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Life can change in a moment for road users

Life can change in a moment for road users, and ‘with great power comes great responsibility’. In this shared space, safety guidelines save lives—whether crossing roads, cycling, or driving. In the second article in the series, Dr Karen McDonnell, RoSPA’s Occupational Health and Safety Policy Adviser and Head of RoSPA Scotland, emphasises the importance of road safety and how businesses play a crucial role in managing driving risks and ensuring employees are fit to drive.


Life can change in a moment for road users f
Dr Karen McDonnell

Everyone has a different experience of using the road, whether it’s starting the day as a pedestrian walking the dog, cycling to the local shop, driving to the train station or getting back in the zone of a daily commute. Some of us arrive at work and are office based for the day. For others, their vehicle is their workplace.

As road users, there are simple guidelines to follow that save lives: choosing a safe place to cross the road, ensuring the lights work on your bike, having sufficient fuel for the journey, and driving at an appropriate speed.

Life can change in a moment for road users p two
Image credit: ShutterStock

The roads are a shared space and, as highlighted in the recent changes to the Highway Code, at each stage of your day, you can become more vulnerable as a cyclist, pedestrian or horse rider or have an increased responsibility as you move from behind the wheel of your car into the cab of an LGV or HGV.

The phrase “With great power, there must also come – great responsibility” is well known from the 1962 Marvel comic, Amazing Fantasy’ #15 (Spider-man’s debut). Sixty years later, in 2022, it is being used to help road users understand the power they hold in reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on roads, irrespective of where you live in the world and whether you are using these roads for work or going about daily life.

‘In that moment’, life can change for road users – exceeding the speed limit, a glance at a mobile phone, driving the morning after the night before, a close pass of a cyclist or horse rider or ‘just’ forgetting to wear a seatbelt. All have the potential to change the course of your day and the course of your life.

For Lorraine Allaway, that moment came on October 3, 2015, the date her 46-year-old husband, Bob, was knocked off his motorcycle by a drunk driver.

She said: “The driver was two and a half times over the drink-drive limit when he hit and killed my husband. He was sentenced to four years and eight months. In two and a half years, he’s going to be free, but we’ve got a lifetime. I never got to say goodbye.”

The moment came for Charlie Fogarty when aged 15, he sustained a serious head injury after being hit by a car. A promising young footballer, Charlie had just finished a four-year contract at Birmingham City FC’s Academy. He was trialling for MK Dons when the accident happened as he got off a bus on his way to meet a friend.

Charlie took the full impact on his head, resulting in a life-changing brain injury. He was placed in an induced coma and spent 11 uncertain days in intensive care. He was then transferred to a neurosurgical ward, where he remained for four months before completing a six-month rehabilitation programme at a specialist brain injury centre, learning to eat, drink, walk, talk and perform basic tasks again. He returned home in February 2013. Charlie switched his focus to delivering inspiring talks about how he found strength and courage in the face of unimaginable adversity. In 2018 Charlie was awarded an MBE for establishing a football team for disabled players.

In each case, the vehicle driver had the power and responsibility to make a different choice ‘in that moment’, to not drive while impaired by drink or to anticipate people getting off the bus as it stopped.

In our shared road safety space, we shouldn’t play ‘rock, scissors, paper’ between drivers and vulnerable road users. The power that business can release through highlighting the importance of the vehicles as a workplace, and managing driving risk as any other risk to their organisation, is increasingly important, as is accepting responsibility for ensuring that employees are fit to drive, vehicle checks are undertaken, journeys are planned, seat belts are worn and appropriate speed is used as the service they provide is delivered. And not expecting responses to messages as they drive.

Getting road safety messages right saves lives and spans the generations, from “Good driving means safer cycling” to “Look behind before opening the door” and “Journey’s end”, messages crafted by RoSPA in the 1960s that still resonate today.

Sign up to ScORSA

RoSPA is responsible for the delivery of the Scottish Occupational Road Safety Alliance (ScORSA), an initiative relating to those who drive or ride for work.

Membership is free and is open to individuals and organisations worldwide. Member benefits include a webinar series and access to information that helps manage driving risk. A new occupational road safety communications toolkit focusing on the Fatal Four – excess speed, distractions, drink and drug driving, and not wearing a seatbelt – is now available to members. See for details.

Road safety podcasts

ScORSA’s road safety podcasts put the spotlight on driving for work and how to manage risks. Each conversation explains where driving for work sits within the Safe System approach.

The first episode features George Henry, National Operations Manager for Road Safety Policy and Education at Transport Scotland, who outlines the five pillars of the Safe System: Safe Road Use; Safe Vehicles; Safe Speeds; Safe Roads and Roadsides; and Post-crash Response.

In the next four episodes, Roger Bibbings MBE, RoSPA’s Partnerships Consultant, discusses managing occupational road risk. The sixth and final episode is a conversation with Michael McDonnell, Director of Road Safety Scotland, about the Fatal Four and how businesses can help share messages that save lives.

Subscribe to the podcast via your usual podcast provider.

To read Dr Karen McDonnell’s previous article, go to Applying safe systems to road safety at ATF Professional.

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Owain Griffiths

Owain Griffiths

Head of Circular Economy at Volvo Cars

Owain joined Volvo Cars in June 2021 to lead Circular Economy in the Global Sustainability Team. The company has committed to being a circular business by 2040 and has financial, recycled content and CO2 based targets for 2025, all of which Owain is working across the company to make happen. Owain previously worked for circular economy consultancy Oakdene Hollins where he advised businesses on evidence led circular economy implementation. 

Turning into a circular business and the importance of vehicle reuse and recycling.

The presentation will cover the work Volvo Cars is doing to achieve 2025 but mainly focus on the transformational work towards 2040 and the business and value chain changes being considered. Attention will be paid to the way vehicles are being dealt with at the end of life and the complexities of closing material and component loops. Opportunities and challenges which Volvo Cars is facing will be presented including engagement with 3rd parties and increasing pressure from stakeholders.

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