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Award winning project continues to make Devon's roads safer

4 April 2012

An award winning road safety project has left a legacy which is continuing to make Devon’s roads safer.

Countrymile has been Devon’s biggest ever road safety project, introducing a number of initiatives since its launch in 2008.

Devon was supported with £1.5million of funding for the project from the Department for Transport because of its Beacon Authority status for road safety, with a road safety record better than many other UK counties. The funding recognised that Devon may be able to further improve road safety on rural roads, targeting the area between Exeter and Barnstaple.

The project received the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award last year, and Roadsafe, which organises and manages the award, has this week endorsed the work of Countrymile at a special ceremony to thank all of the partners involved.

Adrian Walsh, Director and Secretary of Roadsafe and Chairman of the Prince Michael International Road Safety Award Judging Panel, said, “This award recognises innovation and achievement and that has been delivered in bucketloads here. A-roads in Britain are among the most dangerous in Britain - you have identified that in this project and provided short and long term solutions which can be replicated elsewhere. Partnership is all important in delivering a project like this and this partnership is exemplar. You have excellent leadership and outstanding commitment; long may that continue and the public will benefit from that.”

Countrymile was operated by the Devon Road Casualty Reduction Partnership (Devon County Council, Devon and Cornwall Police, Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service, the Devon and Cornwall Safety Camera Partnership, Devon Primary Care Trust and South Western Ambulance Service NHS Trust).

The initiative focused on the area bordered by the A361, the A377 and the A396. This area was chosen because of its high proportion of casualties killed or seriously injured in road collisions, which was 21.5% - compared with 13.1% for Devon - and 83% of casualties were local to the area.

Research revealed that, thanks to the work of the Countrymile, the number of collisions from April 2008 to March 2010 saw a 41% reduction compared with the average figure between 2002 and 2006. That compared with a 20 % reduction across the rest of rural Devon.

Casualties in the Countrymile project area rose slightly in 2011 but the area is still performing better than other rural parts of Devon and so continues to make a positive contribution to Devon's road safety record.

Councillor Stuart Hughes, Devon County Council Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation, said, “The range of projects that were undertaken during the two years of Countrymile was highly impressive - a complete package of educational, engineering and enforcement work. What we have all shown with Countrymile is that intelligence led, well managed projects will deliver results. The funding from the DfT for Countrymile arose because Devon was already a Beacon Authority for road safety with an impressive track record in driving down crashes and casualties. Countrymile delivered further reductions and although last year we saw a slight increase in some casualties in the Countrymile area it still outperforms the rest of our rural network.”

As a result of Countrymile, half a million pound of safety improvements were introduced on the A361 North Devon Link Road, such as better speed limit signs and road markings. Traffic sensors were also embedded in the road which can show the type of vehicle, following distances and speed on the road to pinpoint the specific times and locations where motorists are exhibiting risky driver behaviour, helping police target their resources and provide more enforcement from the new police observation platforms.

Inspector Richard Pryce of Devon and Cornwall Police said, “It is a testament to the excellent partnership that the Countrymile project is still making a difference. This was a three-pronged attack of education, engineering and enforcement to make roads safer and each organisation played a part in that. The investment in data collection on the A361, coupled with the observation platforms, is a lasting legacy which importantly give us the ability to be more visible on the road. They also enable us to target enforcement, focussing on areas where risky driving behaviour needs to be tackled.”

Although the Countrymile project was aimed at all motorists, from business drivers to motorcyclists, young and inexperienced drivers were identified in the project as a higher risk group. Innovative ways were trialled to engage with them and give them potentially life saving information, including a VW Transporter which Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service kitted out for educational purposes.

Community Safety Manager Alan Coxon, of Devon & Somerset Fire & Rescue Service, said, “During the Countrymile project we built our first public engagement vehicle - a VW Transporter - specifically to attract and educate young people. Based on its success, we have increased our fleet of educational vehicles, which has enabled us to spread the message across the whole of Devon and Somerset. We now have a second van which is fitted with a simulator that provides a more interactive way of engaging with young people, as it can be used to show the reaction times of driving while using a mobile. Any money spent on prevention will always be a fraction of the cost of dealing with a collision. No-one wants to be called to a traffic collision so if this saves a life then that’s got to be worth it.”

Education has played a large part in the success of the project. Leaflets were produced providing safety tips and advice for when driving on the A361 and A377. As a result, average speeds on the A361 were reduced, with a 2.5% reduction of speeds between 65-70mph and a 1.75% reduction of speeds between 70-75mph.

Free advanced instruction winter driver training proved popular with communities along the A377, and extra days had to be added to meet demand. Bikers were also catered for with YouTube clips and a dedicated website featuring a series of motorcycling films to develop riders’ skills.

The recognition for Countrymile has highlighted the commitment of the Devon Road Casualty Reduction Partnership, which is yet another important legacy of the project. Many of the practical driver safety training and advice services are still available for individuals, groups and companies throughout Devon and these can be accessed through the Devon Travel Academy road safety website

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