In our latest blog post, RoSPA CEO Errol Taylor reflects on taking his advanced driving test.
What a huge sense of relief! After a few weeks of re-reading the Highway Code and trying to unlearn various bad habits, it was wonderful to hear the examiner pronounce “that was a gold grade drive” and to realise that I’d retained my position in that elite group of – arguably – the best drivers in the world. Just 0.02 per cent (or 1 in 4,500) of the UK’s drivers put themselves through the RoSPA Advanced Driving Test every three years. Advanced drivers tend to have fewer accidents and use less fuel than other drivers, while still being able to make good progress through our congested road network. As with any high standard, it is challenging to keep performing well, year after year.
Today’s increasingly connected world means that we rarely have time to focus on ourselves and maintaining our own performance. Yet we owe it to ourselves, our passengers and other road users to do our best whenever we get behind the controls of vehicle. Carmakers, together with Google, Uber and Tesla, will eventually develop completely safe, fully autonomous vehicles but in the meantime, we have to recognise that cars are driven by people and people make mistakes. According to the Department for Transport, human error and deliberately risky behaviour (such as exceeding the speed limit) were contributory factors in almost 90 per cent of UK road accidents in 2017.
Set an example
For many, driving is an important part of life, giving a sense of freedom to travel wherever and whenever we want. In contrast, Albert Einstein had no car of his own, and he never learned how to drive, but it is hard to disagree with his assertion that “setting an example is not the main means of influencing others, it is the only means.” With this in mind, I proudly hang my fresh RoSPA Advanced Drivers and Riders certificate on my office wall, demonstrating my commitment to keeping skills and knowledge up to date through regular training and re-testing. The certificate shows an ability to perform to a satisfactory level in exam conditions and – more importantly – serves as a constant reminder to perform to the same level in everyday driving conditions.
A historical perspective shows how far we, as a country, have travelled. Back in the 1960s, more than 7,200 people lost their lives on British roads every year. This unacceptable death toll was addressed by a powerful coalition of legislators, police, road engineers, vehicle manufacturers and educators. Thanks to cars packed full of safety features and improved road layouts, the toll had fallen to 2,000 road fatalities per year by 2010. Although this is still too high, the reduction has meant that the road safety community has saved the lives of a population equivalent to the town of Carlisle (approx. 100,000 people). Most of these people will never realise that their lives were saved by their seat belt, a set of traffic lights or courtesy shown towards another frustrated driver. Human life is precious. According to DfT figures, the cash value of these saved lives is estimated – at 2017 prices – at a mind-blowing £190billion*.
During a recent visit to RoSPA’s Swiss equivalent, the bfu, we compared the similarities and differences between our organisations and their environments. Although the UK has tended to have one of the lowest fatal accident rates in Europe, Switzerland has deployed its wealth and clockwork precision over the last few decades to move from its relatively poor accident rate – which meant it was languishing at the bottom of the league table – to challenging the UK for our third position behind exemplary Sweden and Norway. We agreed on the value of injury data and sophisticated analysis to identify root causes and accidents hot spots. A big difference was the Swiss preoccupation with winter sports and associated accidents. Unless we see a repeat of the spring 2018 blizzard conditions, the UK has to cope with rain rather than snow.
Data can often confirm “common sense” and the latest data shows that many skiing and snowboard accidents happen where pistes intersect. As a non-skier, I was baffled by the idea of hurtling down a thrilling ski slope and suddenly realising that I might have to
take avoiding action because my route was crossing another which was full of skiers going in various directions. Ski slope designers could benefit from copying motorway design, where everyone is travelling in the same direction at similar speeds, or road junctions where traffic lights, stop and give way signs help us negotiate hazards safely. Maybe skiers themselves would also benefit from the skiing equivalent of an advanced driving test… because accidents don’t have to happen!
*DfT RAS60001 gives the average value of prevention per reported road casualty, in 2017, as £1.897million. £1,897,000 x 100,000 = £189.7billion.
To find out more about RoSPA’s Advanced Driver Training visit HERE
This article first appeared in RoSPA’s Care on the Road journal