Report by Director of Communities, Economy and Transport.
6.1 The Head of Communities introduced the report. Although the number of Killed or Seriously Injured (KSI) road accidents has reduced, the KSI rates are higher in East Sussex than the national average and for comparable Local Authorities. Analysis of the data shows that 90% - 95% are due to human error. Therefore, approaches need to be developed to tackle driver behaviour.
6.2 The Head of Communities outlined the work carried out with the Behavioural Insight Team (BIT), who are experts in the application of behavioural insight approaches to challenging areas of public policy, have looked at the East Sussex KSI data in detail. They found that what a driver is doing at the point of collision is more important than road conditions, or the reason for the journey, in accounting for the cause KSI accidents. The data analysis also found that the type of journey is not a predictive factor in determining the cause of KSI’s.
6.3 The East Sussex Road Safety Programme intends to develop interventions that target specific behaviours and types of driver involved in KSI’s. There are three target groups of drivers who account for a significant number of KSI’s:
· Motorcyclists who cause, and are likely to be involved in, a significant number of KSI accidents;
· Young drivers, and particularly male drivers, who are more likely to cause KSI’s; and
· Car drivers who hit vulnerable groups such as pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists.
6.4 The next step in the Programme is to determine the behaviour change projects that will be undertaken in conjunction with partners. The projects will need to run for sufficient time in order to gather enough data to carry out a proper evaluation of their effectiveness. It is considered that road engineering solutions alone will not be sufficient to tackle the issue of higher numbers of KSI’s in East Sussex. However, the Programme Team recognise that they remain a part of the solution, and are working with Sussex Police on a prioritised speed management programme.
6.5 The Committee made a number of comments and asked questions about the programme. The points raised are summarised below.
Behavioural approach to reducing KSI’s
6.6 The Committee asked what is different, or new, about the Programme’s approach to reducing KSI’s in comparison with previous work. The Head of Communities responded that the projects provided an opportunity to look at the KSI data in depth to identify the causes of KSI’s. The analysis carried out by the Behavioural Insight team (BIT) has identified more clearly the reasons for KSI’s. The Project Manager added that the evidence is now pointing to driver error as being the main cause of KSI’s, and work is focussing on those factors which are more amenable to behavioural interventions. This approach is supported by the success of behavioural approaches used in tackling other public health issues. The Programme takes forward an area of work where there is a growing awareness of how behavioural techniques can be used successfully.
6.7 Some members of the Committee expressed reservations about the Programme’s ability to have an impact on behaviour and the target groups identified in the report. This is because achieving a change in behaviour and reaching the right target groups can be very difficult. The Project Manager responded that it is now possible to segment and target work effectively and that this approach is considered to provide the best opportunity to have an influence on KSI’s. The point is taken about the difficulty in working with these groups. However, the BIT have identified those that are amenable to the behavioural approach, and will develop approaches that are likely to work with these different groups.
6.8 The Assistant Director, Communities explained that the BIT have extensive expertise in data analysis and honing a message for the different groups. Engineering solutions alone will not tackle driver behaviour, which is the main cause of KSI’s. For example, motorcyclists and younger drivers will not change their behaviour even if roads are re-engineered and therefore the amount of KSI’s will not reduce. The data analysis has shown that where younger drivers are involved in KSI’s it is not just speeding which is a causal factor. The BIT report identifies exceeding the speed limit, drink driving and carelessness or recklessness as main contributory factors, and also overtaking, where a lack of experience is the main issue. The motorcyclists who are involved in KSI’s are middle aged, male weekend riders who can afford larger powered bikes and who do not ride regularly. This level of detail allows interventions to be targeted much more effectively.
Limitations of the road network and engineering measures
6.9 The Team Manager, Road Safety outlined that engineering solutions are relatively expensive, and the £1m allocated budget would not have sufficient impact on KSI’s if used solely for engineering schemes. There is growing opposition to the implementation of road improvement schemes due to environmental concerns (as evidenced by the Highways England consultation work on the options to improve the A27). There are also mixed views on road schemes on more minor roads, where residents are increasingly concerned about urbanisation in rural areas and the proliferation of road signs.
6.10 The Committee commented that people get frustrated with road congestion due to the condition of the strategic road network, and are therefore more likely to overtake or make dangerous manoeuvres. The Director of Communities, Economy and Transport outlined that the road network in East Sussex is unlikely to change, so adopting the behavioural approach is the right direction to go in to reduce KSI’s.
6.11 The Committee noted the engineering works outlined in the report to tackle known accident hot spots, and asked if it would be possible to have accident monitoring information before and after the works have taken place. The Project Manager outlined that the East Sussex Road Safety Programme includes some engineering work where there is a robust evidence base for doing so. The Programme therefore includes taking both behavioural and engineering approaches in tandem. The Team Manager, Road Safety confirmed that post road engineering work monitoring will be undertaken.
6.12 The Lead Member for Communities and Safety outlined that the East Sussex Safer Communities partnership were concerned about the level of KSI’s, especially due to impact on people and their families who are injured or killed. The £1m funding represents a one off opportunity to make a difference, so it is important to give enough time to pilot solutions, evaluate them, and get the interventions right. The engineering approach has not achieved the desired reduction in KSI’s, so it is right to try this different approach.
6.13 The Team Manager, Road Safety commented that achieving road safety is far wider than anything East Sussex County Council can do on its own. Other agencies, motoring organisations and central Government also have a role to play. The East Sussex Road Safety Programme is an evidence based approach which will be rigorously evaluated. At end of project the learning will be there to inform future programmes, rather than doing the same things as we have done in the past. Any learning will also be disseminated to other organisations as there is national interest in the behavioural approach the Programme is taking.
6.14 The Committee commented that sustainable solutions are needed, and is hopeful that the new approach will achieve the desired outcome of reducing KSI’s in East Sussex.
6.15 The Committee RESOLVED to note the report and to receive an update report on the East Sussex Road Safety Programme in June 2018.