Press Release: Police Must Justify New Speed Campaign With Hard Statistics Not Spin, Smoke and Mirrors

As UK police launch the latest nationwide speed enforcement blitz commencing 14 Jan (1), the ABD challenges the National Police Chiefs’ Council spin and deliberate confusion of statistics, used to justify the thousands of tickets that will mainly be issued to sober, licenced drivers exceeding limits by small margins.

ABD spokesman Paul Biggs explains:  “The National Police Chief’s Council claim that ‘Across Europe speeding contributes to as many as one third of all collisions that result in fatality’.  The police chiefs are deliberately misleading by ignoring two facts.  Firstly, the one third includes inappropriate speed within limits – 85% of fatal and 93% of serious RTAs involve road users travelling at or below the speed limit – but enforcement of limits doesn’t tackle this.  Secondly, statistics uncovered by the ABD show clearly that the remainder of the one third is made up largely of those who were also drunk, drugged, driving stolen cars, using cars for crime, driving without licences or travelling at reckless speeds way above the limit (2).  Indeed, whilst we have asked many times just how many people are killed by sober, otherwise legal drivers exceeding the limit by small margins, those in authority have invariably dodged the question.  Yet these drivers remain the prime target by far of campaigns such as this.  Perhaps Adrian Davis of West Mercia Police, who justifies the campaign on the grounds of 123 people killed and 929 seriously injured in his area, may enlighten us as to how many of these involved such drivers?  We won’t hold our breath.”

It should be noted that Paul Garvin, then Chief Constable of Durham Constabulary, verified the above in 1993 (4.) stating:  “having looked at the accident statistics in this area, we find that if you break down the 1,900 collisions we have each year only three per cent involve cars that are exceeding the speed limit. Just 60 accidents per year involve vehicles exceeding the speed limit.  You then need to look at causes of these 60 accidents. Speed may be a factor in the background but the actual cause of the accident invariably is drink-driving or drug-driving.”

The ABD call for limits to be set using the 85th percentile methods to avoid the incentives for targeting high revenue areas.(3)  Speed limits are too often set on the whims and fancies of local councillors, clearly exceeding such limits, set with no basis in science does not automatically make drivers unsafe but it makes them prime targets for over-zealous enforcers.








Press Release: The ABD asks NHS Quango if they are NICE or NISE?

Has taxpayer funded NHS QUANGO The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) exceeded its remit to become The National Institute for Social Engineering (NISE)?

NICE have issued draft guidelines aimed at prioritising cycling, walking and public transport for new roads as part of a consultation about encouraging physical activity (1), (2). There’s nothing new in much of what is being proposed. Indeed, it repeats the ‘Ivory Tower’ thinking we’ve come to expect from academics who are often socially and financially insulated from reality.

Transport isn’t an Olympic sport – it’s about moving goods and people around the UK for vital socioeconomic reasons by modes that are practical or fit for purpose. Cycling can never be as safe as being a driver or passenger in a 5-star safety rated car. Drivers don’t tend to fall off their cars, but the 2014 NHS Cycling Safety Special Report showed that 248 Cyclists were Killed or Injured in 2012 with no other vehicles involved (3). And how does encouraging people to take public transport, a sedentary mode of transport, help exactly?

ABD Spokesman Paul Biggs said: “Hindering economically vital road transport in the vain hope that some people might want to walk or cycle more is a fools recipe in an age when the provision of local amenities isn’t keeping pace with housing development. Any improvements to the likes of cycling infrastructure shouldn’t be at the expense of road transport. If NICE wants to do more to help the improve people’s health encouraging them to take fewer flights might assist, and we suggest they curtail the £189,000 of taxpayer’s money that they have spent on air travel since 2015 via 863 flights” (4).

NICE have apparently turned into an organisation that feels capable of commenting on all kinds of matters outside its sphere of expertise. We suggest they stick to their own knitting.


Notes for Editors

(1) NICE: New roads should prioritise cyclists and pedestrians

(2) NICE Consultation: Physical activity: encouraging activity in the general population

(3) NHS News analysis: Cycling safety special report

(4) Taxpayers’ Alliance Report: NHS Quango Flights


Press Release: ‘Vision Zero’ is a Counter-Productive Road Safety Fantasy says the ABD

The Alliance of British Drivers proposes a more realistic approach to reducing road casualties (1)

The Vision Zero concept has been adopted in several countries purportedly as a means to improving road safety. However, it is obvious that zero road casualties is an impossibility. Even if vehicles could be prevented from colliding, or could collide without causing injury, the likes of cyclists, for example, will still injure or kill themselves by falling off their bikes. Nothing good ever comes from policies based on unrealistic targets.

