We were deeply saddened to hear the news that our dear friend and colleague Professor Richard Allsop passed away in January after a short illness.
Richard was a giant of road safety policy: one of the pioneers in the field of research on the effects of alcohol on driving, an advisor to the British government and a key figure in both the UK’s Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety (PACTS) and ETSC. To us, and many in the British and European road safety community, he was a friend, confidante and mentor.
As a board member, chair and later advisor to our Road Safety Performance Index programme, we will remember Richard for his curiosity, keen intellect and incredible eye for detail but also his kindness, utter dedication and generosity. He has been such a pillar of ETSC for so many years that it is hard to believe he is no longer with us.
He was born in 1940 and educated at Bemrose School Derby and Queen’s College Cambridge where he studied Mathematics. There he was involved with the UN Association, the Refugees Action Group and War on Want.
From 1973 to 1976 he was Director of The Transport Operations Research Group at Newcastle University before becoming Director of the Centre for Transport Studies at University College London, a post which he held for some 20 years.
He was a leader of the University Transport Studies Group and developed strong links between the group and the UK Department for Transport. He became a Director of the UK Parliamentary Advisory Council on Transport Safety (PACTS), ETSC’s UK member, in 1995 until 2015.
Throughout his career he built a formidable reputation in the transport safety field through timely and meticulous research in areas such as drink-driving, seatbelts, signal controlled junctions, risk and choice on roads, the safe system and the impact of the economic recession on traffic deaths. He was a committed researcher, that wanted to see research leading to policy change, not sitting on the shelf.
As an academic he was highly regarded: “outstanding” was the view held by many. He became a powerful influence on policy development and the understanding of road safety.
But beyond his many achievements, recognised by an OBE (a British order of chivalry) and his Emeritus Professorship, he possessed many personal qualities which made him much more influential than a dry account of his academic and policy work might suggest. He was always ready to help newcomers and the inexperienced with his kindness and wise counsel, going way beyond the normal courtesies. He may be summed up as an outstanding example of that rare commodity: a true gentleman.
It is no exaggeration to say that many people today owe their lives to Richard’s quiet persistence and rigorous determination in the cause of road safety.
With thanks to Rob Gifford, John Plowman and Heather Ward for their help with this article.