Friday, 29 May 2009

A safer way: road safety consultation

I've been meaning to mention this in my blog for a while, but other newsworthy things have been happening to report on. Anyway, the UK's Department for Transport currently has open a consultation on road safety strategy to take us beyond 2010, when the current strategy expires.

I've been feeding in comments via a couple of avenues, which I don't need to go into too much detail about here, but on the whole I'm actually rather reassured by what I've seen. The main win, in my eyes, is the key acknowledgement of the 'systems' approach in road safety - that is, viewing the road, the vehicle, and the driver as an interactive system, where you can't just treat any one element in isolation. Indeed, this is reflective of a general move towards such thinking in road safety at the European level.

Of course, systems thinking has been an underpinning tenet of ergonomics for some 60 years now (as I found out last week), and whilst I'm not sure we can claim the credit for influencing these high-level policy-makers, it's good to see the principles being taken on board. Happy coincidence or otherwise, personally I don't care where it came from, the good news is that we're all starting to think on the same wavelength.

There are also some positive noises regarding the role of technology in road (vehicle) safety - in terms of primary safety, crash avoidance systems, where they're calling for an evidence-based approach to implementation. The gloss is taken off a little as they seem to slightly overlook the ergonomics issues; the evidence they're seeking is more in terms of technical reliability. So there is room for more critical response to the consultation, after all.

If you have a vested interest in road safety I would encourage a review of the consultation document, and if you feel so inclined to respond then there's nothing stopping you. My views are just my views, and I wouldn't presume to try and sway your opinion, but to my mind it just needs a bit more of a human-centred approach.

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