Vision Zero is simply an attempt to further reduce speed limits to levels that are economically and socially ruinous. Nothing seems to have been learned from the failure of 20mph limits to reduce casualties (2) or the continued flat-lining of casualty reduction due to the speed camera one-trick road safety ‘pony.’  Recent data from the DfT showing the contribution of slow drivers to casualties (3) reinforces the fact that the ’85th percentile’ is the safest speed (4,5,6,7,8) and speed limits should be set accordingly.

With regard to ‘safe road use’ within the safe system approach, the ABD believes that all road users have a responsibility to ensure that their actions do not put themselves or others at risk.  Cooperation and courtesy between road users should be encouraged. Unfortunately, the transport policies adopted by many local authorities in recent years have alienated road users from one another.  The road safety ‘establishment’ also largely dismisses the contribution that advanced driver training can have to improving safety, despite the fact that many insurance companies give discounts to drivers who have undergone such training.

The ABD recommends, therefore, that transport policies should be reviewed, especially where road space has been reallocated disproportionately to non-motorised road users for ideological reasons; that the contribution drivers make to the economy should be recognised; that drivers should be encouraged to take advanced training; and that road safety education, including that of future drivers, should be compulsory in all schools.



(1) An Effective Approach to the Attainment of Vision Zero: Vision-Zero

(2) 20mph speed limit study:

(3) Slow drivers:

(4) Department of Transport, Annex E to Circular Roads 1/80, The effect of altering levels of speed limits: summary of experience. 1980.

(5) Lave, Charles A, “Speeding, Coordination and the 55mph Limit,”  The American Economic Review, Vol 75, No 5 (Dec, 1985) pp 1159-1164.

(6) Solomon, David, “Accidents on Main Rural Highways Related to Speed, Driver and Vehicle,” Federal Highway Administration, U.S. Department of Transportation, July 1964.

(7) Hauer, Ezra, “Accidents, Overtaking and Speed Control,” Accident Analysis and Prevention, January 1971, 3, 1-12.

(8)  Penn State News, “Crashes increase when speed limits dip far below engineering recommendation”. December 2018.

Press Release: Are 20 MPH Speed Limit Campaigners Killing People?

The Department for Transport (DfT) recently published the most authoritative study to date on the impact of wide-area signed-only 20 mph speed limits. It showed that there is no road safety benefit whatsoever from such schemes. In addition they have negligible impact on modal shift or on traffic speeds.

This is the long-awaited evidence that enormous amounts of money are being wasted on implementing 20 mph schemes which could have been spent instead on more effective road safety measures. In London alone, it is estimated that tens of millions of pounds have been spent on 20-mph signed-only schemes to no effect and nationwide it must run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

This disappointing result is very similar to the result of a study of driver education courses now being used by the police to generate funds. Both that and 20 mph schemes have been advocated by those who know little about road safety and have not studied the evidence. The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has long called for “evidence-based” road safety policies. The latest evidence should not be ignored.

One organisation that has been promoting 20-mph speed limits as the solution to road safety problems is “20s Plenty for Us” – see .

Their reaction to the report is to criticise the statistical analysis and the areas studied (both of which are unjustified) and suggest all that is needed is more enforcement. The fact that even active enforcement (e.g. in the City of London where hundreds of drivers have been fined for exceeding 20 mph with no impact on casualties) only reduces traffic speed by insignificant amounts is ignored.

The DfT report can be read here: . Key paragraphs from the report are:

“The evidence available to date shows no significant change in the short term in collisions and casualties, in the majority of the case studies (including the aggregated set of residential case studies).”

“Journey speed analysis shows that the median speed has fallen by 0.7mph in residential areas and 0.9mph in city centre areas.”

What has been happening is that the anti-car activists encouraged by 20s Plenty are now wasting millions of pounds nationwide when that money would have been better spent on other road safety measures – such as road engineering and education of younger drivers.

Note: the ABD is not opposed to the use of 20-mph speed limits where it might be of benefit or where compliance will be high but it is not the solution to all road safety problems and simply sticking up signs is a waste of money. The simplistic solutions proposed by 20s Plenty and others cannot and does not work to reduce the Killed and Seriously Injured on our roads to any major extent.

No Road Safety Benefit from 20 MPH Schemes

The Department for Transport (DfT) have released a report that shows there is no road safety benefit whatsoever from signed-only 20 mph schemes. In addition they have negligible impact on modal shift or on traffic speeds.

