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Department for Transport: Road Safety Research Programme


DfT Road Safety

Department for Transport: Road Safety Research Programme

Background & policy context: 

Research commissioned within the Road Safety research programme provides support for the UK Government policy of meeting the national road casualty reduction targets for 2010, as set out in the UK's Road Safety Strategy. Compared with the average for 1994-98, the targets are: 40% reduction in killed and seriously injured; 50% reduction in children killed and seriously injured; and 10% reduction in the slight casualty rate per km travelled.

Road Safety Research is commissioned by the UK government:

  • To inform Ministerial decisions;
  • To guide the execution of policy;
  • To address issues on which Ministers may need to take decisions in the future;
  • To monitor the achievement of policy goals; and
  • To improve information disseminated by the Government.

The programme of research is funded publicly because that is the only way to ensure that the information required for the above purposes is available and based on sound, objective, unbiased research.

The type of research required in this area is not supported by research Councils, which focus on basic science objectives, or commissioned by Local Authorities, which understandably restrict their research to local objectives. It is therefore the responsibility of Central Government, and in this case of DfT, to fund this programme of research. Most of the funding is provided through the Division's research budget, but some research is carried out in collaboration with other organisations.

The research programme is organised into seven sub-programmes each of which has a specific objective.

Strategic Objectives: 

Research is concerned with meeting the UK's road casualty reduction targets. In order to meet this primary objective, research is commissioned:

  • To analyse and understand the factors which contribute to accident causation;
  • To develop and evaluate measures to reduce the number of accidents and casualty severity;
  • To monitor the effects of road safety policy.
Programme organisation: 

The transport policy context is indicated by the programme's 7 sub-themes:


  • Vulnerable Road Users: This theme covers research on pedestrians, cyclists and children. Whilst the overall GB road safety record is the best in the EU, performance on pedestrian safety is only average, and accident rates for child pedestrians are higher than in most other EU countries.
  • Driver and Rider Behaviour: Projects in this theme cover research on driver behaviour, driver training and testing and on the development of novice driver skills. They also cover research on motorcycle safety, including rider behaviour and training. The objectives include to investigate the factors which contribute to the higher accident rates of riders and novice drivers, to review current training and testing practice, and to make recommendations for change to driver and rider training and testing to ensure that new drivers and riders are prepared for driving in today’s conditions. Research is also investigating unlawful driving behaviour and an evaluation of the effectiveness of driver improvement courses, and the factors that influence effectiveness, is also being undertaken.
  • Impairment: This theme is primarily concerned with drivers who are impaired due to alcohol, drugs (illicit or medicinal) or fatigue, and ways of reducing the problems through enforcement and publicity. Attention is also being given to the influence of alcohol on pedestrian accidents, and to the problems of older road users.
  • Road Engineering and Speed Management: These projects address the contribution of speed to accident risk and the ways in which the enforcement of speed limits and road safety engineering measures can reduce casualties most effectively. 
  • Statistical Analysis, Accident Causation and Policy Monitoring: Projects in this theme include statistical surveys and analysis of existing data; in-depth investigation of road traffic accidents; research into the factors which contribute to accidents and development of countermeasures to reduce casualties. They also include research into the effectiveness of policy measures.
  • Medical Aspects of Fitness to Drive: Pre-existing ill health makes only a relatively small contribution to road accidents. However declaration or assessment of medical fitness is part of the licensing process and advice from clinicians informs drivers on whether they can safely drive. This programme aims to improve the quality of evidence underlying bot
Leading Institutions:

UK Government: Department for Transport

Type of funding:
Programme funding arrangements and funding conditions: 

Funding is for DfT road safety research is ongoing and funded by the UK government.

Programme budget 2003-4: £4.6 million (excl. VAT)

Participating countries: 
United Kingdom
Total number of projects: 


Projects covered: 

Some examples of recently completed projects (all from the vulnerable road user theme):

  • Provision of Road Safety Education in England and Wales
  • Computer-based Child Pedestrian Training
  • Review of Road Safety Education Linked Database (Rosalind)
  • Training for Children Transferring from Primary to Secondary School
Project Profiles:
  1. Child Road Safety in Rural Areas
  2. Cohort Study of Learner and Novice Drivers
  3. Computer-Based Child Pedestrian Training
  4. Cycle Helmets - A Review of Their Efficacy
  5. Effects of Road Engineering Modifications On Child Pedestrian Skills Development
  6. Junction Improvements For Vulnerable Road Users
  7. Project report: On the Spot Studies
  8. Rural Speed Management
  9. The Rehabilitation Project - Further analysis, evaluation and monitoring
Department for Transport
Road Safety Research, Zone 2/09, Great Minster House, 76 Marsham Street
London SW1P 4DR
Contact country:
Fax Number: 
(+44) 207 944 9618