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Setting Speed Limits

Get the Limits Right and Arguments About Speed Enforcement Could Vanish

It is very easy when we hear people complaining about speed limit enforcement, to assume that the person complaining is somehow irresponsible, liking to drive faster than is safe. We hear it a lot.  When we delve a little deeper however, whilst there are inevitably a tiny minority of this ilk, the vast majority including all of us here in the ABD fully support enforcement against anybody who drives faster than is safe.  The issues they have are invariably with the way enforcement is targeted, and many are very angry indeed that it appears all too often to be targeted at the safe, sober, responsible driver on the safer stretches of road where the limit appears unreasonably low to a significant number of drivers, and perhaps worse still, those speeding in dangerous places are not targeted at all.

What is the exact nature of the problem?  Well the problem with current enforcement is that it incentivises targeting at high revenue sites.  This isn’t just to make profit, it is also because empires that are self-financing and self-perpetuating have been encouraged by government policy, With no fine income, the empires die. When vehicles, equipment and staff have no income stream financing them, they simply die out.  Targeting areas where the majority of drivers sense danger and therefore slow down is not viable because although those caught would be the ones everybody wants them to catch, the numbers are lower so it is not financially viable.

And the solution?  Well it’s two-fold.  Firstly we could take the financial incentives away by sending fine revenue directly into the tax system and fund ‘safety partnerships’ directly from government, rewarding them for casualty reduction only.

Secondly, if limits were properly set then there would be no unreasonable limits for the ‘safety partnerships’ to target.  All the arguments about enforcement would simply go away and the authorities would return to being respected and supported by everybody, something nobody would argue was currently the case.

So, how do we get limits right?

Well we need to depoliticise limit setting.  Take it out of the hands of local politicians who, although often well meaning, are unqualified on the subject and are also often keen to go with whatever they think will win them votes.  There needs to be a national policy on the setting of limits and they need to be in the hands of qualified experts.  There is a system which we in the UK abandoned a few years ago which set limits using a method proven all over the world to maximise safety.  It is called the 85th percentile rule.  Put simply it measures the speed of free-flowing traffic on a particular road in the absence of a limit.  The limit is then set at a speed below which 85% of drivers naturally choose.  There are exceptions but as a broad principle this method creates limits which earn respect and are respected.  Using this method would raise some limits and lower others.  The ABD calls for an end to the current unsustainable fiasco and a reintroduction of the 85th percentile.  It saves lives, increases respect for the enforcement agencies and gives smoother traffic flow.  There really is nothing not to like.

And what else needs to be done on speed?

Limits are far from the only tool in the box.  Setting one’s speed safely to the conditions is probably the most vital skill a driver needs to master.  But it isn’t about numbers.  It is about looking ahead, well ahead, observing potential hazards and continually reappraising one’s speed.  Put simply, the main discipline is to ‘always drive at a speed where you can safely stop in the distance guaranteed to be clear’.  It is virtually all that matters and needs to head up all education campaigns.  When, however did you last hear these words?  Did you ever hear them from anybody in the speed management business or authorities?

Road Safety and Grass Cutting

With the approach of summer it is interesting to see how different councils approach grass cutting and the effects that unattended grass can have on road safety. For three years it has been necessary to remind Durham County Council of their responsibility to cut grass because of the impact on road safety.

On previous occasions, the threat of members of the public cutting the grass on behalf of the council has motivated the council to take remedial action, but with a policy of only cutting grass twice a year and no attempt to monitor if road visibility is being impaired, the motorist is repeatedly being put at risk.

“Reasonable foreseeability” in law ought to demand greater consideration from Council operatives where clearly the risk of accident has been considerably increased.

The photo attached clearly illustrates the indifference that both the local authorities and the police have for road safety in this regard. Perhaps this is being ignored because it is a cost to tackle this problem when council budgets are stretched, but the cost of road accidents is so large that surely it is worth spending some money on this issue? It should not be ignored.

It is also very worrying that at several roundabouts in the Durham and Sedgefield area, barriers have been erected or trees planted to purposely hamper visibility as cars approach roundabouts. I am sure that licenced road users are capable of approaching roundabouts with due care, without the local authority creating hazardous situations for the motorist to negotiate.

We at the ABD are sincere in our desire to achieve the highest levels of road safety and would ask that those in authority operate with integrity and deal with this issue.

