University researchers help efforts to tackle one of UK's biggest killers

Staffordshire University researchers are leading two projects to help tackle speeding and improve support for victims of road traffic collisions

A road sign saying 'kill your speed'

The Centre for Crime, Justice ad Security is researching ways to improve road safety

The impact of road traffic collisions can be substantial and yet there is no clear definition of who is considered a ‘victim’ of a road traffic collision and what support they are being offered.

Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw , Lecturer in Policing

Department for Transport reporting shows that 1,752 people died on UK roads in 2019, which is more than twice the number of deaths from homicides and terrorism combined. A further 25,945 people were seriously injured.

Dr Leanne Savigar-Shaw and Associate Professor Jo Turner from Staffordshire University’s Centre for Crime, Justice and Security are working with the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) for Warwickshire to understand the needs of victims and survivors of road traffic collisions and how those needs align with current provisions.

Dr Savigar-Shaw explained: “The impact of road traffic collisions can be substantial and yet there is no clear definition of who is considered a ‘victim’ of a road traffic collision and what support they are being offered. Fatal and most serious injury crashes have long term consequences impacting on physical health, mental health and economic disadvantage for many involved. The emotional strain left on those who find themselves in a bereaved or caring capacity can be immense.

“This project will explore experiences and perceptions of road victim support currently being offered to understand its role in supporting victims of road traffic collisions and we will use this evidence to inform recommendations for future provision.”

The research will involve interviews with victims and survivors, focus groups with stakeholders, analysis of vehicle collision data, and freedom of information requests.

The OPPC in Warwickshire is currently commissioning a service from the road safety charity BRAKE to provide an Independent Roads Victim Advocate service. This new research will help understand the scale and need for a future commissioned service.

Dr Savigar-Shaw said: “Already, we are finding that there is an inconsistency in the level and type of provision between geographical areas. The research has raised important questions about who is, and indeed should be, defined as a ‘victim’ of a road traffic collision and therefore be eligible for road victim support and also who should be funding this service given that the ‘victims’ are not necessarily victims of crime. So, those are the big questions that we will attempt to explore.”

Dr Savigar-Shaw has also joined forces with police in Gloucestershire to evaluate the impact of the popular Community Speedwatch (CSW) programme, which allows volunteers to monitor vehicle speeds in local communities.

She said: “Inappropriate speed plays a key role in collisions and deaths on Great Britain’s roads and is a common complaint to police from local communities. CSW is attractive as it offers communities a tool for policing this road safety concern. However, its use is not currently well-informed by evidence.

“This project will provide the first rigorous evaluation of CSW. We will review average speed data to understand whether it actually reduces speeding, but we will also carry out interviews to understand its impacts on member groups, offenders and wider communities.”

In particular, the project will consider the role of technology in supporting CSW practice. Police in Gloucestershire are trialling the use of CSW speed cameras that would be owned by the community and this research will begin to explore how this compares to the physical presence of volunteers.

Dr Savigar-Shaw added: “Volunteers are a real visible deterrent, but they are not there at times when statistically people are more likely to speed whereas the camera will be there all the time. On the other hand, the physical presence of volunteers may influence their own sense of doing something about the problem of speeding, as well as influencing wider community perceptions of safety.

“It will be interesting to see what comes out of the data and this will help us understand which CSW activity may be most beneficial for communities and inform future funding and activity.”

Visit the Centre for Crime, Justice and Security webpages to find out more about their work and how you can get involved or see more on Staffordshire University’s YouTube channel.

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