This is the long-awaited evidence that enormous amounts of money are being wasted on implementing 20 mph schemes which could have been spent instead on more effective road safety measures such as road engineering or education. In London alone, it is estimated that tens of millions of pounds have been spent on 20-mph signed-only schemes to no effect and nationwide it must run into hundreds of millions of pounds.

This disappointing result is very similar to the result of a study of driver education courses now being used by the police to generate funds. Both that and 20 mph schemes have been advocated by those who know little about road safety and have not studied the evidence. The Alliance of British Drivers has long called for “evidence-based” road safety policies. Let us hope this latest evidence will not be ignored.

There will no doubt be calls for more enforcement of 20 mph limits but that ignores the basic issue – namely that reducing traffic speeds simply has little impact on road casualty statistics because excessive speed is one of the lowest contributory factors to road accidents – in reality less than 5% according to police reported statistics.

The DfT report can be read here: . Key paragraphs from the report are:

“The evidence available to date shows no significant change in the short term in collisions and casualties, in the majority of the case studies (including the aggregated set of residential case studies).”

“Journey speed analysis shows that the median speed has fallen by 0.7mph in residential areas and 0.9mph in city centre areas.”

“The majority of resident (about two-thirds) and non-resident drivers (just over half) have not noticed a reduction in the speed of vehicles, and do not perceive there to be fewer vehicles driving at excessive speeds for the area.”

Where All the Money from Speed Awareness Courses Went in 2017

UK ROED, the company which operates the NDORS driver education scheme, recently published its accounts to the end of March 2018. UK ROED Ltd is owned by (i.e. is a subsidiary of) a charity named The Road Safety Trust, another company which published accounts to the same date. What do these accounts tell us about the massive slush fund that is being operated in the name of road safety?

UK ROED Ltd had income of £61.6 million from fees received, from which £55.9 million was paid to the police. That’s up from £47.5 million paid to the police in the previous year. Those fees are allegedly to cover the police’s administration costs but are in reality used to fund expansion of speed camera operations and other unrelated costs that have nothing much to do with road safety – see information on our web site here about that:

Of the £61.6 million in income, only £1.8 million was paid over to The Road Safety Trust – down from £3.1 million in the previous year). That charity spent £1.3 million on charitable activities which mainly comprise funding of research activities. These are no doubt worthy activities. But the surplus of £485,000 was retained. This resulted in the assets it held increasing to £4.4 million. In other words, this is not only a charity that does not spend all of its income, but it is also building up a very substantial financial asset figure which is not normally perceived as acceptable for charities.

UK ROED Ltd had £3.8 million of “administrative expenses” but only £764,000 was spent on staff salaries and pensions. It is not obvious where the difference was spent.

In addition to the £61.6 million that passes through the UK ROED accounts there are the fees received by the speed awareness course operators. One of the largest course operators is TTC 2000 Ltd whose accounts to December 2017 showed revenue of £26.8 million and profits of £775,000. They run about a third of all speed awareness courses. Based on that information and the fact that average course fees are about £100, it’s reasonable to estimate that total fees paid by the 1.2 million drivers attending courses each year is at least £100 million.

Therefore in total the speed-awareness course system is extracting £100 million from the pockets of road users with no immediate road safety benefit whatsoever and with a trivial proportion (about 1.3%) actually being spent on road safety research or programmes. All the rest goes on expenses including the employment of many ex-police officers.

Bearing in mind that a recently published report from the Department for Transport (DfT) showed there was no “statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions” from attendance at a speed awareness course (in other words, NO BENEFIT WHATSOEVER), it is very odd that the Government permits the operations of these companies to continue. It would seem they are self-perpetuating and self-governed organisations which are outside of Government control and which consume £100 million of pounds every year of road users’ cash while they have no direct impact on road casualties.

If you wish to support the ABD’s campaign against speed-awareness courses, which are being used to finance ever growing numbers of speed cameras, please register your interest here:  

Roger Lawson

(Twitter: )

Speed Limit Setting and Road Safety

Traditionally, speed limits in the UK were set at levels that most drivers considered reasonable, and the police enforced them, for the most part, with common sense and flexibility. Unfortunately this is no longer the case.

In the early 1990s’ recession, the government was seeking to reduce public expenditure and the roads budget was seen as a soft target. At the same time, it wanted to be seen as being serious about road safety, so it authorised the use of speed cameras, which were much cheaper than building the new and improved roads the country needed.