Francis Barnish

Press Release: No Benefit From Speed Awareness Courses

 The Department for Transport (DfT) have, after a long delay, published the Ipsos-MORI report that they commissioned into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses. This is the key statement in the Executive Summary: “this study did not find that participation in NSAC [National Speed Awareness Courses] had a statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions”.

In other words, as the Alliance of British Drivers has repeatedly said, this unethical and legally dubious diversion of drivers to speed awareness courses is primarily about generating money, not about road safety because there is no evidence of any real benefit. Indeed drivers who have attended such courses might be interested in another statement in the report: “the NSAC was not designed to reduce the incidence of collisions”. So what exactly is the objective one might ask as it appears not to be focussed on improving road safety?

Was the study too small to produce statistically significant results? Not exactly because the records of 2.2 million drivers, of whom 1.4 million had accepted a course offer, were studied over a period of 4 years. This data was linked to subsequent speed reoffending and involvement in collisions to produce the report’s conclusions. That’s a large sample.

The only impact they found was that there was a small reduction in reoffending after involvement in an NSAC, but that is surely hardly surprising because drivers might simply take more care about speeding after being caught for one offence because you cannot be offered a second NSAC within 3 years.

The report argues that an even bigger study might prove there is some benefit but the proponents of such courses are surely clutching at straws if they think that expense is worthwhile.

Regardless we suggest speed awareness courses should cease to be a money making industry for ex-police and road safety officers and should only be offered to people who are actually convicted of speeding offences. Otherwise they are just a way to bribe the police to look the other way when an offence is committed (a waiver of prosecution as they call it). That’s corruption and a perversion of justice!

The ABD’s campaign against this illegality is documented on this web site which explains the history, the financial arrangements and the evidence of police profiteering: http://www.speed-awareness.org/

The Ipsos-MORI report can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/national-speed-awareness-course-impact-evaluation

Roger Lawson

(Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmpowABD )

Press Release: Chancellor’s Tax Policies Are Major Blow To Car Industry

Today’s new car registration figures show that last year’s changes to Vehicle Excise Duty (VED) have now led to a whole year of declining new car registrations. The decline started on the day the new regime that Chancellor Osborne designed, and Hammond implemented, kicked in. The ABD calls on Chancellor Philip Hammond to immediately address the issue before further harm is done. The October budget will be too late.

ABD spokesman Nigel Humphries explains: “Due to the confusion created by the shambolic new tax regime, rather than trading in their existing cars, usually economical diesels with cheap or free VED, drivers are choosing to hang on to their old car. This is having a disastrous effect on new car sales. Why would you buy a new car when a) The road tax will likely be higher; b) If buying a diesel, there is no guarantee that local authorities will not in future introduce all manner of charges for parking or even entering towns; and c) If buying a petrol then economy will be poorer than your existing diesel?”

The ABD calls for four immediate changes in the VED regime to reinstate confidence and fairness in the market:

1. The government must announce with immediate effect that no local authority will be allowed to impose discriminatory charges on any type of car or motorcycle for parking or entering a zone based upon type of motive power. Those that have already, including the London Mayor, must scrap them.

2. The zero VED band and sliding scale should be reintroduced for low emission new cars.

3. VED should be capped at £300 pa for all cars over three years old, ending the anomoly where certain cars sold between 2005 and 2018 pay up to £535. This will help the lower income driver. When newer models with equivalent CO2 figures only pay £140 after the first three years £500+ cannot be justified.

4. New electric cars should pay VED of £500 and the gift of £4,500 from the taxpayer to buyers should be scrapped. It is grossly unfair on other drivers that those who can afford expensive new electric cars cars pay nothing at all to use the roads whilst others pay thousands in fuel duties and VED.  EVs cause as much congestion and wear to the system as any other car.  £500 is still substantially less than most other drivers pay (10,000 miles pa 40mpg car pays around £1,100 fuel tax and VED) and is more than sufficient reward for their green credentials.

Press Release: Government Entirely Responsible for Urban Vehicle Emissions Issues

 

Why, after over four-and-a-half decades of dramatically declining vehicle emissions (typically having fallen by some 70%; see Fig.1 below ), do we have urban vehicle emissions hotspots that ostensibly require urgent remedial action?

Answer: The emissions hotspots are entirely the fault of successive central and local governments of various political complexions: incompetently enacted transport policy implemented by apparently even more incompetent urban transport planners.

