FAQ: Road safety

Safety is a key priority for us at BEAR. We have dedicated road safety teams based in the North West and South East areas of Scotland who seek to remove or minimise risks for all road users by developing comprehensive strategies and improvement schemes to prevent and reduce the occurrence and severity of collisions.

Our client, Transport Scotland wishes to embed the ‘Safe System’ approach within Scotland’s Road Safety Delivery Framework; putting people at its centre and providing a more forgiving road system that takes human vulnerability and fallibility into account.

  1. What is a Safe System Approach?
    The explicit, longer-term goal of the Safe System Approach is for a road traffic system which becomes free from death and serious injury.
    The Safe System Approach is considered to be international best practice for road safety by the World Health Organisation (WHO).
  2. Are all accidents investigated?
    We carry out an annual review of collisions which resulted in injuries (personal injury collisions) on the road network and investigate where possible cluster patterns occur, or routes with recorded collisions involving fatalities, serious injuries and slight injuries that may be worthwhile of further investigation.
  3. BEAR’s Annual Road Safety Review
    BEAR’s Annual Road Safety Review considers personal injury collision patterns and rates along each route in the form of Route Accident Reduction Plans (RARP), whilst also screening all locations where three or more collisions that have resulted in personal injury have occurred in a three-year period. We investigate the circumstances behind these collisions and carry out a review to determine what mitigations could be implemented. Proposals are submitted to our client, Transport Scotland for approval and funding.This means investment decisions are evidence led. Whilst there may be occasions where ‘damage only’ and ‘near miss’ incidents are cited, these are not normally used in informing safety interventions as there are no reliable data sources on these nationally.  Records of individual ‘damage only’ incidents are not recorded in a standardised format as injury collisions are via police records.
  4. Is road safety just about analysing accident cluster sites with a view to improving so-called ‘black spots’?
    While analysing collision data from cluster sites can be useful, it is important to appreciate that the contributing factors for a collision can vary even if there seems to be a cluster at a particular location. It is important to take account of all the potential contributory factors involved in a collision.
  5. What constitutes a ‘cluster site’?
    On Scottish Trunk Roads, a collision cluster site is a location where three or more personal injury collisions have occurred in close proximity (within a 100m radius) during a three-year period.
    Cluster sites are analysed during the annual road safety collision screening process. Sites that are recommended for further investigation are issued to Transport Scotland for consideration.
  6. What does an investigation involve from a road operating company as opposed to the Police?
    If a road traffic collision results in serious or fatal injuries being sustained, a police investigation is undertaken. The purpose of a police collision investigation is to determine if any parties involved have committed a crime and should be prosecuted.
    The police gather evidence from the scene, vehicles, parties involved and witnesses to determine the causation factors in the collision.  These causation factors, along with other basic information such as driver details, vehicle type, time of day, weather conditions etc., help inform the road operating company’s investigation into possible collision mitigation measures.
    Where a fatal collision occurs, a meeting is held at the collision site between Police Scotland and various road safety stakeholders, including Transport Scotland and the road operating company. This allows the police to explain the circumstances behind the collision and to ensure that any issues involving the road layout are raised and engineering improvements considered amongst all parties.
  7. What is involved in a Road Safety Audit?
    A Road Safety Audit is a comprehensive safety review of highway improvement schemes at various stages of the design and following the completion of works.  They play a vital role in checking that improvement schemes have been designed and built to the highest safety standards. Independent auditors highlight any road safety problems to the scheme designers so these can be addressed. A Road Safety Audit considers road safety issues for all road users (particularly vulnerable road users) and consider questions such as:- Who could be hurt in a collision on this part of the road and how could that happen?- What can be done to reduce the potential for that collision or to limit its consequences?
    The Audit team then makes recommendations for improvement.
  8. What monitoring do you do of safety measures?
    Our Annual Road Safety Review process includes monitoring of previously implemented road safety measures. This is an evidence-led review undertaken each year to assess the effectiveness of schemes.  This allows us to see what safety interventions work best at particular locations and could be replicated elsewhere to aid collision reduction.
    Further monitoring of schemes is completed as part of the Road Safety Audit process which is carried out on a scheme-by-scheme basis. This is also an evidence-led review that looks at collision data for the 12 months following construction of improvement works.For schemes that involve speed reduction or traffic calming measures, pre and post speed surveys are carried out to determine the impact on road user behaviour.
  9. How do you make decisions about changing speed limits?
    A review of speed limits on all trunk roads was published by Transport Scotland in 2012.
    Subsequently, new guidance was introduced by the Department for Transport in 2013.
    Any requests for changes in speed limits are considered in line with this guidance. Changes must be fully justified and reflect the function of the road and the road environment.
    It is worth noting that speed limits should not be used to attempt to solve the problem of isolated hazards, for example a single road junction or reduced forward visibility such as at a bend, since speed limits are difficult to enforce over such a short length.
  10. How do you make decisions about putting up warning signs?
    Traffic signs play a vital role in directing, informing and controlling road users’ behaviour in an effort to make  roads as safe as possible for everyone.  Signs must conform to designs prescribed by regulations. Occasionally, a sign that is not prescribed by the regulations may be authorised for placing on a public road.
    Warning signs should only be installed where there is an identified hazard or road safety problem, and not to solely meet a perceived need, as overuse of warning signs can dilute their effectiveness. In addition, too many signs in one place can actually be a distraction for road users. Care must also be taken to ensure that a route is treated consistently.
    Where specific issues and concerns are raised, we work with road safety stakeholders to ensure the right solution is found in line with current design guidance.
  11. How do you make decisions about changing a road surface to improve safety?
    Along with screening of all injury collisions, the road surface is also assessed annually to maintain a consistent approach to the provision of skid resistance across the strategic road network, so that road users find appropriate friction characteristics when accelerating, braking and cornering.
    Sites where treatment is likely to reduce the risk of skidding related incidents in wet conditions are prioritised for road surface improvement works.
  12. How do you make decisions about removing dangerous bends or changing junctions to improve safety?
    Where a road safety issue is identified, and following instruction from Transport Scotland, we review the site in line with current design standards.  For bends, this may initially involve checking the warning signs, road markings, hazard marker posts and road surface treatment provisions are adequate for the bend radius. If the bend radius does not meet with current design standards and where a safety problem persists, then consideration is given to alteration of the road alignment.Similarly, for junctions, the existing junction type, layout, radii, road signs/markings and road surface treatment are assessed against the traffic volume, design speed and collision history to determine if improvements are required. For example, this may involve introducing traffic signal control where there are injury collisions occurring as a result of turning conflicts.
    Investment decisions are evidence led and targeted, and all recommendations for improvements are subject to Transport Scotland approval and available funding.