Road Safety News

Positive outlook for Suffolk’s road users

Thursday 30th October 2014

A new report which examines the collision risk on Suffolk’s roads suggests that while the overall outlook for the county’s road users is positive, there are significant risks for some road user types.

The ‘area profile’ report was commissioned by Suffolk RoadSafe and carried out by Road Safety Analysis, in order to gain insight and ensure that road safety interventions are directed appropriately. The report examines collision risk on Suffolk’s roads, and the risk to residents of being involved in collisions elsewhere.

It examines all of the main road user types and collisions using a range of measures including casualty rates per head of population and collisions per kilometre of road, Mosaic socio-demographic profiling, Index of Multiple Deprivation and contributory factor analysis.

It found that the overall collision trend is positive on Suffolk’s road network, with a 14% decrease over the last five years, and collision rates per kilometre of road well below the national average.

The county’s resident casualty rate is 6% below the national level, and there has been an 18% decrease in average annual resident casualties over the last five years. The vast majority of Suffolk residents who are injured (83%) sustain those injuries in a road traffic collision on Suffolk’s roads, with most of the remaining injuries occurring in neighbouring counties.

The national trend of young adults (16-24 years) experiencing disproportionately high levels of road risk is even more pronounced in Suffolk; these residents experience a casualty risk rate relative to population that is well over twice the risk for all of the county’s residents.

Resident child casualty rates are well below the national average in every district of Suffolk except one (Waveney) and have dropped significantly in the last five years.

The collision rate for Suffolk’s motorcyclists is 10% higher than the national norm. Although the numebr of collisions involving motorcyclists has fallen by 13% in the last five years, this is a smaller reduction than achieved among other road user groups.

The report concludes that the “overall road safety trend in Suffolk is positive” and that “local residents are at lower risk of being injured than the national average, and collisions on the county’s roads are becoming less frequent”.

However, it adds that “significant risk remains, particularly for young adult drivers in rural districts, and motorcyclists and pedal cyclists in urban areas”.



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In the fault & blame system there always has to be a victim and there always has to be a perpetrator. As Tim rightly describes in such a system the immediate and natural reaction to an incident is to sort out your defence so that you end up as the completely blameless victim. Remove fault & blame from the system and you will stand a chance of getting people to understand how all the parties both proximal and distal contributed to the incident.

We have had defensive driving techniques around for ages, but why is it that these are seen as advanced (ugh) concepts? Surely if they were key to survival on the roads then they would be treated as fundamentals rather than add-on's?

Apart from serial killers the chances of any individual causing the death of any other by any means is going to be around 65 million to one against or the ratio of the individual to the population.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

Duncan (two posts below):
I don't think the "system", whatever that is, does always blame "other people". I think that because they set out with no intention to cause incident, people's instinctive reaction when an incident occurs is to look for a cause that is not of their making. Sometimes they will be right, but in many cases they will have neglected to take some precaution which caused or contributed to the incident.

Honor is right, there has been strong emphasis on self-regulation through road safety promotion activity over many years, in contradiction of the noise coming out of the petrolhead brigade about not interfering with drivers' innate and perfect competences.

I myself have exchanged views with you previously about the need for road users to preserve a margin for error, whether theirs or "the other fellow's". The role of the "other fellow" cannot be ignored however and everyone in some way moderates their actions in accordance with an expectation of the behaviour of others. If we believed everyone else was completely anarchic we would never go anywhere.

PS. Does Professor Spiegelhalster's work measure risk of you causing death to someone else?
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

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Surely we have had Defensive Driving principles around for rather a long time i.e. to anticipate what may happen and what other road users might do and be prepared to act/react accordingly? Isn't this also part of the "system"? Perhaps some ADIs can tell us whether they apply these principles within their tuition?
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

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Exactly right Tim, with the key bit being that the risk accepter understands that different levels of risk accord with how they control their own vehicle. This is completely opposite to the standard mode of thought that the risk rises and falls with how the 'other fellow' controls or fails to control theirs. In a system that always blames the other fellow for accidents and incidents it's no wonder that few people understand that their risk levels are something that they have got to actively manage.
Duncan MacKillop, Startford on Avon

Agree (4) | Disagree (4)

Have you asked some local Highway/Traffic Authorities? They will have carried out lots of remedial measures at sites with a history and may be able to provide information.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

I love the Micromort table as a means of risk comparison. Regrettably I would have to rank it alongside health information on food packaging, none of which I have ever consulted before buying a product. It's true the decision to accept the risk involved in a mode of travel is taken at the point of departure, but this decision is not necessarily conditioned by knowledge or acceptance of said risk. Even if you labelled each vehicle with its rating, this is still only an aggregate figure, subject to variation throughout the journey. I'm guessing there are different levels of risk involved in take-off, flying, and landing. Equally where the risk accepter is in control of the vehicle there are different levels of risk according to how the vehicle is controlled and where it is taken. Anecdotal evidence would suggest many people simply disregard risk or overestimate their ability to mitigate it. And who could blame them if the figures are as low as in the table? It would be like basing everyday life decisions on the expectation of winning the lottery.
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (8) | Disagree (2)

It's quite difficult, Nick, to provide “scientific proof” of a negative but, if anyone disbelieves that scientific trials have never been used for any site-based intervention, all they have to do is provide a single example. I have searched widely and found scientific trials have been performed. ABS brakes in New York and behavioural changes, but no scientific trials of any site-based intervention and none of any intervention in Britain where collisions were the measure.

