ABD Rebuttal of RoSPA`s Speed Camera Claims
RoSPA have produced a paper entitled 'Safety Cameras and Road Safety Funding Cuts' 1
ABD Chairman Brian Gregory said:
“It's a great pity that a safety organisation like RoSPA should produce such a one-sided report on speed cameras that ignores their negative effects on road safety and the misleading statistics used to support them.”
The ABD responds with a brief point by point rebuttal of RoSPA's claims
- “Excessive Speeding Kills Hundreds of People a Year”
Speed cameras don't measure 'excessive or inappropriate speed for the conditions' under the posted limit, or 'safety'; they simply measure speed above an often arbitrary limit. Exceeding a speed limit has never been shown to be a significant cause of accidents.
- “Speed Cameras Reduce Speeding and Save Lives”
The '100 lives a year saved' claim derived from the 4th year speed camera report 2 didn't take account of the long established statistical phenomenon of 'Regression To The Mean' (RTTM). A calculation for RTTM and national trends was buried in 'Appendix H' and reduced the claimed effectiveness of speed cameras by four-fifths. The 3rd year camera report 3 revealed that 384 of the 1793 camera sites studied showed an increase in casualties after camera installation and dozens more showed no decrease at all. Casualty reduction claims therefore rely on inadequate information from 'before' and 'after' statistics at camera sites that can be up to 5km in length, as well as including 'adjacent roads.' Road engineering often accompanies camera installation, but cameras get all the credit.
- “Without Cameras, Speed Enforcement will Disappear”
Prior to the introduction of speed cameras, the police enforced speed limits with discretion, targeting genuinely dangerous driving and speeding. Automated speed enforcement operates without discretion often in limits that have been unreasonably lowered below the '85th percentile' 4 and against ACPO
guidelines in transitional zones between speed limits. Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership have recently been exposed for using misleading statistics in order to claim an increase in 'speeding' following the switching off of speed cameras 5. Swindon has switched off its fixed speed cameras but has not seen any increase in casualties.
- “Speed Cameras Save Money”
Single function speed cameras have replaced the much more useful and expensive Traffic Police that could target a myriad of driving offences. The 'benefit illusion' of casualty reduction by speed cameras is translated into a 'financial illusion'. Cameras have simply been used to raise money in order to build camera empires. This was recognised by the previous government who put a stop to camera partnerships being able to keep money raised from fines in April 2007 and introduced the 'road safety grant' in order to discourage the focus on speed cameras as the only safety solution. Lowering speed limits and slowing down traffic unnecessarily has a cost to GDP of around £1 billion for every 1mph that average speed is reduced nationally, potentially resulting in future 'economic deaths'.
- “Cameras are Educational, not just Punitive”
Speed awareness courses are a poor substitute for advanced driver training and are little more than brainwashing sessions aimed at promoting speed camera partnerships. There is little educational value in receiving an NIP up to two weeks after committing an offence.
- “Road Safety Partnership Do More than Speed Enforcement”
The focus of Road Safety Partnerships is still speed and speed cameras, with most of their grant being spent operating and maintaining speed cameras. If grant cuts force them to spend less money on speed cameras and re-focus on other measures, then that can only be good for road safety. Better still, Partnerships should be disbanded and the police put back in charge of road safety, speed limit setting, and enforcement.
- “The War on Motorists is a Myth”
Really? The war against drivers aimed at discouraging car use is not just being waged by speed cameras and lowered speed limits. Parking restrictions and charges, clamping, fuel tax, vehicle excise duty, workplace parking taxes, the London congestion charge, first registration fee, bus lanes, speed humps, traffic 'calming,' CCTV, and tolls are just some of the weapons being used against drivers. For RoSPA to attempt to defend these concerted attacks in a press release that is supposedly about road safety, suggests that their PR has been greatly influenced, if not incited, by anti-car lobby groups.
The incentive to catch more drivers 'speeding' was removed by the speed camera funding rule change in April 2007. Speeding fines have fallen markedly since then 6 providing yet more evidence that revenue raising was the main function of cameras since the formation of partnerships in 2001.
- “Cameras Support the Wider Road Safety Strategy”
Cameras are responsible for the narrow road safety focus on speed — cutting funding for speed cameras will aid a broader road safety focus.
- “Cameras are one of the Reasons Britain is a World Leader in Road Safety”
When safer cars, better roads, road engineering, and RTTM, etc. are taken into account, there is precious little hard evidence that speed cameras have made our roads safer. There are many negative effects of speed cameras on road safety such as distraction, the catastrophic reduction in Traffic Police numbers, and the focus on speed at the expense of tackling other much more important causes of accidents. A recent Taxpayers' Alliance report shows that since the implementation of speed cameras and the increasing focus on speed in road safety policy, road casualty rates have declined more slowly 7. The likes of Spain have achieved impressive reductions in casualties with the comparatively infinitesimal use of speed cameras. There is also very strong evidence of the police under-reporting and misclassifying injury accidents, which adds to the 'benefit illusion' of speed cameras 8.
- “There is Strong Public Support for Cameras”
Whilst some surveys indicate that a majority of the public support the use of speed cameras in principle, they also show that the abuse of speed cameras to enforce inappropriately lowered speed limits, to raise revenue as a stealth tax, and the over-reliance on speed cameras certainly does not have strong public support.
NOTES FOR EDITORS
1. RoSPA: Safety Cameras and Road Safety Funding Cuts
2. DfT Four-Year Speed Camera Evaluation Report [pdf]
3. Three-Year Speed Camera Evaluation Report [pdf]
4. The 85th percentile speed is the speed that 85 per cent of drivers would not exceed anyway in the absence of a speed limit. International experience over the last 70 years shows that this is the optimum speed at which to set speed limits to achieve maximum voluntary compliance, smoothest traffic flow, lowest spread of speeds and fewest accidents. Reducing speed limits below this level can actually increase accidents and does little if anything to reduce actual speeds.
5. Witney Gazette: Row erupts over 'misuse' of speed camera data
6. Daily Mail: Proof speed cameras exist to rake in money as receipts finally fall
7. Taxpayers' Alliance Report on Speeding Fines
8. Changes in safety on England's roads: analysis of hospital statistics (published 23 June 2006) BMJ: Conclusions: "The overall fall seen in police statistics for non-fatal road traffic injuries probably represents a fall in completeness of reporting of these injuries." BMJ [pdf]
ABD website: Speed camera quotes, including comments from police officers
Notes for Editors about the ABD