|London, 11 Dec 2003.
For immediate release.
"Brake response to Association of British Drivers' statements on Radio 4's Today programme this morning, 5.12.03
Brake, the road safety charity, went head to head with the Association of British Drivers this morning on the Today programme in an interview with the ABD and Brake chief executive Mary Williams OBE on SPEED CAMERAS AND SPEED LIMITS. The ABD incessantly quotes incorrect statistics and makes false statistical analogies. These are countered below.
The ABD quotes statistics which Brake, and others who believe that speed cameras are the answer to the world's problems, would rather the public didn't know about.
1. The ABD says that because road deaths have not reduced since the early 90s, speed cameras aren't working. Brake response: Camera sites are still on a minority of roads and have only been in place in their current numbers for one or two years.
If cameras were as successful as Brake claim, and they had been placed in the most dangerous locations as the Government claim, we should have seen a significant fall in fatalities from the beginning. We haven't, so Brake are admitting that cameras have failed for their first ten years of use. If they had been used correctly in the last two years we should have seen a sudden huge fall in the accident statistics in that time. In fact we've started to see a climb, for the first time in 35 years.
The most relevant statistic is that the DfT has recorded a 35% reduction in casualties at camera sites (DfT report 'A cost recovery system for speed and red-light cameras - two year evaluation' 11 Feb 2003). Pedestrian casualties at these sites fell by 56%. The number of vehicles breaking the posted speed limits at those camera sites dropped by 67%.
In the camera partnerships it is policy to put cameras in places where three or four serious accidents have recently happened. Often this local blip has occurred by chance, and so the cameras cannot be given credit when it is not repeated. This is called "regression to the mean" and it is well recognised amongst qualified statisticians.
Often, road engineering improvements are introduced at the same time as a camera or a speed limit reduction. These can often preclude the recurrence of previous accidents altogether, rendering the speed reduction irrelevant to safety but providing useful statistics for the speed camera lobby!
This research is supported by findings from other countries. An independent study for the state of New South Wales in Australia looked at 28 areas where speed cameras were operating. The number of deaths in the camera areas fell from 21 in the three years leading up to their installation, to one in the two years since. Reported crashes in the areas fell by 20% and the numbers of drivers exceeding the speed limit was down by 72%.
When the Australian state of Victoria imposed its speed cameras they reviewed the speed limits and many were raised. Contrast that with what happens in this country, where speed limits are often lowered in readiness for cameras, in order to put more drivers over the limit and maximise the take. When cameras were removed from the Canadian province of Ontario, the fatality rate fell.
2. The ABD says speed only causes 7% of crashes, and quotes TRL report 323. Brake response: Report number 323 by the TRL is often misquoted by anti-speed camera groups. The report analysed an experimental crash reporting form used by some police forces in the 1990s. The TRL says that it is incorrect to use findings from this report as an indication of the number of crashes that are caused by excessive or inappropriate speed. It says: "When allowance is made for all speed-dependent factors, the contribution is, we believe much greater." The faster you go, the less time you have to react, and the harder you hit. Bad driving causes crashes, but bad driving at speed causes fatal crashes.
The ABD quoted the report accurately — the TRL admitted as much. They then suggested it should be ignored because it wasn't intended to be establishing the causes of accidents, just testing a new form for the police to fill in at the scene! In other words, because the results were not convenient and couldn't be fixed in advance, they should be discarded! In fact, by using the 7% figure from TRL323 the ABD is being generous to the anti speed lobby. Other studies and reports on causation have found that speed was the cause of as few as 3% of accidents.
Research by the TRL has analysed the relationship between average speeds of vehicles on particular roads and crash rates on these roads in its reports 421 and 511. Using data from 300 roads, the TRL found that the faster the average speeds on a road, the more crashes and the more casualties.
These reports were produced shortly after the ABD discredited a previous report that had claimed that a 1mph reduction in speed led to a 5% reduction in accidents. It simply isn't valid to draw broad conclusions about a small number of complex events by looking at only one variable to the exclusion of all others. What is valid is to analyse the cause of each accident — and when that is done, speed is a minor factor compared with observation related causes.
By studying the speed and crash rates of 10,000 drivers, the TRL also found that drivers' crash rates rise the faster they travel. A driver who travels 25% above the average speed is more than six times more likely to crash.
The safest, best qualified drivers travel much faster than average in safe locations and much slower in hazardous ones. They have much lower crash rates than others, and training drivers to judge speed properly is shown to reduce accidents significantly. Once again, the use of a simplistic "average" gives the wrong result — all speed reduction policies achieve is to reduce safe speeds but to increase dangerous ones!
3. The ABD is against 20mph limits. Brake response: At 20mph 9 out of 10 pedestrians who are hit survive, at 30mph half of pedestrians die, and at 40mph 9 out of 10 pedestrians DIE. This is a clear cut argument for driving at 20mph or lower in built up areas, particularly as the UK has the fourth worst recorded rate of child pedestrian fatalities in Western Europe. A child who runs into the road after a ball is making a mistake, but does not deserve to die. Children will always make mistakes when using roads, therefore drivers - who are in charge of a moving chunk of metal that can cause death - must drive with that in mind. That means driving at slow speeds, so drivers can stop in time when an unexpected hazard - such as a child -appears. Drivers have a duty of care to all road users to protect life, and slowing down is key to this.