Decades of installing only intermittently-used bus-/ taxi-, and cycle-only lanes, pinch-points, asynchronous traffic-light phasing, speed ramps, 20mph zones, other speed limit reductions and private vehicle lane-subtraction schemes have choked average city-centre traffic speeds down to little over 10mph (16km/h).

At these low traffic speeds, NOx, NO2 and the other vehicle emissions ramp up precipitately to over four times those observed at steady, free-flow speeds of 30mph (50km/h) or above (see Fig.2 below).

So what has been the cumulative effect of some two decades of this ill-conceived, social-engineering-inspired, anti-car, traffic hindering central and local government policy?

Answer: To utterly negate over forty years of improvements in vehicle emissions abatement technology.

Another “triumph” of knee-jerk policy implementation over superior technological solutions.

If politicians are really committed to improving urban air quality – as opposed to merely looking to engineer yet another opportunity to financially exploit hard-pressed drivers, they will implement the five Action Plan Points below.

If you are fed up with being used as local and central government’s tame cash-cow, write to your MP (see: https://www.parliament.uk/mps-lords-and-offices/mps/) and demand that central and local government’s urban road transport policies be formulated around these key action points:

  1. Firstly, reverse the pernicious traffic gating-, lane-subtraction-, public transport-, and cycle-prioritisation policies that have brought traffic speeds in our major cities down to a staccato mix of stationary and walking pace progress – with consequent completely avoidable adverse emissions and urban air quality effects.
  2. In the short-term, invoke a more targeted pursuit of the worst transport sector polluters; getting the highest emissions (mainly delivery, public transport vehicles and diesel rail transport) remediated or scrapped and replaced.
  3. Convince domestic heating and transport fuel manufacturers to alter their refining processes; further purifying their products, yielding cleaner-burning versions which produce lower concentrations of NO2, NOx, PM2.5s, PM10s and SOx.
  4. If, as is being constantly preached to us, the future is electric, Government must facilitate the development of electric vehicles with an all-weather conditions range of at least 350 to 700 miles, and a recharging time comparable to that required to refill a modern, liquid-fuelled car. To be market-competitive, their performance capabilities will also need to be comparable to those typically achievable by modern petrol and diesel cars.
  5. Government must also provide the infrastructure investment for all UK private dwellings – including apartment blocks – to have the facility to park off-road, and recharge at least two electric vehicles per household resident at that dwelling.AND FINALLY:
  6. Write to the local Council Leader (in whatever is the town or city in which you live) and invite him – and his equally culpable transport “planners” – to stand down forthwith, and give way to scientifically-literate successors who know what they are doing.

References:

  1. Emissions time-series figure reproduced with permission from a Local Transport Today article authored by Mr. P. Dobson (LTT726; 07-20/07/2017, p.20).
  2.  London average traffic speed was recently reported to be 11mph (roughly 18km/h). See e.g., http://www.thisislocallondon.co.uk/news/804876.london_cars_move_no_faster_than_chickens/
  3.  See e.g., “London Exhaust Emissions Study – Developing a test programme and analysis of emissions data from passenger cars in London”, Transport for London.

Press Release: Revenue Generation trumps Road Safety – Again!

It has recently been announced [Ref.1] that the outdated and discredited 70mph motorway speed limit is now to be rigidly applied on so-called “managed”, or “smart” stretches of the M1 motorway in Yorkshire and Derbyshire.

Never mind – as the two most recent ABD Press Releases [Ref. 2, 3.] have unequivocally established, that speed is NOT the cause of high speed accidents, but rather the consequence of alcohol/substance-abuse, induced impairment and/or criminal behaviour.

The fact is that there are virtually no sober, responsible drivers involved in road traffic accidents where their speed is the primary definite causation factor and they are the perpetrator. Inattention and poor observation are always the table-topping primary causation factors.

Nevertheless, the glib, groundless and pathetically inaccurate “Speed Kills” myth is trotted out by jobs-worth so-called “road safety professionals” – whose livelihoods are increasingly speed enforcement incentivised. It is used to legitimise ever more unreasonable, unrealistic – and in road safety terms – counterproductive enforcement of very often seriously under-posted speed limits. These are frequently set in complete contravention of sound (85th Percentile) road safety principles.

Even those clinging to the vacuously naïve misapprehension that speed enforcement was only carried out to improve road safety must by now have worked out that it’s all about the money – increasingly arising from ballooning Speed Awareness course attendance fees.

