Road Safety News

Employers urged to take speed more seriously

Friday 16th October 2015

The road safety charity Brake is urging all employers with staff who drive for work to implement policies and procedures to ensure their drivers are fully aware of the dangers of speeding.

The plea follows a report published by Brake which found that two in five organisations don’t have a policy on speeding. It also suggests that a third of company speed policies don’t apply to senior management.

Brake says ensuring drivers travel at a safe and sensible speed is one of ‘the most important’ ways in which fleet managers can make their fleets safer.

The report is based on an online survey of fleet managers from 131 organisations, working with nearly 26,000 vehicles and 40,000 people who drive for work.

The report also expresses concern about the lack of training given to employees about speeding. 17% of the companies surveyed do not ‘train, assess or educate drivers on speed’, while less that half (44%) have internal communications about speed.

Dr Tom Fisher, Brake’s senior research and communication officer, said: “It is worrying that many employers are lacking a coherent ‘speed strategy’. Our research shows that many companies can and should do more.

“This would help prevent the devastating impact of road death and injury, but also save companies money through reduced insurance premiums and improve their reputation within the community.”

Malcolm Maycock, director of Licence Bureau who sponsored the report, said: “We all know that ‘speed kills’. However, we need to make our staff aware that it’s not just on the fastest roads, as motorways account for only 5% of all fatalities, rural roads 60% and urban roads 35%. Then take into account bent metal, where 85% is urban driving, 10% rural and 5% motorway.

“Clearly driving too fast for the environment we are in will leave us without the time we need to stop. The reinforcement of this message by organisations is a positive for all.”


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I suppose if an individual was employed specifically as a driver, rather than one who needs to drive to carry out their specifc job (such as gas fiter), there may be a difference in terms of liability. Many large employers have disciplinary procedures for things like misconduct etc. so I suppose it would have to specifically include or exclude driving.

What about the Emergency Services, whose drivers are expected to drive fast and it is accepted that they may have to? If a pedestrian is killed, should it be strict liability for the employer regardless of the circumstances, because the nature of the job requires them to drive fast? It's all very well training the drivers, but the individual still has to put it into practice.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Let's look at this scenario. The gas fitting company receives a notice from the police that a company vehicle has been doing 47mph in a 30mph limit (for example). The commpany identifies the driver and he is duly prosecuted and gets points on his license. But the company does not discipline the driver.

But the company does have vehicle tracking and therefore automatically receives reports of any speeding even if not detected by the police. The company although getting these reports of continued speeding does not manage the driver's speed but actually encourages him to go from job to job as quickly as possible as part of a general efficiency drive.

The driver is then involved in a fatal collision with a pedestrian whilst doing 47mph in a 30 limit.

Was the company implicated either /or both morally and legally?
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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It can be a real can of worms. Supposing a gas fitter or electrician is negligent in their work causing death to a householder. Their employer could be reasonably implicated, if the training and on-going supervison was lacking. If the said electrician/fitter caused the death of a road user en route to a job, does the employer's liability extend beyond what the employee was trained and employed to do, correctly and safely?

If white van man had a poor driving record (accidents and offences) but his employer turned a blind eye and continued to employ them, could they be implicated in a subsequent fatal accident?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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The driver may be ultimately responsible, but others can also be held responsible for the position that the driver finds themselves in, even if they were negligent.

Here is the Yetkin v London Borough of Newham civil case where the Court of Appeal finds council liable to pedestrian after failure to cut back vegetation on highway. What was notable was that the court ruled that the local authority had a duty of care to negligent and diligent road users.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

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Bob wrote:
"Derek, I think that you might be wrong there. In the back of my mind I seem to have read about corporations etc. being held responsible for acts of their employees. This can be by negligence on their part by not overseeing the driver or by failing to inform the driver of what they require of him and of his lawful obligations."

It may well be that corporations be held responsible for some aspects of their employees behaviour, but as a driver, it is the driver who is ultimately responsible for their behaviour at the controls of a vehicle on the road. It will be the driver who is issued with a summons for a traffic offence whether it be speeding, dangerous driving, or a failed light bulb - not the corporation.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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The only thing I could see wrong with it Nick are that the good guys are dying in far greater numbers than the bad guys, yet it is on the bad guys that the efforts are being concentrated. Logic suggests that things are a bit back to front.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Duncan - my final post in this thread.