Far from being against 20mph limits, the ABD recently called for limits as low as 15mph to be introduced on a timed basis when children are arriving at and leaving schools. Brake have clearly investigated the ABD's views as carelessly and thoughtlessly as they have considered the best way to improve safety on the roads! The ABD couldn't agree more with the last paragraph written by Brake — it could have been lifted straight from our website. What is wrong is the blanket imposition and rigid enforcement of speed limits that are lower than required for a driver to stop when he/she observes a child running out. Brake's support for such limits can only have one result — increasing numbers of children mown down and killed by drivers concentrating only on their speed and not looking for children to avoid.
4. The ABD describe themselves as 'preserving freedom of choice and driving enjoyment' and that 'driving down a clear open road at dawn with the sun coming up behind you is surely one of life's greatest pleasures.' Brake response: Brake believes in preserving life and the right to use roads in safety, particularly the rights of pedestrians and cyclists in towns (where most pedestrians and cyclists die) and the rights of car occupants and cyclists on rural roads to use those roads free from dangerously fast drivers (most car occupants and many cyclists die on rural roads, many in high speed head on collisions). Brake believes in the importance of children enjoying walking and cycling. In surveys by Brake children and parents are scared of speeding traffic and say they are dissuaded from walking and cycling for that reason. Speed directly affects the quality of life of communities in towns and villages. PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO LIFE, AND QUALITY OF LIFE, NOT A RIGHT TO DRIVE FAST FOR ENJOYMENT ONLY. COMMUNITIES AND GOVERNMENT MUST SHOUT OUT AGAINST SELFISH, SELF-CENTRED, LIFE-ENDANGERING STATEMENTS BY GROUPS SUCH AS THE ABD.
Brake seem to have the bizarre idea that "enjoyment" is somehow linked to danger and irresponsibility. Nothing could be further from the truth. ABD members are people who take driving safely very seriously, and take great pride and enjoyment out of doing so. The ABD exists solely because intelligent, reasonable, responsible people are incensed that their skills are held in total contempt by the likes of Brake. They are also pedestrians and cyclists, and have children, but can see that current road 'safety' policy is counter-productive and is making the roads more dangerous, not less.
5. The ABD says that policies such as slowing down traffic and creating bus and cycle lanes is 'persecution' by 'anti-car forces' making driving 'tedious', lethargic' and 'unpleasant'. Brake response: Brake invites ABD members to spend a day in a wheel chair, and find how tedious, lethargic and unpleasant they feel then. Brake invites ABD members to talk to people confined to wheel chairs through paralysis caused by speeding drivers.
Note that Brake fails to answer the point, instead resorting to emotions to distract attention. That's because the ABD has hit a nerve! We have dared to question the motivation behind road safety policies. Whilst Brake themselves are undoubtedly motivated purely by safety, their friends in Transport 2000 (and its various offshoots such as Slower Speeds Initiative) have a socio-political agenda that is well served by exploiting road deaths to create unnecessary restrictions on motorists. The ABD have no wish to see anyone confined to a wheelchair. We want the roads to be as safe as possible. We want sensible safety policies enforced by trained, responsible traffic police officers, not the failed one-trick pony of 'speeding' created by lowering limits and then enforced by roadside cash machines.
FOR CASE STUDIES OF PARENTS BEREAVED BY SPEEDING DRIVERS, AND PEOPLE SERIOUSLY INJURED BY SPEEDING DRIVERS, CONTACT Brake'S PRESS OFFICER SIMON COLLISTER ON 01484 559909.
Brake's pre-occupation with 'speeding' borders on the obsessive. To hear Brake talk it would seem that if only we had enough speed cameras to force everyone to drive at an arbitrary speed all the time then road accidents would magically cease overnight. The ABD has invariably found, when dealing with examples of deaths "caused" by speeding, that other far more significant factors have been ignored -drink (Nottingham ring road), red light running (Roadpeace) and hitting a child on a pedestrian crossing (Speed Kills advert 1998). Distorting accident causation in this way is to fail to tackle the real causes of accidents.
Notes to editors: * The UK has the fourth worst recorded rate of child pedestrian fatalities in Western Europe and Northern Ireland has the worst.
And the best is Italy!
* Death on the road is the biggest cause of death to children aged 12-16 in the UK.
All the more reason why matters should be fully discussed
* 'Excessive speeds' can be relatively low. At 35mph the Department for Transport estimates that a driver is twice as likely to kill a child they hit compared with at 30mph.
Not the real world comparison. That's between an alert driver doing 35 who sees the child and stops, and a speed limit watcher who hits them without even attempting to brake!
* At 20mph there is a nine in ten chance, estimates the DfT,that a child hit will survive. At 30mph this reduces to only 50% of children surviving. * The Health Development Agency, part of the Department of Health, has called for speed limits of 20mph on residential roads to save lives of children threatened by traffic travelling too fast for the environment.
So a ten percent death rate is acceptable?
* A survey of 1,500 children by Brake found that 40% of children are scared of traffic when on foot and 1 in 3 said the road outside their own house was dangerous;
All children (and adults) should appreciate that roads are dangerous if they do not take care! They should be taught how to use them safely rather than being told it's someone else's responsibility! Who knows, they might carry this attitude forwards when they learn to drive. ABD members did.
* A survey last month by the BBC found that 75% of drivers support speed cameras.
And 59% would turn a blind eye if they saw someone destroying a speed camera!