By Neil Greig
It was a real pleasure to take part in the Radio 4 ‘Positive Thinking’ programme back in the summer on the big question ‘Can we make road deaths a thing of the past?’. Presenter Sangita Myska set the scene with an interview with a Swedish expert, Dr Matts-Åke Belin, a pioneer of the ground-breaking Vision Zero project to eradicate all traffic fatalities and Director of the Vision Zero Academy at the Swedish Transport Administration.
Preparing for the interview panel made me realise that the term ‘Vision Zero’ has been around for a large part of my career in road safety but it is still struggling to gain traction in the outside world. To confirm this suspicion, we recently polled IAM RoadSmart members on the question – “Have you ever heard of Vision Zero as a road safety concept?” Unfortunately, 82% of the 1,300 respondents said no! This is particularly worrying amongst a group of people committed to road safety by taking the advanced driving or riding test.
Since the programme aired a long list of organisations from the UN and the Scottish Government, through to Kent and Essex County Councils have reaffirmed the ‘Vison Zero’ and ‘Safe System’ approach as the bedrock of their new strategic road safety plans.
These commitments are very welcome, but our survey underlines the key importance of communicating exactly what this means to the vast numbers of the driving and riding public who have far greater things on their minds right now than road safety. A true ‘Safe System’ will protect those who stick to the rules, so it is vital that this message is promoted. If you don’t speed, don’t drive intoxicated or distracted and are in the latest car then you shouldn’t die on the roads – a strong commitment. Individuals need to know what is expected of them and how they can hold decision makers to account if the system fails.
Today (28th October 2021) sees the launch of the Second UN Decade for Road Safety Action. All excellent high-level words and clear actions for governments of all shapes and sizes, but we must never forget that it is people who suffer the impact of road risk. Plans made without their full engagement will not deliver the laudable UN target of a 50% reduction in road deaths by 2030, or the ultimate visors of zero casualties that we all aspire to.
You can listen to the Radio 4 programme here - https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000yknw