Road Safety News

New Academy e-learning module outlines ‘safe systems’ approach

Thursday 31st August 2017

Road Safety GB Academy members can now access an introductory e-learning module that outlines the main concepts that underpin the safe systems approach to road safety.

Unveiled on Tuesday (29 August), the module can be accessed via the members’ section on the new Academy website. It has been developed on behalf of the Academy by Ian Edwards from New View Consultants, who has also been involved with several of the Academy’s training courses including the Road Safety Practitioner Foundation Course and the one and two day Behaviour Change Courses.

The ‘safe systems’ approach - a term widely used across all areas of road safety - encompasses a wide range of ideas that aim to maximise the safety of all road users.

Safe systems recognises that humans are not perfect, and as a consequence will make mistakes. It also recognises that there are limits to the physical forces which the human body can tolerate - for example during the rapid deceleration associated with a crash.

Sam Merison, director of the Academy, said: “The safe systems approach requires that the road system be designed to take account of these errors and vulnerabilities so that road users are able to avoid serious injury or death on the road.  

“The concepts underpinning the safe systems approach have always been covered on the Road Safety Practitioner Foundation Course, but this has now been further enhanced through the addition of a specific safe systems element.”

Category: Academy.



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Nigel... one big problem with your statement.

Many others have previously recognised what you have. There is nothing new in that but from time to time its worthwile trying again to remind others. However there is nothing more difficult than changing the mindset of a driver or any other mature individual for that matter. Getting that change first is going to be like climbing a never ending ladder. Not easy to proceed forwards with.

Then as you profound once we are there then we can at least have some chance to change behaviour. The next step is educating the general public to be aware of the actual dangers that they are putting themselves into but extending that to the dangers that they create for others. Once that is accepted, and that's a big what if?, then and only then can one rebuild with a new road safety message.

As a trainer you know that with a student you need to assess abilities and identify the problems. Then advise the student of their faults and consequences and then having knocked him down rebuild with an alternative that works and something new to him but something that will be beneficial.
Bob Craven Lancs

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I am glad that after 30 years 'in the business' you found it informative, Pat, and I am not being sarcastic. But I remain to be convinced that you really do need a full day course for this subject. If behaviour is the result of attitude, mind-set, call it what you will, it won't even take half a day (and probably less than that) to illustrate what a good mind-set is. I confess I am talking from the driving and riding (motor bikes or cycles) point of view. If over and above that the course is concerned with pedestrian attitudes, then you are talking about the attitudes of the general public and, yes, that almost certainly does need changing as well.

How do get to change the mind set of drivers, for example? As I have often said before they need to take ownership of their own safety and to do that they have to be aware and accept their own vulnerability and not rely on vehicle gizmos (so called vehicle safety features) which give them a false sense of security. Once that happens they will change -instantly. Problem is that most drivers drive like the next crash waiting to happen and they are not aware of it - so that, in my view, is where this all needs to start. In essence, I can't see the value in trying to change attitudes (and therefore behaviour) without dealing with the root of the problem first. Once that is dealt with then people will be motivated to change their attitudes and their behaviour will follow. The big problem, as I see it, is getting the RS community/industry to understand this fundamental and core point and then act on it. Once this happens the whole thing will become much simpler.

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Rest what case Nigel?

As per my previous post I found the one day behavioural change course very informative. That is after more than 30 years in the business of influencing people's decisions and choices across several different industries.
Pat, Wales

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Interesting debate. Possibly there is too much academia; theory; 'what the stats tell us'; evaluations; unchallenged conventional wisdom; reliance on studies and research (sometimes blindingly obvious conclusions) and not enough use made of personal expertise gained first-hand perhaps, in road safety/collision prevention i.e. not enough practical advice on the most obvious core message which should be: how not to be involved in a collision! Passing that advice on whenever we can, to whoever needs it, is what those involved in this field should not lose sight of.

The fifth paragraph in the article above seems to imply that because collisions happen, then the 'road system' must be inadequate or flawed, when instead, it must be accepted that predominantly motorised users thereof that are making a good system look bad.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Pat; One day course for behavioural change....? In spite of what Jeremy says, I am afraid I rest my case.

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Thanks, Jeremy. Points noted and it is good news where companies, or courses, clarify the sincerity of their activity. However, from my experience - and also having been on some RS committes and attended a number of road safety seminars, I am still left with the overriding feeling that there are are a lot of people 'cashing in' on the road safety theme. And, unfortunately, also that there are a lot of people in RS who don't really understand what they are about in spite of the dearth of information available. In fact, it is possible that with so much information around it is, in fact, clouding the core aspects of what is safe or unsafe, sound or unsound.

I have been around this scene since the early 1970's when RS was the domain of the police and therefore before it moved to what one might call the civilian sector. In those days it was traffic men who had seen the gore of road traffic accidents who promoted safer behviour on the roads. And, because of their experience and their driver training, they clearly understood what was safe or unsafe, sound or unsound. So they talked from experience and from the heart. That seems to me quite different from what is generally happening nowadays where people take courses in RS and then go and preach to the world, as it were.

The next main and significant change came as a result of the Zeebrugge disaster which opened up a whole can of opportunities in the commercial marketplace for one, let alone a lot more academics jumping on the bandwagon because much of their kudos appears to be based on the number of papers written, and RS was a market just waiting to be tapped. A classic case might just be the person already mentioned who wrote the original Chapter 1 in the 1994 Roadcraft; so many credentials but, so little knowledge in real terms. Nevertheless, that person marches on with, it seems, considerable credibility in the marketplace.

