London, 31 July 1998.
For immediate release.

Contact the ABD

Previous
Press Release
Next

Increased Road Casualties for 1997 show that
"Kill Your Speed" Policy is a Failure
This failure was predicted from the beginning by the ABD. Surely it is time to give more credance to the positive suggestions of the ABD and less those responsible for failure

Latest published government figures show a small increase in the number killed on Britain's roads in 1997, after four years when the number of deaths remained stubbornly level. This constitutes a failure of the safety policy based on speed reduction that has been implemented over this period.

The ABD has consistently attacked this policy since 1992, predicting that it would eventually result in worsening road safety because it did not address the real causes of accidents, diverted police effort away from dealing with bad driving and undermined driving standards. We have also repeatedly demonstrated that much of the implementation of anti speed policy has been motivated by anti car environmentalist sentiment as an excuse to make life unpleasant for car drivers.

For nearly six years, the views of the ABD have been ignored, deliberately suppressed and therefore prevented from being put before the British public. People are dying unnecessarily on our roads because public debate about road safety has not been allowed and a half baked policy has been ruthlessly pursued without challenge.

Now is the time for this ruinous policy, senseless to anyone who knows about driving, to be abandoned, and a positive, sensible measures to help the vast majority of drivers improve their ability to recognise and respond to hazards put in their place. The ABD has 10 suggestions for a new road safety policy, which it summarises in this release.

Here is a summary of the ABD's arguments, all of which can be supported by detailed evidence and rationales on request.

UK Road Deaths
1966 7985
1973 7406
1978 6831
1983 5445
1988 5052
1993 3814
1994 3650
1995 3621
1996 3598
1997 3599

The above graph shows that road deaths fell steadily from their post war peak in 1966 right up until 1993. These safety improvements occurred in the face of a vast increase in the number of cars. Several factors were crucial:

However, since 1993, the fall in road deaths has ended, despite ongoing improvements in vehicle technology, with airbags, child seats and rear seatbelts becoming much more widely used over this period. Some genuine road engineering improvements have also continued, ironing out accident blackspots by improving junctions and opening bypasses. In 1997, the number of deaths showed an increase.

THE NATURE OF SAFETY POLICY

Since 1992, road safety policy has focused on speed reduction as its primary means of attempting to reduce casualties.

This has been justified using nothing more than a few catch phrases which are insupportable from a rational viewpoint, and a very few convenient and shallow statistical studies selected from around the world. Speed reductions have undoubtedly been achieved, but casualties, which fell whilst road speeds were increasing in the 70s and 80s, have not fallen as these speed reductions have been enforced.

The "Kill Your Speed" Campaign has been pursued by three main methods:

  1. Enforcement by automatic cameras and police activity
  2. Reduction of speed limits in both urban and rural areas
  3. Introduction of "Traffic Calming" obstructions

All of these actions have been accompanied by grandiose claims for their effectiveness at local level. Regularly, we hear, fatalities fall by up to 70% when one or more of these measures has been introduced.

But if these measures were really so successful, why has the overall death rate not fallen? These much vaunted measures have FAILED to deliver the promised casualty reductions.

There are only three possible answers to this question:

  1. The statistics that show massive local falls in accidents where these measures have been taken are misleading, sometimes deliberately so.
  2. The measures simply move accidents from one place to another.
  3. Only a few of the measures are used where they can do any good, the rest being spurious and politically motivated.

All of these are true to some degree, so explaining the casualty conundrum. The ABD can expand these arguments more fully, giving specific examples, as required.

 

WHY HAS "KILL YOUR SPEED" FAILED?

Choice of speed is undoubtedly a vital factor in safe driving, and this is particularly true when approaching hazards such as bends, junctions, crests and parked vehicles that require a reduction in speed to safely negotiate them. It is the failure to see, recognise and respond to such hazards that is the key causal factor in almost all road accidents. Conversely, improving skills in this area equips drivers to avoid most accidents, even those that are, on paper, the fault of the other driver. This is the basis of all defensive and advanced driver training.

Telling drivers to "Kill Their Speed" in specific situations where the wrong speed is likely to cause danger would be good, if they were told why. But what is actually happening is that entirely pointless and unrealistic speed limit reductions are being introduced across the country by both the Highways Agency and local authorities, in complete violation of sound road safety advice on speed limit setting which has been accepted and proven to work over many years, often ignoring the advice of local police, intelligent residents and road safety professionals alike.

