The Government has been accused of failing to implement the strategies necessary to achieve goals agreed as part of two major international road safety initiatives. Furthermore, its decision on width and height restriction sign regulations, made shortly after taking office in 2010, directly contradicts one of the aims stated by the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.
The Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety was published in May 2011 to coincide with the global launch of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety.
“UN General Assembly resolution 64/2551 of March 2010 proclaimed 2011–2020 the Decade of Action for road safety, with a global goal of stabilizing and then reducing the forecasted level of global road fatalities by increasing activities conducted at national, regional and global levels.” - Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020
To launch the campaign in the UK, the Prime Minister was joined at No. 10 in May 2011 by F1 stars Lewis Hamilton and Jenson Button.
The Government is also supporting the European Commission’s target of halving road deaths by 2020.
However, in an open letter to The Times on 11 July 2011, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) slated the Government’s Strategic Framework for Road Safety for its “noticeable lack of ambition“, and urged the Government “to implement strategies that will meet the European target of reducing deaths by 50 per cent by 2020“. The letter is signed by four former Ministers for Road Safety and number of road safety organisations.
The UN Decade of Action for Road Safety lays out actions to be carried out by national governments:
“4.2.1 National level activities
At a national level countries are encouraged to implement the following five pillars, based on the recommendations of the World report on road traffic injury prevention and proposed by the Commission for Global Road Safety.
Pillar 1: Road safety management
Activity 1: Adhere to and/or fully implement the major United Nations road safety related agreements and conventions …
Convention on Road Signs and Signals, of 8 November 1968, setting up a set of commonly agreed road signs and signals”
Section C, II, 1(e) of Annex 1 of the 1968 Convention specifies the units for vehicle restriction signs:
C, 5 “NO ENTRY FOR VEHICLES HAVING AN OVERALL WIDTH EXCEEDING … METRES”
C, 6 “NO ENTRY FOR VEHICLES HAVING AN OVERALL HEIGHT EXCEEDING … METRES”
C, 9 “NO ENTRY FOR VEHICLES OR COMBINATIONS OF VEHICLES EXCEEDING … METRES IN LENGTH”.
As the United Nations clearly states that full compliance with the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals is one of the key actions that a government should be taking in support of the UN Decade of Action On Road Safety, it is quite extraordinary that the Department for Transport (DfT) makes no mention of the Vienna Convention in its Strategic Framework for Road Safety. It is also notable that the Traffic Signs Policy Review by the UK Department for Transport (DfT), which began 2008 and fizzled out in 2011, made no attempt to address the issue of road signs that are non-compliant with the Convention.
Instead, the Government took a defiant stance. In 2010, the then Secretary of State for Transport, Philip Hammond, dropped the planned requirement for metres as well as feet and inches to be used on width and height restriction signs. This was despite widespread support within the industry for the proposal, and estimates of savings that would be made according to the DfT’s own consultation paper.
Given the implications for road safety of the UK’s failure to implement properly the Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals, it is regrettable that the United Nations’ advice is being ignored. It is hoped that the forthcoming review road traffic signs will ensure that they are fully compliant with the Vienna Convention.
UN Decade of Action on Road Safety
UK Prime Minister launches UN Decade of Action on Road Safety
European Commission outlines measures to halve road deaths by 2020
Strategic Framework for Road Safety
Vienna Convention on Road Signs and Signals 1968