The 4th International Safer Roads Conference, which took place from 18-21 May, 2014, in Cheltenham, was a great success.
It was particularly so for the quality of the papers presented from nine different countries and for helping break down the divisions between the agencies and specialisms involved in creating and maintaining road networks.
The Conference programme included papers by the police, medical doctors, traffic safety professionals and highway maintenance and asset management engineers; a truly significant cross section of those involved in producing safer roads.
The keynote speakers from Holland, New Zealand, UK and USA were inspirational:
• Questioning complacency generated by reducing headline accidents rates while masking increases in deaths and serious injuries to the most vulnerable;
• Questioning our attitudes to road safety and explaining that:
o people make mistakes and so achieving safer roads needs everyone to be involved;
o people are vulnerable and our bodies have limited ability to withstand crash forces without being killed or seriously injured;
o responsibility needs to be shared - system designers and those who use the roads must jointly create a road system where crash forces do not cause death or serious injury.
• Explaining the developments that will occur in the immediate future through the use of technology in the car and how this will reduce the risks we face when driving. However, it will also produce ethical issues, such as increasingly having a rich middle aged class driving safe cars, while the young and disadvantaged, will be driving the least safe, which are associated with the highest risk of death and serious injury when involved in an accident;
• Presenting examples of best practice in maintaining high standards of road safety within highway maintenance asset management plans.
The Conference, which was co-sponsored by W.D.M. Limited, New Zealand Transport Agency and the Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation, was unique in being almost entirely electronic.
Delegates already have access to the papers and presentations and these will be made available, free of charge, to everyone on the Conference web-site, www.saferroads.org.uk. The papers and presentations for the three earlier conferences are also accessible.
The 5th Safer Roads Conference will be held in New Zealand in 2017 and those interested will shortly be able to register for future updates on the Conference website.