Friday, 16 October 2009

Ghosts of transport yet to come

I had the privilege this week of presenting at the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety's (PACTS) conference on 'Beyond 2010: the challenges ahead'. This was largely centred around the proposed road safety strategy for the future (which I've commented on before) and had a very much 'what are we going to do about it' feel. Interestingly, the opening sessions were largely focused on the environmental aspects of driving and promotion of eco-driving, as opposed to safe driving. I found this surprising given the context, but perhaps represents a shift in emphasis for transport policy. Naturally I was banging the drum for human-centred design and how it can solve all our problems for safe and eco-driving in the future. Simple as that.

One of the most memorable presentations from the day was the last one (probably a recency effect...) from ACPO's Mick Giannasi, talking in part about Gwent Police's recent campaign on texting and driving. The 'Cow' video has made it around the world already and has had some ten million hits apparently, even though it was only supposed to be a local thing and was done on a budget of about £10k. (Excerpts are on YouTube - link above - though you have to log in as it's deemed to be graphic material.) This is just amazing impact from both road safety and public engagement perspectives. Mick also showed evidence of how it's already working locally, with its first screening at an event for young drivers in South Wales - cameras were trained on the crowd to record reactions, and interviews afterwards showed the effect it had on those present. It really is hard-hitting.

After the PACTS conference I went straight to Imperial College for the Lloyd's Register Educational Trust's Annual Lecture in Transport Risk Management. Gretchen Burrett, Director of Safety at National Air Traffic Services (NATS), talked about human factors in aviation and air traffic control. She gave a really splendid exposition of the benefits of human factors in safety-critical systems. One of the stand-out points for me was how they're actually recording positive changes in behaviour as markers of effectiveness for HF in the cost-benefit analysis - that's as opposed to just monitoring reductions in errors or accidents. I was really impressed with this approach - I've long thought that one of our biggest barriers in uptake of HF is persuading people of the benefits. Since nobody notices the absence of accidents, people like Gretchen are otherwise the unsung heroes of safety. Measuring positive changes that people will actually notice is a great way for HF to hammer home its message.

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