Shropshire Council has teamed up with the West Mercia police commissioner to launch a road safety initiative. A free driver awareness course is on offer. A drop-in session will be held at Ludlow Mascall Centre on Monday 8 July, 5pm to 7pm. Details of the Road Focus sessions.
Anything that might improve road safety is important. But the record of the council and commissioner on road safety initiatives is poor. Neither supports a 20mph limit on all residential streets in the county. Safety schemes outside schools have been delayed indefinitely.
If we slow traffic in an already slow county, we will reduce both the risk and severity of injury. That would achieve more than four drop-in sessions and a single awareness course. This sadly looks like little more than a PR exercise from a council and commissioner that want to show they are working on road safety without investing in making our roads safer.
Shropshire Council has kicked all road safety schemes outside schools into touch for at least two years, including the long standing request for a pedestrian crossing on Old Street to encourage safe walking to St Laurence’s School. We are also waiting for safety improvements outside Ludlow Infants and Nursery School on Sandpits Road.
Police statistics show that 141 people were killed or seriously injured (KSI) on Shropshire’s roads in 2018. There has been an increase in KSI recent years from a low point earlier in the decade. While some of that increase may have been down to improved recording by the police, the upward trend started before recording methods changed.
No one will be surprised by the news that young people are more likely to be involved in accidents that lead to death or serious injury. This is the age group least likely to attend the Road Focus sessions and they need to be targeted by social media not old style drop-ins. The scheme might have more success with people in their forties, where there is a smaller peak in accident rates.
Accidents are more severe in Shropshire than they are nationally. That probably reflects the sad statistic that rural roads have a worse accident rate than urban roads.
We are not helped by decision makers.
Council officers refused to allow the South Planning Committee to set a 20mph on the planned Rocks Green housing development. They said the A4117 could not be slowed to 30mph without permission of the police. The police have since denied they have any veto on these matters. The advice we receive in planning committees seems to reflect a cultural attitude within Shropshire Council that drivers must be forced to slow down by physical interventions such as road design and speed bumps, not told to slow down with signage.
And as we are aware, tackling speeding is not a priority for our overstretched police service. Just walk through Street village any day and you will see this the case.
Shropshire Council has a road safety task and finish group of which I am a member. It was meant to complete its work and report by 6 March 2019. It doesn’t look like the group will now report until after the summer.
I wish the council and police commissioner well in any initiative they take to tackle road safety. But I think they are more window dressing with Road Focus than taking a determined approach to improving safety.