Perhaps the most obvious case for the use of scientific trials is the deployment of speed cameras and there have been 2 systematic reviews of speed camera reports. Both searched worldwide and neither review could find any scientific trials anywhere. Both reviews also recommended that scientific trials should be used.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

If we assume from the micromort table that riding a motorcycle is 47 times more risky than driving a car the same distance then the risk taking occurs when making the decision to ride the motorbike in the first place.

These baseline risk values encompass our own actions as well as the actions of others so to reduce the risks to any significant degree we have to look at both parties equally. The expectation that risk can be reduced by only looking at the actions of the third party are therefore clearly incorrect. My colleague Kevin Williams has a nice little saying that "it takes two to tangle" which means that both parties in a collision have to make a mistake in order for that collision to occur. Therefore thinking that we are being exposed to risk through "no fault of our own" is a wholly incorrect assumption.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (4)

I agree with your suggestion that we should not judge by mode of travel alone but with regards to risk takers being the same in all modes the insurance industry have said car drivers who also ride motorcycles are a lower risk than comparative drivers that do not ride. However those drivers who also ride were not a lower risk whilst riding which suggests their risk taking may only occur whilst riding.
Chris Harrison Gloucestershire

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

There's being exposed to risk due to one's own fool-hardinesss and negligence i.e self-inflicted and there's being exposed to risk through no fault of our own, but due to a third party's negigence. On the road, we can to a large degree, control our own risk exposure and minimise it, so belonging to a particular road user group which is commonly perceived to be 'high-risk' or vulnerable doesn't automatically or inevitably make each member of that group at risk to the same degree.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Lots of discussion about risk, even though few people actually understand the term. Because of high levels of ignorance about risk the Government actually appointed a chap called David Spiegelhalster as Professor for the public understanding of risk and his book the Norm Chronicles is well worth reading. In it he defines a baseline for understanding risk as the "Micromort" which is a one-in-a-million chance of death. By having this baseline, certain activities can be ranked according to the number of micromorts they actually represent. The book features a very nice little table that puts various day to day activities into perspective.

For example:
Normal daily life = 1 micromort
Walking 27 miles = 1 micromort
Cycling 28 miles = 1 micromort
Motorcycling 7 miles = 1 micromort
Driving 333 miles = 1 micromort
7,500 mile train journey = 1 micromort
7,500 mile aeroplane journey = 1 micromort
A scuba dive = 5 micromorts
A sky-dive = 10 micromorts
Running a marathon = 7 micromorts
Flying a bomber mission in WWII = 25,000 micromorts
Death due to avoidable safety lapse in hospital = 76 micromorts (per day)

There are many more examples, but these should give a flavour of the scale of risk that we actually face.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (9) | Disagree (2)

Dave (second post in this thread)
You are not usually prone to making exaggerated claims so I presume that when you say:

"Even though scientific trials are straightforward, no site-based road safety intervention has ever been deployed with such a trial."

That you have scientific proof to back up this claim?
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

Rather than highlight the 'collision risk' for road user types - it's more important to recognize that it's individuals within the different road user types that put themselves at risk - because of their own individual behaviour and antics and not because they belong to a a particular road user group per se. A m/c rider who is prone to take risks would probably be the same behind the wheel - a conscientous, safety aware driver woud no doubt make the effort to ride a m/c safely.

I would disagree with Dave Finney (perhaps he's being modest about his driving/riding skills) but if someone has had years of incident-free motoring/riding it suggests that he must be consistently doing something right and there is no reason to think such an individual's risk would not remain low. Many, many people drive/ride everyday for decades without incident - it can't be just down to their luck holding out.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (3)

This report does not examine risk, it examines collision rates as a proxy for risk. While this may be the best proxy available, there could be a high random element within the collision rates. For example, I had no collisions at all in the last year but my risk will not be zero in the next year. The information provided in the report is useful but, whatever interventions are chosen, they must be deployed within scientific trials if possible. Even though scientific trials are straightforward, no site-based road safety intervention has ever been deployed with such a trial:
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

Road Safety has for too long been blinkered by casualty numbers alone and sometimes foolishly comparing those numbers 'per mode' as we know low casualty numbers don't directly correlate with low risk take motorcyclists as an example low casualty quantity in comparison to other modes but yet at disproportionately higher risk of becoming a casualty.

Does it make good sense to stop motorcycle safety initiatives at the end of the motorcycling 'season'? Are those that ride through the winter at lesser risk then those that ride in the summer? Would it be fair to say those individuals that ride all year round are indeed at greater risk?

Risk being the operative road safety is not about reducing casualty numbers, it should be about reducing the risk to individuals. When Mr, Mrs, Miss Smith or their offspring set off on their journey we need to lower their risk as they will take no comfort if they do get injured or killed in the fact that many other smiths completed their journey unharmed. By accepting this we can stop justifying some loss by the increasing numbers that do not suffer a loss.
Chris Gloucestershire

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