Advising National Policymakers on Improving Road Safety During and After Lockdown

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Craig Arnold, Criminology, Socal Policy and Social Work, Keele University, 2019 Cohort

Through the opportunities presented by my ESRC funded PhD, I am now engaged in national programmes, including addressing the challenges posed by COVID-19. As the country entered lockdown because of the coronavirus pandemic, the volume of traffic on our roads dropped by around 70% following an increase in people working from home, and the avoidance of unnecessary journeys.

Despite this reduction in volume, a worrying trend of increasing speeds developed, with people seemingly taking advantage of quieter roads. Whilst this may, at first glance, not appear a significant issue, one must consider that as speeds increase so too does the likelihood of death or serious injury should a collision occur. If this trend continues, the transition out of lockdown will likely present greater challenges in terms of increased collisions, and collision severity due to a core of people for whom travelling at increased speed has become the new norm.

Dr Helen Wells of Keele University, who is the lead supervisor for my PhD study, is the academic advisor on a jointly funded project between Highways England and the National Police Chief’s Council. The Galileo project aims to fundamentally rethink how the problem of harm on our roads can be tackled. Dr Wells’ role on the project saw the birth of my research project ‘Roads Policing Reimagined: Intentions, expectations and experiences of a new roads policing tasking methodology’.

The main aim of my research is to understand how technological advances, including those relating to big-data insights can reduce the number of people killed, or seriously injured on our roads. My research also seeks to understand what front-line practitioners need, and how they see technology assisting them as they adapt to future challenges.

My research is adopting a qualitative approach and has three main strands; semi-structured interviews with strategic and operational end users, focus groups, and a contextual inquiry. The contextual inquiry allows practitioners to be observed using the technology looking to improve their ability to reduce the number of people killed, or seriously injured on the roads. User-engagement allows for an iterative process with software developers to enable them to understand and adapt to those matters that are essential for both strategic managers, and front-line practitioners.

It became apparent during the early stages of lockdown in the U.K. that Galileo was in a powerful position to assist Police Forces in understanding the newly developing speeding problem. My role was to conduct several interviews aimed at understanding how the insights generated by Galileo could be utilised by police forces to respond quickly to the developing problem. The data gathered from these interactions has helped inform the overall strategy being developed by Dr Wells. Alongside this, we have been asked to develop an ‘exit strategy’ for roads policing to tackle the challenges and opportunities presented as we transition out of lockdown.

The work will be presented to the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence forum, and through collaboration will enable the design and implementation of methods to improve the safety of the roads over the coming weeks. Our work was highlighted by Keele University (https://www.keele.ac.uk/coronavirus/response/supportingourpartners/coronavirus-lockdown-research/roads-policing-study.php) and has received press attention.

The work aims to provide police forces with an accurate picture of the speeding problem within their area. Forces will also be provided with a range of support including evidence-based enforcement options, and research-backed educational messaging, all aimed at changing driver behaviour. The overall aim is to help police forces gain an accurate insight into the kinds of problems that could potentially cause an increase in the number of injury collisions as the country begins its transition out of lockdown.

Tim Ashman, programme lead for Galileo said “Craig has very quickly established himself as an invaluable member of this national roads policing change programme team. He is currently leading the activity around defining a detailed User Requirement for the products and services that the programme aims to provide across a range of proof of concepts pilots.”

About the team

I am currently undertaking a PhD in Criminology at Keele University. I also have over 10-years’ experience as a roads policing officer. My research is being funded by the ESRC and is supervised by Dr Helen Wells.

Dr Helen Wells is a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at Keele University, and as well as being the academic advisor to the National Roads Policing Operations and Intelligence Forum, is Director of the Roads Policing Academic Network (RPAN).

RPAN is a network of over 90 multi-disciplinary academics all with an interest in roads policing. The Network has academics from 3 continents  and supports the work of road safety practitioners.

Craig Arnold – Twitter @CraigGArnold

Dr Helen Wells – Twitter @RoadsPolicing

RPAN – Twitter @RoadsPolicingAN

 

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