Enforcement of speed limits has become more and more concentrated on locations where it is perfectly safe to exceed the posted limit, leading to most "speeding" convictions being applied in safe circumstances. Drivers are thus discouraged from setting their speed properly according to the road conditions, so no-one should be surprised when they are unable to do so in hazardous situations.

Concentration of police resources on pointless speed enforcement has also reduced their ability and desire to deal with bad driving (prosecutions for careless and dangerous driving have plummeted whilst speeding convictions have soared) further undermining driving standards.

When was the last time a SENSIBLE education campaign aimed at improving standards was run by government? It is, of course, very difficult to give sensible advice about, say, safe overtaking without accepting that speed limits may be broken when that advice is followed. Just one more way in which the speed limit obsession works against real road safety.

BUT WHY IS A SO OBVIOUSLY FLAWED POLICY BEING PURSUED?

Friends of the Earth and other groups opposed to car use have always maintained that speed limits should be set at very low levels and rigorously enforced in order to make driving unpleasant. These groups have extensive influence in local and national government and are therefore setting road safety policy according to their own anti car agenda.

They have been allowed to get away with it for one reason, and one reason alone: the ABD has been prevented from engaging them in public debate and exposing the obvious flaws in their arguments.

Now is the time to put this right.

 

A POSITIVE SAFETY POLICY FROM THE ABD

  1. A Fair Deal on Speed Limits.
    Minimum speed limits to be imposed on local authorities according to hazard spread, road width and periphral visibility. National motorway limit to be increased to at least 85mph. This will ensure consistent limits that give useful safety information to novice drivers, helping with ongoing driver education rather than undermining it as current bad limits do.
  2. A Fair Deal on Enforcement.
    Recognition that hazard spreads change along a length of road more often that the limit can. Restriction of police enforcement to specific locations where the posted limit is equal to or greater than it should be under the minimum guidelines. This will ensure that drivers who speed up and slow down according to road conditions will not be penalised ahead of those who make no allowance for hazards
  3. Respect for those with Advanced Training.
    Recognition that it can be safe to break limits as conditions vary with time, weather and the ability of the driver and his vehicle. Enforcement of speed limits directed at advanced drivers must be specifically justified by a trained police officer in terms of the road environment at the time. This will give huge status to advanced training, encouraging vast numbers of drivers to improve their skills. Current policy implicitly rubbishes advanced driving skills by using the carnage caused by reckless incompetents as an excuse to penalise the safe and responsible. Advanced training based on hazard perception is proven to hugely reduce accidents and should be encouraged not discouraged.
  4. Advanced Drivers only in the most Powerful Cars.
    Restricting the most powerful cars to drivers properly qualified to handle them would bring obvious safety benefits, but would also enhance the status of advanced driver training and encourage more drivers to undertake it.
  5. Legislation to end Speed Camera Abuse.
    Cameras must only be located in specific places where speed has been proven to cause accidents, namely blind junctions and crests, and specifically labelled with the nature of the hazard and the speed limit. They must not be permitted to be used, as most currently are, on a route basis where they are regularly sited in locations with no accident record and a cynically underposted limit simply to catch out safe drivers.
  6. A Restoration of the Bypass Construction Programme.
    New roads bypassing towns and villages are proven to reduce casualties and improve the quality of life of residents and motorists alike.
  7. Greater Emphasis on Labelling Hazards.
    Some local authorities put advisory speed signs before bends. This is good and should be encouraged nationwide. It should also be extended to junctions that are obscured by bends, giving a speed from which a driver can stop from the point he can first see the junction. There are many other examples of hazard labelling.
  8. Public Education
    Advanced driving skills should be cascaded to the general public in a series of information films covering common causes of accidents (bends, overtaking, turning right, pedestrians at junctions, children running from behind buses etc) and how to recognise and respond to them.
  9. Removal of Traffic Calming Measures. These obstructions, which do nothing but enrage otherwise mild mannered drivers and distract them from paying proper attention to the road, should be removed.
  10. A Good Deal for Drivers and a Good Deal for Cyclists.
    Investment in Proper Facilities for Cyclists and pedestrians that do not ostruct drivers in place of the tokenist measures seen in so many areas which often create hazards rather than eliminating them.

 

Notes for Editors