And if RSGB can (or is) do/doing something to change a lot of this, then that is good news and I will be the first in line to applaud.

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Nigel, I think you've offered a disappointingly cynical commentary on the road safety profession generally and the RSGB Academy specifically. Our intention in providing professional development opportunities for those working in road safety is to try to help people maintain contact with best practice and current thinking in a complex field of work. We don’t build in complexity to look busy and we certainly don’t do it to make money from our friends and colleagues. You quoted the meerkat, I’ll counter with Einstein (at least this is most commonly attributed to him, though I suspect many others have favoured the same maxim) – everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler. Ours is a profession that tries to make sense of, predict and influence the inter-relationship between people, vehicles and the built environment – and tries to generate and manage outcomes that favour the individual, society and the economy. Complexity is a given and we are trying hard to make that complexity accessible and navigable through the learning opportunities we offer.

We recommend the Behaviour Change courses to our members and wider as the syllabus covers a range of topics useful to the profession. Our hope is that anyone who may be cynical of the course and theories would alter their view on what you present as the apparently simple causal relationship between attitudes and behaviours.
Jeremy (Devon)

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I went on the behavioural change course and found it very informative. There is a bit of ‘giving names and titles to things we already do’ but nevertheless it was a day well spent in my opinion. As Nigel mentioned, you have to change attitudes to change behaviours but I wouldn’t stress over the title of the course.

As far as ‘Safe Systems’ goes we have more than 100 years of building road infrastructure in the UK, much of which cannot be changed without vast expense. I don’t see anywhere near enough money going in to dealing with existing roads to make much of a difference – it is just a drop in the ocean. For example, despite the new build and road improvement schemes, we don’t even now have one continuous dual carriageway from north to south in Wales – or plans to build one.
Pat, Wales

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Don't disagree with that in principle, Honor, but the the basics of the right mindset are well proven. My thoughts are we just need to be sure we don't make something more complex than it needs to be - often influenced by commercialization, revenue generation and all of that. But beware of people with new ideas, on the basis that new ideas are automatically better than the old because that is not necessarily the case, as I am sure you are well aware.

Then there is the case of academics with many letters after their name and untold papers to their credit. And there are a lot of academics who have jumped on the RS band wagon since the Zeebrugge affair. One such case was someone engaged to write the mental side of the 1994 Roadcraft. Their submission was reviewed by a (Police) Advanced Wing Instructor who was on the RC steering committee. He promptly had it thrown out as being well off the mark. If a police advanced instructor does not know what the right mindset is for safe driving then no body does Yet few people in the RS world understand this basic fact or, it seems, are prepared to refer to people of such knowledge and experience. That RC first chapter content was replaced by the work of Dr. Gordon Sharp who had done very credible work with the Scottish Driving School at Tulliallan Castle, and quite right too - he had a proven track record.

As far as academics go, in most cases I would dearly like to see what their own driving is like on the roads before they start to tell everyone else how it could be done more safely. My bet is that most would fall down by a measurable margin.

Given your very sound suggestion that we should always be open to new experiences, my article is still available if you would like a copy.

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However experienced I am at my considerable age and career, I find there is always much more to learn than I already know and a fresh look from another perspective is an excellent thing.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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Thank you, Honor, for the suggestion. You might feel it slightly conceited but, having been training officer for 2 IAM groups, 2 RoSPA groups, written a training manual and was extremely fortunate in the 1970 (the days of the heyday in police driving standards) in studying with police driving instructors and run numerous courses and workshops, plus written articles plus I keep in touch with a former Hendon Advanced Wing Instructor. So, I think I am very au fait with what is required in mind-set and attitude for good safe road behaviour. Problem is nowadays too many people are out to make money out of road safety and, in the process tend to make it more complex than it needs to be - often on the basis that the more headings you have the better the value for money. Oh, and make the headings sound impressive as well. All good sales stuff.

You are welcome to have a copy of my article on observation which I was asked to write, in which there is specific mention of the right mindset. You don't really need a full course on it; you just need to get the mind into the right groove and the behaviour follows. Keep it simple as the meerkat said.

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Of course it was, Honor. Slight bending of the rules, perhaps, but it got there. Have just checked back and Cottenham's 'Driving to the common danger', was proposed by him in an Autocar article in 1926.

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The "driving or riding furiously" charge was last used just a couple of weeks ago with the London cyclist/pedestrian case in which the pedestrian was killed. The cyclist was convicted on this charge. Behavioural Change training does of course look at attitudes and motivations that inform behaviours but the full course content was not detailed in this introductory news item. Perhaps Nigel should become a member of RSGB and attend a course?
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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I am not an academy member but just looking at the title, Behavioural Change Course, tells me that this is slightly off track. Behaviour is the result of attitude so, to change the former you need to change the latter first. Whilst I understand the sentiment behind the title, and safety on the roads is indeed about changing behaviour, it's really about changing attitudes cum mind-set. That's not splitting hairs; it's a matter of putting the horse before the cart. There is a pun in there somewhere but haven't quite got there yet. But, by coincidence, that takes the thoughts to the times of horse driving. In Victorian times there was a penalty for 'driving or riding furiously'. Interestingly that offence has not been repealed and was last implemented in 2014 viz:
This more or less leads full circle because in the
Town Police Clauses Act 1847
Paragraph 61 relates to 'Penalty on drivers misbehaving.

Lord Cottenham in either the late 1920s or early 1930s proposed a law for 'driving to the common danger'. Pity that such forward thinking was not implemented.

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