Lower speed limits and safer road design

The hardest aspect of any community-based road safety campaign is achieving results that require significant funding or changes in local policy. This includes campaigning, for example, for pelican crossings, lower speed limits and speed cameras. Below are some guidelines on how to achieve the best possible results.

Who's responsible?

Different roads are often the responsibility of different officials. Trunk networks are often looked after by a different department to roads in towns and villages. Contact your local council and ask which department has responsibility for the roads you have focused on in your campaign. You will usually need to talk to the department with responsibility for highway engineering.

Talk in their language?

It’s important to be well informed when you are talking to officials. You can find a selection of reports, regulation and guidance uses by road safety professionals in the UK on the Brake website. Please note that these documents may change or be subject to updates over time. Ask your local officials if they have more recent documents.

Will they do what I want?

The first thing to consider is: Do I know what I want? What is the problem? What are the possible solutions? What is the best solution for my street? Like all challenges that need to be overcome, the most important thing is to do your research thoroughly and be inclusive of others. That means finding out what has worked best in other places; talking with officials at local or national level; studying research to find out more. Consult with neighbours and other stakeholders to find out their road safety issues and suggestions. Some of the best road safety schemes have been prepared by the community in partnership with officials. It's better to do your research and work together than wade in with a demand that is not valid, so arm yourself with information and collective support.

What if they say no?

It is not uncommon for an official to say 'no' to community requests for action. But this is just the first round in what might be a long fight. You know you have a problem, and a solution must be found. Don't be afraid to question what you are told by local officials. For example, a local official might tell you that a road safety measure cannot be implemented because a road isn't wide enough or there isn't a certain amount of traffic on a road.

They may say there is no funding available in the budget. Ask to see a copy of any guidance they say they are following. If necessary, check at Government level that the guidance is still up-to-date; as it may have been superseded by better guidance. Budgets can often be found from somewhere for a measure that will save lives at some point. An official may be prepared to implement a road safety measure if your community and local businesses raise the funds to pay for all or part of its cost.

But no-one has died; yet!

In Brake's experience, one of the most common reasons for telling communities that a measure cannot be implemented is that 'no one has died here'. If an important road safety measure is rejected by an official on the basis that ‘no one has died’, keep fighting! Tell officials that all good risk audits and prevention measures are conducted and implemented on the basis of current risk to life due to existing hazards, not on the chance circumstance of whether someone has died. Your community is, in effect, being told that a life or lives must be sacrificed before something will be done. This is neither acceptable, humane, nor civilised. If traffic is going too fast, it is going too fast. It is only luck that no one has died, and luck is no security at all.

Keep going, and keep talking

Don't give up at the first hurdle. Many successful campaigners have been turned down repeatedly, but they have used these disappointments to fuel their efforts further. Keep copies of all correspondence, and build on your work, rather than giving up and having to start all over again in a year's time. Keep writing and keep talking. Set up an email or social networking group of supporters. That way, you will be able to formally exchange views and information and pass on findings to others in your group. Keep talking in a positive way to all concerned, including those who hold the purse strings.

Mutual understanding and persistence based on facts and support is often the secret to success. Don't be afraid to get political – engage the support of a local politician or businesses for that final push to success. Try to get your local MP on your side.

Have I done everything I could?

Often, drivers behaving dangerously in communities are the same people who are living in those communities. Have you done your bit to educate local drivers and try to encourage them to drive more responsibly? For example, you can send letters home to parents if you are trying to make a road outside a school safer. If you can demonstrate your community's involvement and efforts, you will have more justification for demanding an engineering solution.

Alternatives

Sometimes communities get exactly what they ask for, and quickly, and sometimes they don’t. For example, your group may want a lower speed limit, but an official may say ‘no’ and instead offer a sign asking drivers to ‘slow down’. They may suggest an alternative such as this without being prompted. If not, and your request has been turned down, ask what your highway engineer is able to do. An alternative road safety measure may work as well as your original suggestion, or it may not.

Sometimes, alternative measures are implemented because they are cheaper and easier, not because they are effective. Invite the safety engineer to speak to your group to explain the reasons why they think their alternative is a good idea. If an alternative measure is implemented, consider if there are ways to research its success – has it slowed down traffic or enabled children to cross the road more easily? You may have to launch a new consultation to take your campaign to the next level if a measure has clearly not been effective.

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