Motorists and the economy are seeing huge benefits from a government-led initiative to reopen motorways and roads quickly following major incidents.
The ‘CLEAR’ (collision, lead, evaluate, act and reopen) initiative – launched by the Department for Transport (DfT) last year to improve incident clear-up times – is helping to save the economy tens of millions of pounds annually, with even more savings to follow.
A key achievement has been the success of 38 DfT/police-funded 3D laser scanners which allow police forces to capture evidence quickly following collisions – helping to reopen major roads and motorways more quickly.
The latest figures show an average time saving of 44 minutes per investigation – a 5 minute improvement on test estimates.
Other initiatives include the launch of a new hands-free smart phone app that notifies users of incidents and congestion, as well as the planned roll out of incident screens to shield collisions and prevent rubber necking. Time savings associated with screens alone can be up to several hundred thousand pounds per incident.
The government is confident these measures will help reduce the estimated £750 million cost to the economy that incidents cause on the strategic road network in England annually.
Road Minister Stephen Hammond said:
There is nothing more frustrating than being stuck in a traffic jam for hours on end. There is also the shocking cost of those lost hours for our economy. That is why we are improving the clear-up of incidents so we can get our motorways and major roads re-opened as quickly as possible.
We are now witnessing even greater than expected time savings as a result of the roll out of laser scanning programme. This and other elements of the initiative, such as the use of incident screens, will help to keep traffic moving and save the economy tens of millions of pounds a year.
I am very encouraged by the cooperation shown by the Highways Agency, VOSA, the Police and other emergency services, and fully expect these initiatives to result in further time and cost savings in the future.
Assistant Chief Constable Sean White, lead on collision investigations for the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), said:
This equipment allows police to manage critical events in a more efficient way and present the most accurate and detailed evidence to criminal, civil and coroners’ courts.
The time saved by using this technology is more economically friendly and reduces disruption on the roads, while allowing for thorough investigations to take place.
It is encouraging to see the success of this equipment, which has reduced delays for road users and proved extremely important in police investigations.
Other benefits of CLEAR include:
- VOSA and the Highways Agency signing a memorandum of understanding to facilitate data sharing about heavy goods vehicles. Studies have shown this type of vehicle is involved in a high proportion of the longest incidents. VOSA is working closely with operators to make sure problems are addressed
- the roll out by the Highways Agency of new towing equipment (load cells) to remove heavier vehicles obstructing live lanes and spill kits to clear spillages from motorway lanes. Time savings associated with the use of load cells have been estimated at several million pounds
- the production and distribution of a CLEAR booklet to emergency responders outlining the roles and responsibilities of key organisations involved in managing incidents on the strategic road network. The Highways Agency has also produced a film reinforcing the booklet’s messages
- the revision of emergency response guidance, training and learning to take on board CLEAR principles
- the revision of the 2007 Road Death Investigation Manual (RDIM) – the guiding doctrine of ACPO and the 43 police forces of England and Wales to investigate and report on collisions that have resulted in a death. This is expected to be published in early 2013
A report which sets out the next steps of CLEAR is currently being finalised for publication next year.