26 May 2022

Guest blog: From 1931 to the present

Guest blog by John Cartledge, Global Development Manager at Gaist

With the introduction of the Highway Code in 1931, the concept of road safety was first linked with the road user. At the time there were just 2.3 million motor vehicles on our roads but with 7,000 people tragically killed in road accidents each year.

Fast forward to today, there are over 27 million vehicles on our roads but thanks to advances in vehicle safety and other infrastructure safety factors, only half the number of road deaths occur. Despite this the challenge to keep our roads as safe as possible for the user is as real as ever, road defects, inadequate road design and changes in the road surface all contribute to road accidents and deaths today, as in 1931.

Network operators such as Local Authorities are increasingly encouraged to plan for and improve road networks and active travel infrastructure (much of which is intertwined with our road infrastructure) with limited resources. This requires a much more intricate, multifaceted understanding of the road network to enable them to do their jobs effectively and keep road users safe.

So how do we use new advanced data insights now available to us to support the efforts to meet the needs of citizens, through facilitating road safety and the safe growth of active travel?

Old Challenges, New Approaches

The advent of dynamic data from vehicles circulating on the road network present a real opportunity for network operators to understand what is happening much closer to real time than ever before.

Anonymised, aggregated data from vehicles can now provide insight related to things such as continued irregular braking patterns in specific areas, road friction, road roughness and ambient temperatures across whole networks.

In a winter maintenance context (as one example), this means there is real potential for winter service managers to have a much clearer view on how vehicles might interact with the roads. When factored into the broader context of local knowledge, gritter routes and the other key aspects of local winter maintenance strategies this provides a powerful tool to react much quicker to arising issues and add knowledge year on year.

Alternatively, take the implications of being able to understand vehicle braking on a network in specific locations. Repeated heavy braking in specific areas suggests specific road features perceived by the road user as hazardous and become hazardous when cars repeatedly brake sharply in that area.

By coupling these dynamic datasets with image-based surveys accessible from the desktop, network operators can quickly understand the context for this live dynamic data and use their expertise to intervene as and when necessary. The quicker and more effectively awareness of road defects, changes and potential design improvements can be identified and addressed, the safer the road user.

The Future

Looking forward to the 100-year anniversary of the first highways code in 2031, the world has changed immeasurably. Whereas the first edition included advice to drivers of horse drawn vehicles, we now look to automated vehicles and mixed-use networks as the next generation of mobility solutions.

However, we find a commonality between the two eras in network condition and design being two key factors in determining road safety. By using innovative technology and data insights to better understand our highways and byways we can deliver safety solutions quicker and more effectively to benefit all road users, the onus is on us as a geospatial community to work together to make the best use of the data now available to us to save lives.

John Cartledge, Global Development Manager at Gaist

 Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change



techUK, in collaboration with its Local Public Services Committee, has published a new report making the case for enhanced digital innovation adoption across the UK’s local public services to improve citizens’ lives. The report, ‘Local Public Services Innovation: Creating a catalyst for change



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