Pass Plus - A holistic approach

Young Driver Interventions in South Lanarkshire - Taking a holistic approach through education and engineering.

Background

South Lanarkshire Council continuously monitors road casualty trends in order to ensure that national targets are being achieved.

Up until 2005 there was a general downward trend in fatal and serious casualties but the next three years showed a gradual increase. At that point the Council’s approach to road safety was reconsidered and two main areas of concern were identified; accidents on rural roads and accidents involving young, inexperienced drivers.

Often these factors coincided with young drivers being involved in serious accidents on country roads.

These factors lead the Council to embarking on two very significant road safety initiatives. The Route Action Plan (RAP) programme, with additional funding from Strathclyde Partnership for Transport (SPT), commenced in 2007 with major investment during the summer of 2008. The Pass Plus initiative for young drivers, with funding from Strathclyde Fire and Rescue and South Lanarkshire Community Safety Partnership was launched.

It was anticipated that by improving the road environment to make it easier for drivers to identify hazards, whilst improving driving standards through better training, the increase in casualty numbers could be reversed.

Policy Linkages

The Scottish Government has set challenging casualty reduction targets that will take us up to 2020, which South Lanarkshire Council has embraced. Based on the average number of casualties from 2004 to 2008, these targets are a 40% reduction in road deaths and a 55%
reduction in serious injuries, with the equivalent targets for children being 50% for deaths and 65% for serious injuries.

South Lanarkshire Council’s Local Transport Strategy (LTS) identifies road safety and accident reduction as a Council priority and the LTS contains specific policies and actions to contribute to meeting this outcome and we are striving to achieve this. SPT’s Regional Transport Strategy also supports accident reduction through policies on making journeys safer. The South Lanarkshire Single Outcome Agreement contains the 2010 national target of a 40% reduction in accidents and contributes to the Scottish Government’s strategic objective of “Safer and Stronger.

Strathclyde Fire and Rescue are committed to making a meaningful contribution towards reducing death and injuries caused by road traffic collisions by promoting safe and responsible driving at an early stage. South Lanarkshire Community Safety Partnership has identified reducing road accidents as an important aspect of “Safer Communities”, one of six main themes which fall under the broad umbrella of the Community Safety Partnership.

Project Delivery and Partnership Working

The problem of accidents on rural roads is not unique to South Lanarkshire, and throughout Scotland rural roads account for approximately three quarters of all fatal road accidents and 58% of serious ones. Drivers can perceive these quieter roads as being safer than others and as a result can become complacent, leading to reduced concentration and excessive speed.
This is particularly true when the driver is young and inexperienced.

Rural country roads are usually of a variable quality and often contain lower standard bends and cambers when compared to current roads standards. Drivers are prone to misreading the road layout, resulting in inappropriate speed. Routes were prioritised by calculating the accident rates which were then compared to the national average rates for similar types of road. Routes experiencing higher than average accident rates were then identified for treatment.

Between 2006 and 2010, 25 routes were targeted for treatment with an overall investment of £3 million. Packages of measures were designed incorporating enhanced road markings, road studs, upgraded warning signage, vertical alignment improvements, anti skid surfacing and visibility improvements. Key to the success of the route action plan programme was ensuring consistency of driver information, in order to reduce the possibility of drivers misreading the road layout.

Modern technology was also used to good effect throughout the programme. Several sections of routes were treated with solar powered vehicle activated warning signage. These signs illuminate to warn drivers if they are approaching a hazard, such as a sharp bend or junction, too quickly. The use of these signs has allowed the Council to provide road users with a higher level of hazard warning, and has provided an innovative and environmentally sustainable solution.

The Pass Plus initiative assists newly qualified drivers to gain valuable driving experience. The topics covered in the project are driving in town; all weather driving; driving out of town; night-time driving and driving on dual carriageways and motorways. The scheme is open to all newly qualified drivers living in South Lanarkshire and a subsidy of £75 towards the total cost of approximately £120 for the training is provided. To date 977 new drivers have completed the training since the scheme started in 2007. Publicity material and application forms are made available at the two test centres in South Lanarkshire.

Results

The effectiveness of the two aspects of this initiative had to be evaluated in different ways. The RAPs were suitable for “before / after” evaluation using accident statistics on the routes treated.
This type of evaluation is not appropriate for an educational intervention such as Pass Plus, therefore it was decided to canvass the opinions of newly qualified drivers who had participated in the scheme.

For the first eighteen routes where RAPs have been installed accident statistics for the period before the work was completed have been compared with those afterwards. In the three years before the improvements were introduced there were on average 66.01 injury accidents per year on these roads, this has reduced to 23.67 per year, a 64% reduction. As an injury crash on a rural road costs on average £123,077 the reduction achieved equates to a saving to society of £5.21 million per year. When compared to the cost of £2.42 million for installing the eighteen projects this provides a first year rate of return of 215%

Annual evaluations of the Pass Plus project has produced the following:

  • 82% of participants reported that the main reason they took part in Pass Plus was to improve their driving.
  • 55% stated that it was to allow them cheaper insurance.
  • 19% expressed that it was mainly due to parental influence.
  • 64% of Pass Plus participants reported that the scheme had had a major impact on their technical ability to drive.
  • 72% reported that it had significantly improved the safety of their driving.
  • 74% stated that Pass Plus had resulted in major improvements to their attitude and behaviour in a positive way.
  • The main benefit experienced by most participants was the opportunity of gaining experience of motorway driving.

Due to the significant scale of these initiatives it was anticipated that they would result in a noticeable reduction in casualty numbers. This has materialised as the up-ward trend in fatal and serious casualties identified in 2007 has now been reversed and casualty numbers have shown a significant downward trend since 2008. The number of fatal and serious casualties during 2010 was the lowest since the Council was formed in 1996 and 35% lower than 2007.
This trend is shown graphically in Appendix A.

Conclusions

The Council has a responsibility to allocate resources in a responsible manner in order to achieve the greatest benefit to the wider community. This has been done by prioritising potential schemes based on their contribution towards the national casualty reduction targets.
Whilst the Council exceeded the 2010 targets, a 67% reduction compared to a 40% target, the new 2020 targets are even more challenging and the Council cannot be complacent.

Our holistic approach to road safety, by integrating road safety education with engineering measures, in this case for young drivers on rural roads, clearly demonstrates a positive contribution to the casualty reduction targets. This method is a vital component in our continued drive to reduce the number of accidents on our roads, in particular those with the highest severities.

South Lanarkshire - Appendix A - 2