London, 30 Sep 1999.
For immediate release.

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Fourteen Charities’ Efforts To Stop Outcry Against Draconian Anti Speed Measures
"Ill Informed And Wrong"
Anti-Speed Campaign Always Based on Rocky Reasoning - Now Yet Another Official Report Backs This Position
Recent comments on the subject of heavier "zero tolerance" speed limit enforcement and from both Police and junior Government Ministers, combined with press speculation about blanket national speed limit reductions have provoked a long overdue public outcry.

In response, fourteen charities have written to the government demanding they ignore the people and press ahead with this campaign of oppression.

"With some exceptions, we are quite sure that these charities have the best of intentions," says ABD Chairman Brian Gregory. "But the truth is they are badly misinformed. The implication of what they are saying is that they are quite happy for the people they represent to be lulled into a false sense of security and then mown down at 30mph by drivers prevented from paying attention by a disproportionate focus on keeping to speed limits. Only the ABD seems interested in preventing these unnecessary accidents by instilling a sense of responsibility and consequent skills and knowledge into all road users."

These people are not experts in road safety. They have been led into an extreme and unjustified position by emotive and inaccurate claims such as "speed causes a third of accidents" and "a 1mph reduction in speed causes a 5% reduction in accidents" from government and the police.

The older, more soundly based road safety policies which gave Britian the best casualty record in the world, and which still form the basis of the now widely ignored DETR speed limit setting guidelines, have been buried.

Now, new research is rediscovering the truth - obvious all along to those who take time out to actually think things through for themselves.

The independent road safety body, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), states:

"Of course, the fact that there is an apparent strong cross-sectional association between speed and accidents does not necessarily imply a causal link between the two, and it cannot be assumed that reductions in speed by particular drivers...will necessarily result in accident reductions of a size predicted by this association. It seems more likely that the association arises from the fact that both speed and accidents are related in similar ways to the same variables - age, experience and exposure".   Ref.1

In other words, bad drivers crash when they are going too fast for the conditions, but older, more experienced and more highly trained drivers can go at the same speed in the same circumstances (and higher speeds in adjacent areas from which they have correctly slowed) without crashing. Reducing the speed of these safe drivers does not reduce accidents. Its not rocket science, is it?

Another recent TRL report, No.323 Ref.2, found that 'on-the-spot' analyses carried out by police officers at some 2,800 road accident scenes showed that only 4.3% of these accidents had excessive speed as the primary causal factor - usually accidents involving loss of control in built up areas.

TRL323 delves deeply into road accident causation, and goes on to establish that "excessive speed" represents only 7% of the (up to four) contributory factors per accident. It also concluded that in accidents in which pedestrians were seriously or fatally injured, the primary responsibility for the accident lay with the pedestrian in 84% of cases.

So alleging that "speed is a major contributory factor in road accidents" is analogous to claiming that "flying is a major contributory factor in air crashes": without the flying there can be no 'plane crash.

What this means is that the blind recital of the "Speed Kills" mantra, by government, police and charities fails to address almost 96% of the causes of road accidents - but stands to earn the Exchequer and other interested parties a great deal of revenue whilst handing those with an axe to grind against motoring a big and ugly stick with which to beat the unfortunate British driver.

TRL Report 323 also showed (as is already well established) that the vast majority of road accident causes are observation-, and judgement-based: road users either failed altogether to observe a potentially hazardous situation developing, observed its development but did not perceive the hazard, or perceived the hazard but reacted too late or inappropriately to it.

The desire to have all motorised road users fixated on their speedometers can only make this situation worse; hazard perception of motorised road users is already declining, not improving. The clarion cry will be along the lines: "The fact that I ran over this pedestrian can't have been my fault; I wasn't breaking the speed limit: I know because I've been looking at my speedometer very carefully the whole time".

When extensive use of motor vehicles by the Metropolitan Police first began in the early part of the century, unacceptable accident frequency rates resulted. In 1933, on average a Metropolitan Police vehicle was involved in a road traffic accident once every 7,000 miles. As a result, an extensive programme of training and education of police road users was instituted, exemplified by and summarised in "Roadcraft"; the police driver training manual. As a result of this, by 1966, when extensive police driver training was the order of the day, the average accident frequency for motorised police road users across the whole UK had fallen to one accident in every 80,000 miles travelled (remember these are mostly young men who often ignore the rules of the road in the course of their duties, driving at extremely high speed).

Over the intervening 30-plus years, funding for (and hence the duration of) police road user training has been progressively cut. Independent research carried out by the Patrick Foundation and recently revealed to the Association of British Drivers shows that the Metropolitan Police accident frequency rate in 1998 was back up to one accident in every 10,500 miles travelled - nearly as bad as it was in 1933 before the intensive police road user training programme.

Surely there is a message above for Asst Commissioner Manning and his charitable supporters? Does he really want to turn the nation's drivers and riders into an army of cruise control, zombie crash-dummies?

Or perhaps the motive is more cynical. 'Metline', the Metropolitan Police Federation magazine, has this to say about speed camera technology in its March 1999 edition:

"Speed cameras at the moment have their limitations . but when these can be overcome they are a sure winner for raising revenue".
It will therefore come as no surprise that Warwickshire Police - which is one of the first forces to have applied to adopt the Government's new approach to speeding fines - has a "Business Plan" for the exploitation of speed enforcement technology; the potential revenue stream from which inside sources admit to be "very big". Equally it's no wonder that Mr. Manning wants our motorways (arguably the safest roads in the world) - and other high-quality, low accident risk roads - carpeted in these devices: it's to ensure sufficient fine revenue will be generated to justify their installation. Who cares about the absence of any tangible road safety benefits?

On the basis of the road accident record of Asst. Commissioner Manning's own force, 'The Met', he would be better occupied lobbying for the money he currently wants frittered away on road user oppression to be spent instead on road better user training and investments in road improvements. What we need is effective road safety policing, not mercenary road user fleecing.

It is an aim of the Association of British Drivers to make official abuse of speed camera technology for predominantly revenue-raising purposes as socially unacceptable as the armed robbery it so closely resembles.

References:
Ref. 1: Section 4.4 (p.26) entitled, 'Speed and Accidents' of TRL Report 325: 'The factors that influence a driver's choice of speed - a questionnaire study', Transport Research Laboratory, Crowthorne, Berkshire.
Ref.2: Transport Research Laboratory Report No. 323: "A new system for recording contributory factors in road accidents", Transport Research Laboratory, Crowthorne, Berkshire.

 

Notes for Editors