I don't accept your road safety paradigm as outlined below - in my view it is 'just plain wrong' to use your phrase.

I could recognise something along these lines:
"A small minority of road users don't do what they are supposed to do and that causes some deaths and injuries. If all road users did do what they are supposed to do then there would be fewer deaths and injuries."

With regard to behavioural change, yes road safety officers do set out to positively influence the bahaviour of the small minority whose actions put themselves and other road users as heightened risk.

Is there anything wrong with this?
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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Nick, the current road safety paradigm is something along these lines.

"Road users don't do what they are supposed to do and that causes great quantities of death and injury. If road users did do what they are supposed to do then there would be far fewer deaths and injuries."

If this were not the paradigm then nobody would be promoting 'behavioural change techniques' would they? If we want to change behaviour then we clearly want to change it FROM something TO something else! For all that though the greatest number of fatalites happen to people that ARE doing what they are supposed to do! They are following the rules, they are taking care and essentially they are normal people doing the things that they normally do and usually with no ill effect. It's only after an accident or incident that other people can easily see what these poor unfortunates did wrong or what they should have done in the circumstances. Pull out in front of a bike? Then they should have taken more care to look for the bike shouldn't they? No mention of the fact that they have probably pulled out of the same junction many times before and never hit anyone. Their behaviour on those occasions was exactly what it was supposed to be except on this occasion it wasn't. The paradigm therefore is just plain wrong.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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Duncan - you say:
"the existing road safety paradigm suggests to road users is that there is no risk IF they just do what they are supposed to do."

Honestly, I'd be amazed if you found one road safety officer who would tell any road user there is no risk attached to using the road as long as they do what they are supposed to do.

Road safety officers are constantly warning road users of the risks which can result from their own and other road users' actions, decisions and behaviours.

Your assertion is simply wrong, in my opinion.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

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Again Duncan, you've got this fixation with a 'system' itself, rather than the millions of individuals using it. What you always miss is that there is a variation in abilities and attitudes of these individuals, which can make an otherwise safe system, unsafe.

I and no doubt you, carry minimal risk - almost negligible even - but many don't or can't. It is you and I who, fairly easily I would think, make our journeys uneventful and incident-free within what is already a reasonably safe system - we do not complete our journeys, shaking with relief and thankful to be alive having 'survived' what you still describe as an unsafe system.

If it's so unsafe, why aren't we having near-misses and accidents ourselves on a daily basis?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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What these poor unfortunates have done Hugh is to expose the risk that is inherent in the system. The risk is always there, constant and unchanging so what we do when we enter the system is to take a big gamble on that risk. Any driver, rider or pedestrian gambles on the fact that what they know and understand allied with their skill and capability will be sufficient to protect them from the risk inherent in the system. If that gamble fails for whatever reason then the risk that was always there becomes immediately apparent.

The big problem is of course that the existing road safety paradigm suggests to road users is that there is no risk IF they just do what they are supposed to do. The wrongness of this idea is what has led us to the woeful state of affairs we find ourselves in today. If and it's a big if we can turn that paradigm around so that people begin to understand that they are taking a huge gamble on that inherent risk then we might, just might be able to make a difference.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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So for example Duncan, you're saying a non-belted up driver hitting a tree at speed is no more at risk from death/serious injury than a belted-up driver? Or an intoxicated driver is no more at risk from hitting the tree in the first place, than the stone cold sober driver?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh, the purpose of my statement was to explain that the danger/risk remains the same irrespective of how compliant or non compliant anybody is. If the road transport system didn't exist and you were to propose it today you would get very short shrift from the safety experts who would soon point out the highly dangerous nature of just about every element in the system.

Nick, the following from 'Systems Thinking for Safety/Principle 2. Local Rationality' might help.

