DfT rules out road safety targets

The Department for Transport (DfT) has ruled out re-introducing road casualty reduction targets, despite repeated requests from both the safety and fleet industries to do so.

The DfT has told Fleet News that local authorities are simply better placed to improve road safety, and can be more effective than a centralised body.

The government cut the road casualty reduction target in 2010.  The targets had originally been introduced in 1987 to help reduce the number of deaths and serious injuries occurring on UK roads.

There remains a strong consensus within the road safety industry that annual targets can continue to play a strong role in helping to reduce both.

A DfT spokesman said:

“Britain continues to have some of the safest roads in the world, but every death is a tragedy and we are determined to do more.

“We are making sure that we have the right legal, education, and investment frameworks in place to make our roads safer. We have already introduced new laws, given the police tougher powers to tackle dangerous driving and are investing billions to improve the conditions of our road network.

“Local authorities are best placed to decide how to use these frameworks to make their roads safer, rather than having centralised national targets.”

Richard Owen, the road safety analysis operations director, claimed that the current government is against using targets in order to dictate policy.

“An example of this is hospital waiting times.  This was forcing hospitals to meet numbers and it was having a negative impact on patient care.

“The view from the road safety community however, is that targets do make a difference. 

“There is a wider EU target to reduce road fatalities by 50% by 2020, but a lack of clear UK targets takes away focus and sends a message that road safety is not a priority.”


DfT plan to overhaul motoring services

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced new plans to innovate and streamline motoring agencies in the UK, whilst also trying to improve the driving test and tackle the shortage of lorry drivers.

The government’s consultation, which will close on 8th January 2016, was created in order to help streamline public services.  Saving the taxpayer money is the primary aim, with alterations to the driving test to help increase the pass rate one of the first issues tabled.

Currently, 21 per cent of driving tests result in a first-time pass, with most passes coming in repeat examinations.  The changes would include asking learner drivers to pay a deposit on their test which would be returned if they passed, thus reducing the amount of drivers taking a test despite not being at pass level yet. 

The consultancy is also planning to review fees for all services currently provided by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) and the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA), as well as the Vehicle Certification Agency (VCA).  It’s likely they’ll also look at changing providers for some services.

Private testing of HGVs is being considered, as are a number of methods for reducing the shortage of large goods vehicle (LGV) drivers. This is one of the biggest issues facing the haulage industry today, and it’s hoped that streamlining the application process and improving information sharing between different agencies could help potential LGV drivers to faster obtain their licence.

Transport Minister Lord Ahmad of Wimbledon, said:

“This is a bold and ambitious approach aimed at putting the user at the heart of everything the motoring agencies do.

“They provide a valuable public service, from issuing driving licences to taking dangerous vehicles off our roads and I want to make sure they are able to operate in the most effective way.”

Gerry Keaney, the BVRLA chief executive, said:

“We think that now is a good time to take stock of where the DVLA and DVSA are, and how they can best meet motorists’ needs in what is a rapidly changing automotive environment.

“It is no coincidence that this latest plan for ‘innovative and streamlined’ motoring services comes at a time when the department is under pressure to deliver huge budget cuts for the Treasury.

“We trust that these improvements will deliver efficiencies for the motoring agencies and their customers, as promised.”

In response to the LGV driver shortage, Mr Keaney added:

“The BVRLA has been calling for private sector testing of HGVs for some time, as we believe this would build on the successful roll out of ATFs by providing an even more flexible and efficient testing service for operators.

“We continue to work closely with the DVSA on its support its plans to develop a more targeted enforcement regime that focuses on non-compliant fleets while recognising the commitment that BVRLA members have made to safe HGV operations.

“Both these initiatives would produce real benefits for the road transport sector.”


Speed awareness courses could ‘invalidate’ insurance

New questions have been raised over the links between the police and companies offering speed awareness courses, with motorists potentially risking major problems if they fail to tell insurers about courses.