The ABD therefore demands that the motorway speed limit be brought into the 21st century by setting it at 80mph – (with the retention of the [+10% + 2] mph NPCC tolerance).

Given that some 97% of road traffic accidents are NOT caused by speed limit infractions, what we also really need is more police patrol vehicles on the lookout for bad/ erratic driving. What we definitely don’t need is more dumbed-down limits, patently dumb (but highly lucrative) and ineffective speed awareness courses and the unjustified electronic fleecing of road users.

Such welcome developments are unlikely to happen while the neither the DfT nor the Home Office can be considered fit-for-purpose with respect to the development and implementation of effective road safety policies.

The creation of an independent, objective, state-funded Road Accident Investigation and Prevention Board is long overdue. Run and manned along the lines of the marine and aviation counterparts; this body would investigate the causes of road accidents, formulate and implement effective road safety policies and regulate UK speed enforcement operations via mandatory rules, not worthless “guidelines”.

Contemporaneously, there must be a removal of all incentives that encourage speed enforcement for revenue generation. There must also be total financial segregation between those involved in speed enforcement operations and any revenue streams arising from the prosecution or rehabilitation of speed limit offenders. The involvement of private limited companies currently active in road safety policy formulation and implementation must be terminated forthwith. These bodies must then be replaced with transparent, wholly publicly accountable bodies; responsive to public concerns about the unregulated use of power.

References:

1. https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/motorists-will-be-fined-for-driving-above-70mph-on-smart-m1-in-yorkshire-1-8981116

2. http://www.abd.org.uk/speed-enforcement-needs-firm-regulation/

3. http://www.abd.org.uk/the-hidden-truth-behind-statistics-used-to-justify-speed-enforcement-priorities/

Road traffic accidents where inappropriately excessive and illegal speed are definite primary causation factors have perpetrators who are also invariably grossly alcohol- and/ or substance-impaired. They are often also contemporaneously involved in other criminal behaviour, such as escaping from a crime scene, property or vehicle theft – or even road racing.

The Real Reason for the ULEZ in London – It’s About Money

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has said before that we are suspicious about the reasons given for the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) in London. The proposed measures, particularly the extension to within the North/South Circular, seemed disproportionate to the likely benefits from reductions in air pollution. This is particularly so, bearing in mind that emissions from vehicles are rapidly falling, as newer vehicles replace older ones.

Now we know the truth!

In April 2017 we asked for information on the financial budgets for the ULEZ – the likely costs and income the Mayor would get. The request was refused and we eventually had to appeal to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). We have now received the requested data following a judgement in our favour. These are the figures received from Transport for London (TfL):

  • Implementation costs: £38.4 million.

  • Operating income and costs:

Impact of introduction of ULEZ on income (£m) over 5 years 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive. (+ve is net increase in income): £55.3 million.

Impact of introduction of ULEZ on costs (£m) over 5 years 2017/18 to 2021/22 inclusive. (-ve is net increase in costs): -£12.7 million.

But these figures make absolutely no sense as against the figures we have calculated for operating income based on data provided in the ULEZ consultation documents. For example we estimate income over five years as being £313.6 million rather than £55.3 million.

In reality TfL may be making a profit over five years of £300.9 million for a capital investment of £38.4 million. At a stroke Sadiq Khan will solve his budget problems with the ULEZ implemented.

The Mayor has great financial difficulties, as is apparent from his recently published budget for the next few years, where he begs for more financial support from central Government. But he surely will not need their support with this scheme in place, even though he does not have the funds to do it without more borrowing.

Just like the central London Congestion Charge (a.k.a. Tax), where charges were later raised (more than doubled), thus making it a very profitable for TfL, once the infrastructure, such as cameras are in place for the ULEZ, charges can then be raised. The scheme can also be extended way past when traffic air pollution ceases to be a problem, thus potentially introducing more general road pricing.

Will the health benefits outweigh the costs of the scheme to Londoners? The answer is no because they are only valued at £7.1 million over 5 years. This duplicity in justifying the ULEZ on health grounds, which few are likely to oppose, when the real reason may be to fund his empire, is surely typical of Mayor Sadiq Khan’s approach to politics and democracy. Who does not want cleaner air? But there are lots of ways to improve air quality from transport and other sources, without imposing such enormous costs on road users.

To remind readers, the ULEZ charge for non-compliant cars will be £12.50, imposed 24/7, and enormous numbers of people will need to buy new cars to avoid this cost.

