The UK has one of the best road safety records in the world, but more can be done to prevent deaths and serious injuries.
By improving the skills and attitudes of drivers and riders, and providing better safety education, the government can further reduce the cost of emergency services, health and welfare services, insurance, traffic congestion, as well as the personal cost to people affected by road collisions.
Drink and drug driving
Collisions caused by drink and drug driving regularly result in serious injuries and deaths on our roads. To reduce these incidents, the government over the course of this Parliament (2010 to 2015) has:
- closed the loophole in the law where some drivers avoid prosecution by requesting a second test if their breath reading is no more than 50 microgrammes per 100 millilitres – breathalysers are now sophisticated enough to give an accurate roadside reading without the need for a second blood or urine test
- approved roadside drug testing devices for the police by 2015
- enabled the prosecution of drivers under new drug driving legislation through the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which inserts a new section 5A in the Road Traffic Act 1988, to come into effect via regulations in March 2015
- provided guidance for healthcare professionals to make sure that people taking prescription and over-the-counter drugs understand the new offence and their responsibility not to drive whilst impaired
Apart from the emergency services, nobody should drive faster than the speed limit. To keep limits appropriate to each area we have provided revised and reissued speed limit guidance to help local councils improve safety on their roads. We have also launched the speed limit appraisal tool, a computer-based database to help councils assess the full costs and benefits of any proposed speed limit changes.
The number of cyclists seriously injured has increased in recent years. To improve safety for cyclists, we have launched the THINK! Cyclist campaign.
Road safety education for children
Many children and teenagers are seriously injured or killed on our roads every year. Teaching children road safety from a young age will help cut down these accidents. To do this we are continuing to promote THINK! education resources and other road safety campaigns.
Motorcyclists account for 19% of all road user deaths despite representing only 1% of vehicle traffic.
To improve safety for motorcycle riders, the government worked with trainers and rider groups to review the motorcycle test with the aim of improving accessibility and the safety of the test for candidates while maintaining UK rider standards and meeting the requirements of the EU third directive.
The police seize around 150,000 vehicles driven while uninsured every year. To keep reducing the number of these on our roads, we are:
- making it an offence to keep any vehicle (including motorcycles) which has no valid insurance unless a Statutory Off Road Notification (SORN) has been made to DVLA in respect of that vehicle
- researching the issue of unlicensed drivers to estimate the extent of unlicensed driving and develop ways of preventing it
Driving and riding tests and standards
Better prepared drivers and riders are less likely to have collisions on the road. The government sets standards for testing people’s ability to drive and ride safely in order to reduce the number of collisions. We do this by:
- testing drivers and riders for all types of motor vehicles
- publishing and maintaining evidence-based national standards which set out the skills and behaviours needed to be a safe and responsible driver or rider of all categories of vehicles
- looking for ways to improve how our driver and rider testing assesses these skills and behaviours
Driver and rider training
A safe driver, whether they are new, younger, older or disqualified, needs the right skills and attitudes. We are reviewing and improving how drivers and riders are trained. As a result of this work we have:
- added case studies to the theory test
- removed the option of taking the theory and practical driving test in a foreign language
We are also:
- looking at ways to support drivers in the period immediately after they pass their test
- working with the volunteer sector and trainers to offer older drivers refresher courses rather than mandatory re-testing
- making disqualified drivers re-test before they get their licence back
- continuing to manage the drink-drive rehabilitation scheme to offer remedial training for people convicted of lower level driving offences – this is offered as an option by the courts
Training and assessment of instructors
We are improving the way driving and motorcycle riding instructors are trained, assessed and registered by:
- developing an evidence-based national standard which sets out the skills, knowledge and understanding needed to be an effective driver or rider trainer
- working with the Sector Skills Councils to make sure that the National Occupational Standards, which are the basis for all driver training qualifications, fully reflect the national driver and rider training standards
- consulted on making changes to how people qualify to become an approved driving instructor (ADI)
- replaced the ADI check test with a the ADI standards check to assess whether an ADI’s instruction helps a person to learn in an effective way
We announced our intention to make roads safer as part of the coalition agreement.
Following the government’s Comprehensive Spending Review in October 2010 we announced the introduction of the Local Sustainable Transport Fund that includes money for road safety.
In 2011, we produced the Strategic Framework for Road Safety to look at 3 main areas in increasing road safety:
- freeing local councils to make their own decisions on how best to make their roads safer
- improving public education and training
- penalising the minority of offenders who drive dangerously
In June 2010 a review of drink and drug driving law, the Peter North report into drink and drug driving was published and we responded to this independent report as well as the Transport Select Committee.
In May 2012, we announced new drug driving legislation in the Queen’s Speech through the Crime and Courts Bill.
In March 2013 the Expert Panel on Drug Driving published Driving under the influence of drugs which makes recommendations on the drugs and limits to specify in regulations.
In April 2013 the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which inserts a new section 5A in the Road Traffic Act 1988, came into effect and we made specific proposals regarding the drugs to be specified in regulations for the new offence in a public consultation in 2013. We then published the summary of responses to the consultation in 2014. We have thus finalised the drugs and their limits to be specified in regulations which we will present to Parliament. The new section 5A offence is expected to come into force later in 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval.
To shape this policy, we used economic and statistical analysis, appraisal, evaluation, modelling and research.
Who we’ve consulted
In early 2013 we consulted the public about making changes to the language support given to driving test candidates. In October 2013 we announced that we would remove the option to take a theory or practical driving test in a foreign language. This will make sure that all new drivers can understand traffic updates and emergency information when they pass their test.
Following public consultation during the summer of 2012, we issued revised guidance on setting local speed limits that will better explain why and how local speed limits are determined.
During the summer of 2012, we consulted on changes to the treatment of penalties for careless driving and other motoring offences. In June 2013, we announced increases to fixed penalty levels and made careless driving a fixed penalty offence. This will make the enforcement process more efficient, set penalties at the right levels and make educational training more widely available.
Who we’re working with
We work with a wide variety of transport and road safety organisations.
For example, we are joint funding the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (ROSPA) to build an independent website about road safety information for road safety professionals. This should be finished by the end of 2012. This will be co-funded with safety organisations including RoadSafe, RAC Foundation, Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS), and ADEPT.
We work with the police, hospitals and the courts to analyse the information and statistics they give us on reported road accidents.
We commission and publish research reports on road safety for use by local councils and safety organisations.
We work with UK road safety organisations to collect and present research and information via the Road Safety Observatory.
Bills and legislation
In April 2013, we brought in new legislation to prosecute drug driving in the Crime and Courts Act 2013, which inserts a new section 5A in the Road Traffic Act 1988. Later in 2013 we consulted upon the regulations under this Act to specify the drugs and the limits over which it will be an offence to drive. We then published the summary of responses to the consultation in 2014. We have thus finalised the drugs and their limits to be specified in regulations which we will present to Parliament. The new section 5A offence is expected to come into force later in 2014, subject to Parliamentary approval.
On 19 January 2013, the EU third directive came into effect in the UK. It sets minimum standards applying to anyone conducting driving tests across the EU and will introduce a new motorcycle category for medium sized motorcycles.
In May 2012, it became an offence to cause serious injury through dangerous driving.
In June 2011 it became an offence to keep a vehicle with no insurance unless a valid SORN declaration has been made.
The Road Safety Act 2006 amended the Road Traffic Act 1988 by introducing section 144a, b, c and d.