The result has been an explosion in automated speed limit enforcement and the creation of an entire industry dependent upon it. In recent years this has been financed largely by the fees paid by those drivers who have been offered, and accepted, a speed awareness course in lieu of a fine and penalty points (see the ABD’s AMPOW campaign for more information on that here: ).

In order to maintain a steady and growing income stream, camera enforcement has been targeted increasingly at locations where large numbers of drivers exceed unrealistically low speed limits, rather than where there is a history of speed-related accidents. The decision to prosecute or offer a speed awareness course is based on an arbitrary threshold that applies around the clock, regardless of the degree of danger caused. The reduction in police traffic patrols has removed the human interaction between drivers and traffic officers, who had the ability to assess the seriousness of an offence.

Speed limits have been lowered on the basis of dubious claims that lower average speeds always lead to fewer accidents. The result is that more and more drivers are exceeding these unreasonably low limits, with speed limits everywhere coming into disrepute.

The ABD wants a return to sensible speed limits, sensibly enforced. This will require the banning of enforcement operations financed by the proceeds of those operations, since this distorts priorities. Enforcement should instead be financed by government grants, set at the levels needed to maintain safety.

There also needs to be a return to the setting of speed limits at levels that a substantial majority of drivers would consider reasonable. This may require removing speed limit setting powers from local authorities, which are often influenced by vociferous residents or anti-car organisations into reducing limits unnecessarily.

Finally, the police should be given the money they need to reinstate police traffic patrols, to deter reckless behaviour by the minority of drivers who, in many cases, are not caught by automated camera enforcement.

Cycle Passing Limits, and Cycling in London

One ABD correspondent has written to the ABD about the fact that he received a Notice of Intended Prosecution about a claimed offence of passing a cyclist too closely in North Wales, which he denies. The police are claiming to have evidence based on a headcam worn by a cyclist but are refusing to disclose the video evidence or even a transcript of a statement given by the cyclist.

Firstly, headcam or dashcam footage can be used as evidence in criminal cases if some conditions are met although the widespread use of cameras does raise the question of privacy. There is effectively none at present on the public roads.

As regards disclosure of evidence, the police certainly need to disclose the evidence if they intend to pursue a prosecution. See this article on Pepipoo for more information on that subject: . Perhaps the Police are relying on people accepting a Fixed Penalty Notice rather than going to court to challenge the case, but that would be most dubious.

As regards the distance that vehicle users should allow when overtaking a cyclist, the Highway Code says the following: “Give motorcyclists, cyclists and horse riders at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car” and “Give them plenty of room and pay particular attention to any sudden change of direction they may have to make”. This is somewhat unspecific as some drivers might feel they need not give much space when overtaking another vehicle at slow speeds.

One can see that any prosecution might be difficult based on those parts of the Highway Code. So cyclists have called for more specific limits, e.g. 1.5 metres, or perhaps 1.0 metre on roads with lower speed limits. Ireland proposed to introduce such a law but it was abandoned after realisation that it would create legal difficulties. The Department for Transport is currently considering the matter in the UK.

But in this writer’s view, any specific limit is not sensible. In central London, where streets are narrow, and traffic speeds are low, giving 1.5 metres would not be easy and might simply lead to encroachment onto the opposite carriageway thus creating other road safety risks. Likewise on some of the narrow country roads in North Wales. A wide limit on high-speed dual carriageways or other A-roads may be quite appropriate but equating it to the road speed limit rather than the speed of a vehicle and its size makes no sense. Larger vehicles that create much bigger back drafts are more of a risk to cyclists and drivers of those need to allow more space.

Perhaps the Highway Code should be reworded to try and clarify what is a reasonable passing distance but any specific limit seems unwise because it very much depends on the circumstances. The ABD will respond to any public consultation on this issue if one appears.

In the meantime, it seems some Police Forces are using “Careless Driving” offences to try and enforce specific passing distances and are even offering “education courses” as an alternative to taking the points and fines. That is much the same way as they offer speed awareness courses which the ABD is campaigning against (see our AMPOW campaign at ). This is morally and legally dubious and should be strongly opposed.

Cycling in London

There are a number of cyclists who avidly read the ABD London blog (see ). Many of them are critical of the issues raised therein about the standards of cycling in London in a number of articles. It was very amusing to read an article in the Financial Times last Saturday (29/9/2018) by Katie Martin. She is an FT writer and she gives the views of someone who has been cycling to the office for the last nine years.

She said cyclists would be wrong to assume the main threat was cars, and she highlights two others as of importance: the road itself and other cyclists.