"It is obvious when we consider our own performance that we try to do what makes sense to us at the time. We believe that we do reasonable things given our goals, knowledge, understanding of the situation and focus of attention at a particular moment. In most cases, if something did not make sense to us at the time, we would not have done it. This is known as the ‘local rationality principle’. Our rationality is local by default – to our mindset, knowledge, demands, goals, and context. It is also ‘bounded’ by capability and context, limited in terms of the number of goals, the amount of information we can handle, etc. While we tend to accept this for ourselves, we often use different criteria for everybody else! We assume that they should have or could have acted differently – based on what we know now. This counterfactual reasoning is tempting and perhaps our default way of thinking after something goes wrong. But it does not help to understand performance, especially in demanding, complex and uncertain environments."
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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So the speed camera system for automated detection and prosecution of speeding motorists is no longer a 'multi-million pound industry' as it has been described by its detractors. It's now, according to Idris, 'cheap and easy'.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Derek, I think that you might be wrong there. In the back of my mind I seem to have read about corporations etc. being held responsible for acts of their employees. This can be by negligence on their part by not overseeing the driver or by failing to inform the driver of what they require of him and of his lawful obligations.

So if someone dies as a result they, the owners or corporation, can be held as responsible as the driver. That is should they fail to put in measures in place for the protection of their employee and also members of the public.

White van men who generally, but not only, drive through urban areas have a bad reputation and do indeed appear to be responsible for many incidents. An item on this site many months ago stated so. Many are for reversing, not having safe reversing systems and on overtakes and pulling in, they not having an interior mirror and relying on the external ones only. Of tailgating, driving too close and not giving enough stopping distances. Perhaps because they are able to see over other vehicles and also believing themselves invulnerable and they always appear to be in a rush.
Bob Craven Lancs, Space is Safer Campaigner

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Duncan provided a definition of his "fully compliant" statement in response to a request from me as I wanted to know what he meant by it. I understand that what he means is that in his terms a "fully compliant driver" is one who is obeying the Highway Code as long as the section of the code is not open to interpretation. It does not therefore include a driver who is driving "without due care and attention" as that is an observer's opinion apparently. Is my understanding correct Duncan?
Nick, Lancashire

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Yet again that emphasis on speed as the be-all and end-all of safe driving. It is not and never was. And it is no coincidence that the wholly disproportionate emphasis in speed started when relatively radar made measurement of speed cheap and easy, and computers made imposing penalties the same.

I am pleased to see that two of the first 4 submissions to Transcom's new inquiry into roads policing zero in on the serious reductions in road patrols - and about time too. See
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

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...but in reality Duncan, those who are fully compliant are at much less risk than those who are not!

Your comment made it sound as if all the risk on the road was with those who are fully compliant and that somehow those that are not fully compliant are mysteriously risk-free.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh, my statement is perfectly correct, but I sense you think that some readers may require an explanation.

Risk is in the act not the performance of the act so for example you can't die in an aeroplane crash if you never get into an aeroplane. You can't get killed by falling off a mountain if you don't go mountain climbing and you can't ket killed on the roads if you never venture onto the roads. Whatever the act may be, any risk in that act remains at 100% for 100% of the time that we are engaged in the act. As soon as we disengage from the act the risk to us falls to zero.

Both the compliant and non-compliant 'actors' are exposed to exactly the same risk which is why I said that people should be warned of the dangers of being compliant as well as being non-compliant.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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As this is a road safety website, I think it would be more appropriate, especially for the benefit of the casual reader, for the word 'not' to be inserted between 'of' and 'being' towards the end of Duncan's jaw-dropping comment. (Unless it was a typo of course).
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Why should individual companies create policies about traffic regulations. They are the responsibility of the driver alone in complying with them, and any driver taking a position will need to declare any offences upon commencing employment.
Derek Reynolds, Salop.

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It would also be appropriate to remind employers and drivers of the dangers of being fully compliant.
Duncan MacKillop. No surprise - No accident.

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At first glance, I thought this was about employers not having a policy on exceeding the speed limit, which would seem bizarre as it's an offence anyway. It's the word 'speeding' which can be misleading.

In this context, if it means employers getting their drivers to understand that trying to go as fast as you can, or trying to go faster than you need to in the belief that you must be 'making progress' - especially in built-up areas - as is the want of delivery drivers and Royal Mail etc., is wasteful, leads to frustration, is anti-social and decreases safety margins, then it's worth promoting. Event recorders in their employees vehicles would no doubt help as well.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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