At a time when many local authorities are cutting back on road safety services because of budgetary restraints, three councils in Essex are working collaboratively to deliver a vision of reducing death and serious injury on the roads to zero. A target they say they ‘cannot tackle alone, but in which each road user plays a part.
The Safer Essex Roads Partnership (SERP) has brought together the three local authority areas of Essex County Council, Southend-on-Sea Borough Council and Thurrock Council to provide a road safety service across ‘Greater Essex’.
The other SERP partners are Essex Police, Essex Fire and Rescue Service, Highways England, The Essex and Herts Air Ambulance Trust, The East of England NHS Trust and The Safer Roads Foundation. The partnership was launched on 17th September 2015.
Working towards a common target
SERP promote road safety and casualty reduction through a number of activities, interventions, programmes and products which involve a combination of education, engagement, engineering and enforcement.
In order to achieve our target we review the previous year’s collision data to evaluate what we have achieved and understand whether we are targeting the right road user groups in the right way at the right time.
We have set a challenging interim target to reduce death and serious injuries by 40% by 2020 (from the baseline average of 2005-2009), which equates to fewer than 868 deaths and serious injuries, and fewer than 3,075 slight injuries, by 2020 (new target).
The reason for the ambitious target is that 868 lives cut short, permanently changed, or involved in serious injury resulting in hospitalisation and time off work each year, is far too high. Many more lives – of the families and friends of those injured – are also changed in the instant their loved one is injured in a road traffic collision.
Road Safety Technicians
Claire Stone is a Road Safety Technician for Primary Education, working for SERP. She is employed by the local authority.There are six road safety technicians, with their own targeted area of responsibility.
‘Essex has a culture of collaborative working and our current partnership has come out of that. We’ve had a couple of restructures over the years and our titles have changed my role is similar to that of a road safety officer and we have clearly allocated areas of responsibility. One of us is allocated for primary schools, two for secondary schools and two to work with the police on co-ordinating the Surround-A-Town scheme which is a mixture of education and enforcement for drivers.’
Working closely with schools
The primary education in SERP has an annual target to ensure all primary schools are contacted so that the primary team deliver pedestrian training sessions for reception classes, which involve both children and parents, and pedestrian training sessions for year 5s. While Thurrock and Southend are part of SERP they have their own school teams because they are unitary authorities, which reflects how flexibly SERP adapts to individual partners requirements.
Co-ordinating so many school visits could be challenging but there’s a team of road safety education assistants who have built up relationships with schools. They have a detailed database of when schools prefer to be contacted and when they prefer their road safety sessions to be delivered.
‘One of the challenges for the education team is that since the number of permanent full time Road Safety staff has reduced we have built extra support by engaging and training casual ‘as and when’ staff to take on some of the day to day activities with parents and children’.
Reception parent and child presentations
A classroom-based session is delivered to reception age children and their parents.
Parents are invited to a discussion, where the ethos of the session is explained.
It is explained to parents why young children are so vulnerable on the roads – why they can’t judge speed and distance due to their development, and why holding hands is important. Parents are reminded that they are role models and that if a child observes a parent using their mobile while driving or cutting corners rather than using zebra crossings, they will learn that this is what is expected of them, they will think this is the right thing to do. The session highlights how children learn from the repetition of positive behaviours that they see every day, from the people closest to them.
Parents and children are shown a PowerPoint presentation, to reinforce the messages. A copy of CAPT’s It’s Fun to Go Out… is given to share with their children at home.
The session includes behaviour change techniques, as devised by health psychologist, Dr Fiona Fylan who specialises in designing, conducting and applying psychological research to understand and explore road users’ experiences and behaviours.
SERP rigorously evaluates the interventions it uses. Alongside her work with primary schools, Claire Stone is also responsible for devising surveys and other evaluation techniques for her colleagues in other parts of SERP.
‘We are constantly looking at everything we do to make sure we deliver the very best road safety service possible. For example, it is essential to look at whether we have made a positive difference to their attitudes, opinions and behaviours.’
‘We have some great relationships with schools but doing evaluations can be challenging sometimes because of data protection. We are strict about data protection. We can’t contact people after the intervention by means such as emailing, so we rely on everyone completing evaluation forms after the intervention, which could be the pupils in schools, or members of the public.’
School speed watch partnership working
Claire also has a target to book a school speed watch session for year 5 pupils in schools in 6 priority towns. This is where pupils are given the opportunity to learn about the dangers of speeding drivers, by allowing the pupils, with a Road Safety and Police Officer, to educate drivers by asking them a series of questions about the dangers and consequences of speeding near to their school.
Road Safety ambassadors in secondary schools
Partnership takes many forms within SERP. The Road Safety Ambassador programme gives pupils the opportunity to get involved in promoting road safety in their secondary schools. As well as sharing information about national or local campaigns which SERP is supporting, young ambassadors are encouraged to produce their own posters, banners, videos or campaign ideas, which SERP can share online to inspire others. These roles are purely voluntary but ambassadors are encouraged to recognise the value of doing this as part of a project for their portfolio and adding to their CV.
Donna Bond who coordinates the work with the ambassadors states:
‘Thirty schools were contacted and half now have active ambassadors. Regular input is needed to keep students focused and give them ideas and encouragement. Some schools are more active than others, and the success of the scheme depends on the school as well as the students. It helps if teachers are passionate about promoting the messages.’
‘The students receive a badge and a certificate and just recently they have been given a pen and notebook to use when discussing ideas on the next road safety campaign. I have also recently acquired some road safety promotional stands which can be set up within the school in a prominent place or at a parents evening. These will help promote any campaigns that are running within the school when ambassadors are promoting road safety. I am also looking to eventually encourage competitions between the schools that are running an ambassador scheme. Also, I would like the ambassadors to promote road safety to the feeder schools before pupils move up to their senior school. This should help to promote the scheme and give the students incentives.’
SERP has a website offering information about all aspects of road safety schemes, and advice for pedestrians and drivers.