Readers should make sure they oppose the extension of the ULEZ by responding to this public consultation before the 28th February: https://consultations.tfl.gov.uk/environment/air-quality-consultation-phase-3b/?cid=airquality-consultation

More Information:

Our full analysis of the costs and benefits of the ULEZ are contained in this document: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/Cost-of-the-ULEZ.pdf

The ULEZ proposals are part of the Mayor’s Transport Strategy which the ABD is vigorously campaigning against – see this web page for more information: http://www.freedomfordrivers.org/against-mts.htm

The unnecessary delays and obstruction by TfL in responding to the ABD’s reasonable request for information on ULEZ costs is documented in this blog post: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2018/01/09/press-release-tfl-forced-to-disclose-ulez-costs/

Our views on the ULEZ proposals and how the Mayor is scaring Londoner’s unnecessarily about air pollution and health are documented here: https://abdlondon.wordpress.com/2017/11/30/panicking-londoners-consultation-on-ulez-extension/

For more information on this issue, contact Roger Lawson on 020-8295-0378.

France downgrades speed limits –be careful out there!

In June 2016 Britain voted to leave the EU, but the British government decided that it will continue to impose EU motoring laws, without any ‘Sunset Clauses’.

So in May 2017 the – ‘2015/413/EU Cross Border Enforcement Directive’ was bought into British law, which now means EU governments have access to your records via the DVLA.

Previously to imposing this legislation, you had to be stopped and an on-the-spot fine issued; now that is no longer the case.

As most ‘evidence’ is now gathered electronically, it means prosecutions can be harvested in their millions, as opposed to the lower limitations imposed by a personal, more human, one-to-one basis.

This will allow unscrupulous law-enforcement agencies (private or governmental), to issue fines to any ‘foreign’ vehicle owner. Safe in the knowledge that there is little chance of anybody contesting the ‘evidence’ with no legislation for the need to supply any proof e.g. photos, film, etc.

The prospect of trying to defend one’s self in a British court of law, most people would find daunting enough. So in a foreign ‘alien’ judiciary and court system, combined with the complexity of the law in that country, the huge expense of travelling to the court and the language problem, means for those handing out the prosecutions, who know full well, that they are not going to be challenged!

So be very, very careful now, when travelling in the France. From 1st July 2018 the speed limit on single carriageway roads will be downgraded from the current 90kph to 80kph (50mph).

For now, this is the only limit that has been changed.

For more information: https://www.aph.com/community/holidays/french-speed-limit-cut-later-year-find-avoid-risk-fines-650/

Press Release: New Record for Speeding Education Income

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has been campaigning against the abuse of police waivers and the offer of speed awareness courses. The latest figures disclosed by NDORS show that the number of courses undertaken increased to a new record of 1.26 million in 2017. In other words, last year even more drivers were blackmailed into taking a course with the threat of a fine or points on their licence. This is despite the fact there is no hard evidence that such courses have any impact on driver behaviour (a Government commissioned study into their impact seems have been delayed in reporting for unexplained reasons).

The result of these high numbers attending courses is that the police are now receiving £57 million as their proportion of the fees charged on an annual basis. They and NDORS claim that this only covers administrative costs but that is simply not true (the evidence is available on our campaign web site at www.speed-awareness.org). The police are using these fees as a slush fund to finance whatever they want, including the provision of more cameras so that they can rake in even more money from motorists.

The ABD suggests this has nothing to do with road safety but is about generating money for the police to support their shrinking budgets and is of course actively promoted by those in the burgeoning speed camera and course education industry where enormous profits are being made.

There is no evidence that this concentration on speed is having any impact on road safety – it cannot do so for reasons the ABD explained in a previous press release here: http://www.abd.org.uk/the-hidden-truth-behind-statistics-used-to-justify-speed-enforcement-priorities/

The ABD suggests that the Government should put a stop to this abuse of the criminal justice system forthwith. It is in essence a perversion of justice in the cause of police funding.

More information:

1. The latest data on the number of courses is present on the NDORS web site here: https://ndors.org.uk/trends-stats/ (NDORS are the national scheme operators).
2. The number of standard NSAC courses rose from 1,188,961 in 2016 to 1,195,356 in 2017.
3. The number of NSAC 20 courses (for infringement of 20 mph speed limits), doubled from 17,139 to 34,471.
4. The number of NMSAC courses (for infringement of motorway speed limits was 30,030. It was zero the previous year because this was a new course.