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Agenda item

County Durham Road Safety Partnership

(i)              Report of the Director of Transformation and Partnerships.

(ii)             Presentation by Dave Wafer, Strategic Traffic Manager and Chair of the County Durham Road Safety Partnership.



The Chairman introduced Strategic Traffic Manager, and Chair of the SDP’s Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, Dave Wafer, who was in attendance give Members an update in relation to Road Casualties in 2017.


The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that most figures within the presentation were for 2017, with some being for 2016 where this was the most up-to-date data and that had been published nationally for comparison.  He noted that the had been an increase in all casualties, when compared to the 2010-14 baseline figures and previous years’ figures, and with the regional and County Durham increases being greater than the national average.  Members were referred to a graph comparing local authorities, with all road users, KSIs per billion vehicle miles for 2016.  It was explained that County Durham was in the second quartile, comparing favourably with other local authorities, however the increase being 8% from 2016 and 18% above the baseline figure.  He noted, from discussions nationally in relation to the increasing figures, it was not certain as whether there were issues in relation to reporting and whether this would even out after a period.


The Strategic Traffic Manager explained that the year-to-date figures for 2018 were such that should the trend continue, the numbers would be down by around one-third, with a significant reduction.  He noted with sadness there had been 9 fatalities in 2018, adding that this was a low number in terms of comparison, with these figures falling year-on-year. 


In relation to pedestrians, it was explained that numbers remained similar year-on-year, with a decrease regionally, and a slight decrease in comparison to the baseline figures for County Durham.  It was noted that he County and the region both compared favourably nationally, with more urban areas having higher numbers of pedestrian casualties.


Members learned in respect of cyclist casualties there was a steady decrease in the figures, despite there being an increasing number of cyclists using our roads.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted this was good news and reiterated as predominately a rural county, Durham did not have a many incidents as more urban areas.


The Committee were informed that in terms of motorcycle users, numbers were roughly static in relation overall casualties, however, this was offset by a rise in the number of KSIs in Durham compared to the previous year. 


The Strategic Traffic Manager explained that noted that in terms of children up to five years old the region and County Durham had fewer overall casualties, however, comparing nationally performance was in the lower quartile.  He added that 2018 figures may highlight improvement when published. 

Members noted that in comparison, young people aged 17 to 24 years old showed very good performance with a significant decrease and with comparison with other areas shown Durham in the upper quartile.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that in would be important to try and understand why there was this difference between the age groups, suggesting that the younger children were more likely to be pedestrians and those aged 17-24 more likely to be in a vehicle.


Councillors noted in terms of older people, aged 70 and older there had been an increase in the number of casualties, however, while there was an increase in the number of older people nationally, there had been a greater increase in the number of older people as a proportion of the population in County Durham.  It was added that while the trend was not in the direction we would wish, the performance when compared nationally was good, being in the upper quartile.


The Strategic Traffic Manager referred Members to a list of road safety projects that had been delivered, including: the 20mph Limits Project; Junior Road Safety Officer; WiseDrive; Safety Carousels; BikeWise; SAGE; Excelerate; car seat fitting and checking; Police enforcement activities; Road Safety Great Britain (RSGB) North East campaigns; AAP Road Safety Initiative pilot; and Business Road Safety.


The Committee noted that for 2019 there would be a new targeted approach, with: mapping of all casualties by AAP area; school based carousels; community based road safety; and a young driver scheme.


The Chairman thanked the Strategic Traffic Manager and asked Members for their comments and questions.


Councillor A Hopgood noted the statistics in terms of up to five years old and those aged 17-24 years old and asked as regards those in between, aged six to 16 years old.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that those categories were those reported nationally and there did not seem to be an issue in relation to that age group.  Councillor A Hopgood asked if issues such as the darker winter nights have an impact on figures.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted it did and that changing driving conditions also had an effect, and that it was more important at this time to raise the issue of “being visible”.  The Chairman asked if removal of streetlights and replacement of sodium lamps with LED lights had made an impact.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted he did not know of any statistics that showed this and noted no issues or concerns in this regard, with the LED light being white and of a better quality.


Mr AJ Cooke asked as regards further education of road users in terms of the dangers, noting for example he had witnesses several drivers using their mobile phones on the way to the meeting.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that distraction of drivers was a huge issue and that Government had increased the penalties associated and there was increased Police activity in this regard.  He noted that the message would get through to the public over time, however, he added that many of the national campaigns that would have been widely publicised in previous years were no longer as widespread on traditional media, he added however, there was a lot more activity on social media in this regard.


Councillor D Hall asked if it was possible to drill down into the child casualty statistics, to look at whether the perception of road safety issues matched reality. 


He asked as regards accidents with no casualties, whether they were recorded or triggered an action and also as regards the consistency in terms of speed surveys on roads when looking at concerns relating to speeding.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that in terms of child casualties there was evidence of a correlation with more incidents in areas of deprivation, adding that in terms of breaking down the causes, that was more challenging.  He added that in terms of junctions and other areas of concern, there was in many cases hidden measures that could be incorporated into the design to make people drive safer.  He noted there was some data in terms of incidents where there was damage only, for example upon speaking to maintenance teams, however, priority was given to those incidents with casualties.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that in relation to speed limits, drivers in general would drive to the road conditions presented to them, and that while speed limits and signage was one approach, in some instances physical measures to modify the road environment would be preferable, however, this solution required more resources.  The Chairman noted that when Members sitting on Planning Committees received accident information it was often that they were told there were no incidents on a particular road, however, Members would know of incidents without casualties.  The Strategic Traffic Manager said that all incidents with an injury would be recorded in the statistics given to Members.


Councillor J Considine asked as regards issues in terms of uninsured drivers.  Superintendent Richie Allen, Durham Constabulary noted that with the technology now available to Officers it was easier to access data in relation uninsured driver and also to seize and crush vehicles as appropriate.  He added he could look to bring statistics on this back to the Committee.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that the chance of uninsured drivers being caught was now very high.


Mr D Balls asked if accidents near to schools were as a consequence of the number of parents dropping or picking up their children at the school, a result of the large number of vehicles those times.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that while school start and finish times can seem chaotic, a lot of the time the traffic is moving very slowly and there are not a large number of incidents in these areas.  He added that in terms of child casualties, they were more often further away from schools, closer to children’s homes, noting it was very important that children were taught to cross roads safely.


Councillor C Wilson noted an example in her area of poor visibility due to parking laybys and that suggestions for a mirror on trees opposite had been rejected and asked what the criteria was and what other measures may be possible in such cases.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that in terms of the placement of mirrors there was national guidelines and criteria that local authorities must follow and in some cases a mirror could give drivers a false sense of security.  He noted depending upon the exact conditions then it may be possible to remove parking, or bring any give way markers forward or make other physical changes.


Councillor R Crute noted that deprivation had been cited as a factor in relation to child casualties and asked why this was not a factor with older people, referring to the graphs presented that showed areas such as Westminster and Chelsea with higher numbers of incidents with older people.  The Strategic Traffic Manager noted that it may relate to the numbers of older people in those areas and the density and volume of traffic in those city locations.




That the report and presentation be noted.


Supporting documents:


Democratic Services
Durham County Council
County Hall
County Durham
03000 269 714