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'Best ever' national conference draws to a close
The combination of an informative conference, vibrant exhibition, superb dinner and excellent entertainment, have led to some attendees to describe the 2011 National Conference as the best to date.
The conference, held in Chester 15-16 November, was hosted by Road Safety GB North West Region and sponsored by Colas, Hermes and Siemens.
The exhibition was once again fully subscribed with 23 exhibitors providing a wide range of products and services for delegates to peruse during lunch and refreshment intervals.
Day 1 - 15 November
The opening conference session was expertly chaired by Gill Roberts, St Helens Council. After a welcome from Steve Robinson, chief executive of Chester West and Cheshire Council, Alan Kennedy delivered his keynote assessment of the progress made by Road Safety GB, and the challenges ahead.
He likened the situation that the road safety profession finds itself in to that of his beloved Newcastle United football club. "The team and the fans are passionate but a new billionaire owner reduced the club's resources dramatically and things began to happen that were not good for the club," he explained. "But the team, with little resource from its owner, worked together and fought back. Through sheer determination, hard work, and a belief in themselves, the team is now riding high near the top of the Premier League.
"The road safety profession has lost massive resources and many key players under our new owner, and new people coming in will need to be supported, trained and coached. But we are a resilient, creative, resourceful and professional team. It is these qualities that I believe will keep us in the road safety premier league for many years to come."
Next on stage was Dmitry Sambuk, FIA Foundation, who outlined the extent of rising road casualties across the globe. Dmitry explained that 90% of road casualties are from developing countries and that if current trends continue there will be 1.9m casualties annually by 2020, describing this as "the road to ruin". He said that more than 100 countries celebrated the launch of the Decade of Action for Road Safety, which has targeted saving five million deaths by 2020.
Paul Watson gave an update on the National Staff Training Group, which has undertaken a scoping exercise to see what gaps there are, and possible opportunities for Road Safety GB to provide accredited training for road safety professionals. The findings of the scoping exercise will be published on the Road Safety GB website. Paul also identified opportunities for road safety teams to develop paid for training services to help survive the cuts, in areas including NDORS contracts, work related road safety, driver training and assessment, and driver CPC.
In a highly entertaining and informative presentation, Professor Steve Stradling gave an overview of a study he and colleagues are undertaking to review the effectiveness of the current speed awareness, driver alertness and RIDE course, and two new courses currently being piloted. He stressed that 'people need help' to understand that 'the road is for sharing', which he believes is one of the most important road safety messages.
Alun Humphrey gave an overview of findings of a national survey into people's attitudes to road safety. Among the findings are that three quarters of people think levels of enforcement are too low, and punishment too lenient, with the exception of exceeding the speed limit. With regard to driving style, in general people have confidence in their driving ability and consider themselves to be quite good drivers – and 90% consider themselves to be law abiding drivers.
Jeremy Phillips and Poppy Husband gave an insight into how Devon County Council, working in partnership with Plymouth University, used the government funded knowledge transfer partnership scheme to develop an evidence based practice culture into the county's road safety team
Martin Baker and Kevin Jones explained how the 'SafeZone' average speed camera system has been successfully deployed outside Springdale Primary School to address a speeding problem. 94% of parents support the scheme and 75% have noticed a reduction in speed – and the number of speeding vehicles has fallen from 64 per hour to 16 per hour.
The final speaker was Duncan Vernon who presented the findings of a study undertaken by RoSPA looking at the importance of social-economic factors and their influence on road safety and road casualties.
The session closed with the presentation of the Lynda Chalker Award, which we will cover in more detail in a separate report.
During the evening, delegates enjoyed a superb conference dinner followed by wonderful entertainment by Jamshak, a six-pice band that includes Road Safety GB chair Alan Kennedy.
Day 2 - 16 November
The morning commenced with the presentation of a Prince Michael International Road Safety Award to the Road Safety Knowledge Centre. The award was presented by Adrian Walsh, director of RoadSafe, to Alan Kennedy, Graham Stanton from Colas who sponsor the Knowledge Centre, and Nick Rawlings (project manager).
Fiona and Beth Fylan (Brainbox Research) then delivered an hour long session on 'Evaluation - what next'. The session, in which the audience fully participated, offered delegates a practical guide to the process of evaluating an intervention and using the results to enhance future delivery.
The morning closed with a lively 'Question Time' session, brilliantly chaired by Rob Gifford of PACTS, during which an esteemed panel debated the topic of speed, covering issues including 20mph limits, the proposed new 80mph limit on motorways, and the future of safety cameras.
The final session comprised a series of brief presentations by Duncan Vernon (Road Safety Observatory), Professor Steve Taylor (drivers' eyesight), Dr Carol Hawley (older drivers), Duncan Price (drug driving) and Ian Edwards (coaching). The conference closed with a thought-provoking presentation by Garry Shoreman focusing on neuro-linguistic programming, during which he stressed the importance of changing beliefs in order to achieve long-term behavioural change.
All of the conference presentations will be uploaded to the conference website on Thursday 17 November.
The 2012 National Conference and Exhibition will be hosted by Road Safety GB London Region. The event will be held at the International Britannia Hotel, Marsh Wall (Docklands), 14-15 November 2012.
Footnote: the organisers would like to apologise to Bristol Oilskins, who were not allowed to bring their motorcycle exhibit into the venue. However, as the photo shows, it is displayed prominently in the hotel garden, and the reflective material on their new high performance Bootex Motor Cycle Jacket is particularly effective!