|London, 31 July 1998.
For immediate release.
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|
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:
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:
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