|London, 15 Sep 1999.
For immediate release.
Whilst road safety could undoubtedly be improved by a transfer of police resources to dealing with dangerous drivers in urban areas from relatively safe motorways and dual carriageways, the zero tolerance 30mph approach put forward by Police Chief Paul Manning is totally wrong.
Most current enforcement in so called built up areas happens on 30mph roads that should by rights have a 40, 50 or even 60mph limits, or on 40mph dual carriageways which should be 50, 60 or even 70mph. Places where it is actually dangerous to do more than 30 (or even to do 30) donít benefit from the enforcement that is needed. This is bad enough, but ratcheting up unnecessary enforcement still further will have a devastating effect on safety.
"A zero tolerance approach to these badly set 30mph limits will mean that drivers can do nothing but concentrate on their speed to the exclusion of every other aspect of safe driving," says the ABDís Brian Gregory. "Once they are forced to do this, they will blindly drive at a steady 30 everywhere, and many more of the 18,000 child pedestrians currenly injured on urban roads in a typical year will be mown down at this speed without the driver seeing them and attempting to stop."
Since 50% are killed at 30mph, this could mean up to 9000 child fatalities even without causing any additional accidents. Making drivers do 20mph in a similar way would reduce this awful toll to 900 deaths, but in fact less than 100 are currently killed on built up roads in a typical year. The ABD wants to reduce this number, not see it increase!
Many of the fatalities that do occur are as a result of the driver taking no avoiding action to a perfectly visible pedestrian, often on a pedestrian crossing. These are exactly the accidents promoted by "speed kills" and which zero tolerance would further encourage - here are two terrible examples:
The view that speed reduction is the best way to reduce accidents is wholly false. Since camera technology has been introduced, the rate of improvement in fatalities has slowed down, not speeded up.
A rational analysis of accident causation bears this out. Have a look at Transport Research Laboratory report number 323, which got six police forces to use an intelligent form to evaluate crashes and found that excessive speed was a primary causal factor in only 4.3% of accidents - mostly people way over the limit in urban areas (the very people the police should be targeting but are ignoring in favour of mass persecution of safe drivers). Other studies all show speed below 10% of causation, yet the government persists in this erroneous view that it is the biggest cause of crashes, with attributions ranging from "a third" to "almost all". Why?
Even on BBC radio news, the "speeding causes a third of accidents" mantra was stated as a proven fact, despite their being no evidence to support it and plenty to suggest that it overstates the case by up to 800 percent.
Some say that it doesnít matter what proportion of accidents are caused by speed, that even if only one person is killed by it then all this is worthwhile. But this is quite wrong. The ABD has shown clearly in this document that unnecessary enforcement against safe speeds aggravates the real causes of accidents and leads to unnecessary deaths, as well as profound injustice and loss of quality of life for experienced drivers. The tragedy is that it is perfectly possible to target drivers who do go dangerously fast in urban areas without destroying the driving skills of the vast majority who do not, but who happen to break badly set 30mph limits by a few mph.
"The ABDís message is quite clear", concludes Brian Gregory. "Those who have pushed through blanket speed limits and mass enforcement against safe drivers are responsible for more than injustice. They have blood on their hands - the blood of road accident victims who could have been saved by a more credible, enlightened and properly targeted safety policy."
It is essential that the Speed Kills policy is dropped NOW, and that effort is diverted into working with drivers to INTERNALISE speed limits - to give people the ability to judge what is a safe speed, with help from signage and PROPERLY SET limits where they are needed.
At the same time, there is a desparate need to refocus the police, starting with Paul Manning, on dealing with those driving dangerously rather than simply above an arbitrary limit.
We know that many police officers agree with us on this - some of whom have recently been putting their careers on the line by voicing these views in public. Listen to these courageous and honourable individuals.
If you do, then the damage that has been done to the driving standards of the british population can begin to be rectified.