Insurers have admitted that they currently treat speed awareness courses the same as penalty points, and it’s feared that failing to declare taking part in a course could invalidate an insurance policy.

The courses allow drivers to avoid having penalty points on their licence, and cost between £80 and £150.  Campaigners have said that this lulls motorists into a false sense of security that the courses do not have to be declared.

Insurers, though, mostly operate a ‘catch-all’ policy regarding any matter that could affect your driving, and failing to declare a course could well be included in this list.

Ian Belchamber, a campaigner running an anti-speed campaign in Dorset, told the Telegraph:

“The police’s actions are potentially resulting in people driving uninsured because they haven’t told motorists to tell their insurers about the speed awareness course.

“I would make sure your insurer knows you’ve been on a course regardless of whether they specifically ask for that information.

“If you are involved in an accident and the insurer looks into your history and sees you’ve been on a speeding course they could say ‘You didn’t tell us about this, you’re not covered’.”

Tim Ryan, the deputy chairman of the British Insurance Broker’s Association, confirmed that insurers were perfectly entitled to raise premiums of drivers who had attended one of the courses.

“Insurers rightly increase premiums for people attending speed-awareness courses” he said earlier on in the year.

‘They have still broken the law on the road but are just taking their medicine differently.

“Drivers might avoid penalty points on their licence but car premiums could still leap significantly, which insurers are perfectly entitled to do.”


Government planning biggest road reform since 1935

The government is in the process of planning the biggest set of motoring reforms since the driving test was first introduced in 1935.

A number of major changes have been tabled as part of a new consultation document, including the closing of test centres, part-privatising the practical exam, increasing the age limit for licence renewal and higher fees for motoring services.

The driving test pass rate currently stands at just under 50 per cent, and it’s believed that improving the rate is one of the main targets for ministers.  Anecdotal evidence has suggested that learners are booking tests early in order to avoid having to wait for too long and are failing as a result.  Due to a shortage of examiners, the wait time hit eight weeks for the first time last year – well above the government’s six week target.

More flexible driving test slots, with an increase in evening and weekend appointments, have been offered as a solution.  The idea of examiners taking photos of the drivers as soon as they pass – in order to help speed up processing – has also been suggested.

Government officials believe that extra revenue could be raised by increasing non-essential services such as custom number plates, the costs of which were actually cut earlier this year but could be re-introduced.

Calls were made to raise the age for when a driver must declare themselves fit to drive from 70 to 80, as this would cut costs in administration, with the new report suggesting 75 as a potential new age. 

The official report, which was published in October will coincide with the 80th anniversary of the driving test, will form the basis of next year’s strategy on the future of the DVSA (Drive and Vehicle Standards Agency).

The Department for Transport (DfT) is already believed to be conducting trials into a new driving test where learners will be required to drive independently for 20 minutes whilst following a sat-nav.  It’s hoped that the new form of test will help drivers to prepare for the future of driverless cars.


UK write-offs worth £2 billion

According to new data from the Accident Exchange, the number of write-offs in the UK during the last twelve months has reached a substantial 257,000.  This amounts to more than £2 billion’s worth of materials.

The Exchange voiced the opinion that dealerships don’t currently provide adequate post-accident care when dealing with total write-offs, and often don’t take up the sales opportunity that a total loss represents.  Accident Exchange, meanwhile, try to get motorists back on the road ASAP, but many of their leads simply aren’t followed up on.

Winter is the most common time for write-offs, with November seeing more than in any other month. May, June and July, meanwhile, are the months with the fewest total losses.  Interestingly, new car owners are more susceptible to write-offs, with more than 2 per cent of vehicles written off being fewer than twelve months old.

According to the data, one in ten car crashes in the UK currently result in a write-off, with dealers most certainly missing out on car write-off sales opportunities.  Post-accident leads can provide better revenue for dealerships.

Accident Exchange also warned motorists of the importance of filling in section 9 of the V5C registration and sending it to the DVLA to notify them that the car has been written off.  The remainder of the V5C should then be sent to the insurance company.