believed there might be advantages to the service in team restructures and possible re-evaluation of road safety ETP provision.
Conclusions and recommendations
The local authority interviews highlighted many concerns about reductions in funding and consequent restructuring among road safety ETP teams. This has inevitably led to less funding for traditional ETP activities and in many cases fewer staff to deliver this. It has also resulted in reductions in the provision of a comprehensive school crossing patrol service across London.
However, it can also be seen that many teams have taken advantage of a restructure to innovate; for example, incorporating road safety education into projects around travel planning and cleaner air, and working with engineering teams to explain and promote the safety advantages of 20mph limits and junction improvement schemes.
The project also highlighted a number of concerns in addition to the main issue of reduced funding for road safety. These included some lack of understanding and use of casualty data by a number of local authorities to inform road safety strategies. Partly as a consequence of this, it was felt many local authorities relied on what they saw as ‘tried and tested’ interventions, such as pedestrian and balance bike training for young children.
A widespread lack of evaluation of road safety interventions was also identified during the interviews. The local authorities were aware of this and felt there was a lack of proper information for them to use.
Motorcyclist casualties are a problem for almost all authorities but, partly because of difficulties in using data effectively, there was a lack of effective planning to address this issue.
Many officers were concerned about their ability to use social media effectively to promote and advise on road safety issues and would welcome training on this.
Recommendations included the following:
• That road casualty reduction must become a priority at all levels of strategy planning and implementation in local authorities, including heads of transport and elected councillors.
• Casualty data should be available and understood at all stages of planning, both for engineering schemes and for interventions which address casualties among road user groups.
• Many road safety teams have lost experienced staff in the course of restructuring teams, and managers should be aware of the need for training newer staff.
• One important and neglected area for training is evaluation, which appeared to be seriously lacking in the provision of road safety interventions.
• Support from elected members is vital to ensure that casualty reduction is treated as a priority by local authorities.
• In London, the relationship between TfL and the local authorities is vital and should be supported on either side. Support from TfL will be especially required if local authorities are to successfully deliver Vision Zero.
For more information and to access the full project report visit the Road Safety Trust website.