Potholes are a major menace to cyclists and she points out that unlike for vehicle drivers, potholes are not just a route to a repair shop, they are a risk to life and limb. I am sure that all road users will agree that potholes have become a major menace as expenditure on road maintenance and proper resurfacing has been cut back by local councils.

But she says an under appreciated risk is other cyclists who are “comfortably the diciest fellow users of the road”. She describes most of them as “infuriatingly rubbish and some would struggle to pass a primary school proficiency test”. She reports that they run red lights, don’t signal before they swing into your path, don’t use lights in the dark and barge in front of you at traffic lights. There is much more in the same vein.

She also criticises pedestrians, and car passengers who open doors without looking, but she does not wish to put off anyone from cycling! You can read the full article here: . I hope she does not get too many abusive comments from her fellow cyclists.

Roger Lawson


20 mph Zones are a Waste of Money, or Worse

The Sun Newspaper has reported on the success, or rather failure, of 20 mph area-wide speed limits, to reduce accidents. They have obtained figures from 20 local councils using the Freedom of Information Act where £11 million of taxpayers’ cash was spent on the lower limit. But in some cases, rates of serious accidents (Killed and Serious Injuries – KSIs) have actually gone up they reported.

AA President said that the schemes were a “waste of money”, effectively implying that if the money had been spent on other road safety measures, more lives and serious accidents would have been saved.

Examples the Sun gave were Bath where £804,000 was spent but a 2016 report revealed that the KSI’s went up in 7 out of the 13 zones where speeds were cut, and in Manchester £1.7 million was spent on a heavily criticised scheme while in Hampshire other schemes showed no benefit in terms of accident reduction.

The ABD has of course reported similar problems before including in the City of London where a blanket 20 mph scheme has resulted in more minor injury reports.

20s Plenty founder Rod King called the articles “sloppy journalism” (one also appeared in the Daily Mail on the same subject). 20s Plenty has tried to debunk the reports of a number of local councils on their 20 mph schemes – for example they called the Bath report “biased, lacking in statistical rigour and not meeting several local authority duties on competency and equality”. But anyone who has surveyed all the evidence on such schemes will know that simply putting up signs typically reduces traffic speed by only 1 mph and that can have no significant impact on road casualties. In reality it seems to have the opposite effect in many cases as pedestrians no longer take so much care when crossing the road.

Rod King and 20s Plenty are like all fanatics – they ignore the negative impact of their policies and fail to see the truth. They are blinded in their zeal to reduce speed limits in the false presumption that reducing speeds are the answer to all road safety problems. But cutting road casualties is not as simple as that.

We still await a Government report on a more comprehensive study of 20 mph schemes.

In London, Transport for London (TfL) continue to finance such schemes in local boroughs and must have spent millions to date on them. Another example of unwise policies and reckless expenditure by TfL and Mayor Sadiq Khan, plus his predecessors. It is a great pity that money was not spent on road engineering to improve the safety of roads and junctions.

The Mayor actually wants to impose 20 mph speed limits on many major roads in London under his “Vision Zero” road safety plans. UKIP Transport Spokesperson Jill Seymour has challenged TfL to provide undisputed evidence of the justification for such proposals, as reported in the last national ABD Newsletter (OTR). She said “The authorities have strangled the main roads, and made them the most congested and slowest of any city in Europe. London is a mess when it comes to transport…..the London authorities, led by Sadiq Khan, appear to have a vendetta against personal transport and the car, and do everything they possibly can do to discriminate against it”. That’s definitely the truth of the matter.

Roger Lawson

Sun article here:

Police in Scotland Abandon Plans for Speed Awareness Courses

According to a report in the Herald newspaper, police in Scotland have shelved plans to introduce speed awareness courses in the country like they operate in England.

The Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) has of course campaigned against the misuse of police waivers and the perversion of justice involved in the police extracting cash by inducing the payment of a bribe to waive prosecution. See our AMPOW campaign here: . Only recently a Government commissioned study showed there was no benefit whatsoever in terms of casualty reduction from sending millions of people on speed awareness courses every year.

The Scottish Police Authority have suggested that they have “deprioritised” the introduction of such courses on financial grounds as they would require substantial investment in new IT facilities. But could it be that they have realised how legally dubious the operation of the system in England really is? The ABD has made representations on this subject to the senior legal authorities in Scotland who would have to give permission for the operation of such a scheme. Perhaps this is a case where the police in Scotland have simply been persuaded that it is a step too far?

All we need now is for the UK Government in Westminster to recognise the same reality.

See the Herald story here for more information:

Roger Lawson