Road Harm Reduction to replace Road Safety

What is Road Harm Reduction (RHR)?


Identifies the greatest threat of harm on our roads using evidence based policing. This means developing new measures to measure danger to start reducing it at source. This means:
All road users being able to travel where they choose with a minimum of threat from other road users.
All road users taking full responsibility for the effects their transport choices have on others.

Why the contribution is important


There’s a lot of posts on this forum that are at best well meaning and at worst bigoted towards vulnerable road users and only highlights why we’ve achieved so little in ‘road safety’. Identifying that we need to focus on the thing that has the most potential to cause harm will be the change we all want to see. 
For the last 30+ years the definition of road safety is organised around the number of reported road casualties (RTCs). Yet quite often there’s a decline in, for example, child pedestrian casualties not because the road environment for children has become safer, but simply because of a decline in children’s walking, precisely because of an increase in danger (perceived or real) from motor traffic (only 25% of children walking to school compared to 86% in 1971). 
With the annual cost of road harm (UK DfT 2013 figures) at £15billion, as well as the human cost, this shouldn’t be acceptable in a civilized society. Potentially this is costing the Island between £20-25million every year.
This is something people who have been involved in campaigning for safer roads have been aware of for some time and hopefully we will have more local data available soon to highlight the financial cost. 
Reading the ideas by the public on this forum it’s clear that, for some, we’ve become accepting of the harm that drivers and their vehicles have the potential to cause. Here’s what West Midlands Police had to say when tasked with helping Birmingham City Council achieve more people walking and cycling with ground breaking initiatives and the reason why:
‘Cyclists don’t cause us, as an organisation, problems, that’s because they aren’t causing our communities problems, they aren’t killing nearly 100 people on our regions roads as mechanically propelled vehicles currently do. Yes we do get complaints of the “nuisance” variety, pavement cycling, some anti-social behaviour (usually yobs on bikes rather than “cyclists”), red light running etc. but you get the idea, most peoples interpretation of “1st world problems” or the “modern day blues”, nothing that’s a priority for a force like our own in a modern day society. Bad cycling is an “irritant” to the wider community rather than a danger, and maybe an improvement in infrastructure and policing may alieve many of the reasons that cause a very small minority of cyclists to be an ‘irritant’
Any ‘road safety’ strategy should have a measurable outcome and aim to achieve IOM Government’s overall strategic objectives. I appreciate how difficult this is but that’s because we’ve done nothing effective for more than 30 years. 

In my role representing IOM Cycling in safety concerns and engaging with Government departments, with a view to help people feel enabled to use their car less and walk or cycle, it’s absolutely clear the road safety review is a key part of this. The worrying thing is decision makers constantly make the same, albeit well intentioned, decisions on what we assume will help protect vulnerable road users e.g. mandating hi-vis/helmets when the evidence quite clearly demonstrates that at best were not tackling the problem at source and at worst blatant victim blaming e.g. statistically in the UK lack of visibility is attributed to less than 2% of incidents. Summary of long term study of mandatory hi-viz here:

So once the flashing warning signs, education, awareness and safety campaigns are over the design will remain and so too will the crashes and close calls. Don’t take my word for it take a look at the Chief Constables Report and compare the stats for the last 20 years and see the post in ‘Safe Systems’ by Derek Flint.
I’ll leave the last comment to the West Midlands Road Harm Reduction Team. They were the first recipients in 25 years to win an award from the House of Lords for the contribution to safer roads and a 20% reduction in car v bike KSIs in 12 months:
‘That’s the key to how we work here on the #WMPRHRT, we recognise that innovative, evidence based policing is the key to securing the safety of people on our roads. The phrases “You can’t do that” or “that will never work” have become to key test of any developing concept to the team, you see we recognise that most previous efforts of policing have failed to change wholesale driver behaviour and now see that unless a particular policing activity addresses the greatest threat of harm on the road, which for the unaware is driver behaviour, then that policing activity is just a waste of our ever valuable time. When we come up with a particular new idea or technique, unless people start rolling their eyes and shaking their heads we realise it doesn’t go far enough, we are really setting out to change the way we protect people on our roads, and those changes need innovation, creativity, to be evidence based and community support to succeed’.

by RobH on April 27, 2018 at 03:39PM

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  • Posted by WXMAN April 27, 2018 at 16:51

    Totally agree with everything in this post. 'Driver behaviour' is the number one serious issue on our roads, with the most potential to cause harm. Speeding, tailgating, dangerous overtakes, mobile phones, drinking takeaway coffee instead of looking where you're going, disrespect for other road users, impatience - we see it all every day. We need to realise we are driving missiles that can, and do, kill. Moaning about the colour of a cyclists top is not going to cut the 1000+ RTC's per year.
  • Posted by TarrooUshtey April 27, 2018 at 17:21

    Excellent comment RobH. I'm actually disturbed (if not surprised) by many of the comments here, the gist of which is that their authors think cyclists need to behave as if they were driving a motor vehicle. As you post makes clear, that would actually involve cyclists having to kill and maim hundreds of people (as well as polluting and congesting as they go).
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