§ More information on this appalling death toll can be found on this page, which will open in a new window - etfl.htm.
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Road users demand 100% safety, but they also expect to travel quickly and arrive ASAP. Indeed in the context of a democracy where a simple majority is enough for the will of the majority to prevail then enough motorists "vote with their accelerator pedals" for their will to prevail.
Despite having the highest speeds the motorways are also our safest roads, proving that in itself speed does not kill.
Back in 1967 when the 'experimental' 70mph speed limit was introduced on our motorways few cars could even attain that speed. Nowadays almost all of them can, and considerably improved technology means that they can also stop in far shorter distances than back in 1967. Many road users suggest that it is long past time for the 'experiment' to be ended and in the process the speed limit re-adjusted at least to 80mph. Especially for 3+ lane motorways. Indeed already over 54% of road users vote with their accelerator pedals and safely exceed the 70mph limit and over 18% safely exceed 80mph. But that does not mean they drive at these speeds all the time! Many of our motorways suffer chronic traffic congestion when being able to travel at even half the legal speed limit would be desirable achievements - although whilst a problem it usually only affects roads for up to 6 hours a day leaving 18 hours when traffic flows reasonably well.
No-one is advocating copying the German motorways (Autobahn) and not having any speed limits as then some motorists would try and drive at speeds which are more suited to motor racing tracks.
Incidentally, motorways do not allow pedestrians within the street environment - I state this because one government road safety minister who does not drive once complained about the danger these high speed vehicles pose to pedestrians - its nice to know that our elected officials are so much in touch with life outside parliament!
The urban 30mph limit dates back to 1935 when cars were even less safe than 1967. There are wide variants in types of urban road and for some of them a 20 mph limit would be more appropriate. But at the same time there are some urban roads where the 30mph could be considered to be too low, so therefore it is not surprising that over 66% of road users safely vote with their accelerator pedals here too.
A special circumstance applies outside schools where experience has shown that there are specific dangers which are best mitigated by part-time 20mph speed limits. It is not just that children often run out into the road from between parked cars but also that they are so small that drivers are unable to see them until it is too late. However, it is only reasonable to expect motorists to respect these part-time 20mph limits if they are restricted to when the children are actually going to / from school. Effectively this means mean 30-40 minutes, twice a day -- and not at all at weekends or during school holidays.
If politicans were really interested on the health & well being of our children...As an aside if the government was really really interested on the health & well being of our children then they should also be dealing with air pollution - electric street transports are well proven mature technologies which do not create air pollution within their local environments (ie: urban streets) but of course their introduction will require upfront investment and almost certainly would lead to less traffic on our roads (hence reduced tax income from motor fuel taxes)... does the government not realise that the exhaust fumes from heavy duty diesel engines - such as are found on dirty disease diesel ('diseasal') buses & lorries - are especially implicated, and has it not also considered how much extra it is spending in the form of NHS healthcare expenses for children with pollution-related breathing and lung disorders??? In Britain more people die from pollution related illnesses than road traffic accidents - more details are on a small popup page which can be reached by clicking here.
Noise is also a pollutant which harms people, with (again) children being the most susceptible. What is being done to reduce this?
I n a p p r o p r i a t e s p e e d k i l l s.
A vehicle does not have to be travelling over the speed limit to be going too fast - inappropriate speed means driving too fast for the road or the conditions - whatever the speed limit. Although illegal (but not immoral) driving at 35mph through a deserted town centre high street at 3am is unlikely to pose any hazard whilst even trying to drive at a legal 28mph along the same road at 3pm, when there is a lot of traffic plus pedestrians wandering everywhere could be downright dangerous. (Note: This does NOT mean that reducing speed limits is any part of a solution.)
Hazards come in many forms and not just on urban roads. They include driving in snow, on ice, into a low winter sun, in fog, rain, high winds, steep hills (especially downhill), or on winding country roads. In some of these conditions even 20mph could be too fast - even on a motorway where the legal limit is considerably higher. Speed limits are not targets - and they don't have to be exceeded for a motorist to be driving at an inappropriate speed.
Safe driving requires drivers to think about what they are doing and any potential hazards - not drivers who blindly believe that as long as they keep to the speed limit they cannot have an accident! - this unfortunately being the impression given with a vehicle speed focussed 'un-safety' policy.
There is no end of well-meaning but misguided do-gooders shouting that in the wrong place excessive speed can be dangerous, yet they totally fail to understand that in the wrong place too low a speed can also cause problems! This is bourne out by experience in the 'speed limited' county of Suffolk where a policy of speed limit reductions actually resulted in an increase in the accident rate on previously safe roads (see below for reason why reducing speed limits increases road danger).
In the name of "road safety" many single carriageway rural roads are having their speed limits slashed by between 35% and 50% (from 60mph to 40mph or even 30mph) even though experience has shown that this too increases danger and even can result in higher actual speeds than before (see below).
There is a growing trend to designate entire towns - and cities - as 20mph (30 km/h) zones. Even on main roads within the conurbations.
This is being done because of a perceived higher chance of survival in accident between a pedestrian and a car. However, 20mph is such a low speed that it actually requires drivers to work very hard to keep to it. This process sees vehicle drivers having to keep their eyes on the speedometer - which implies off the road - and not looking at the road or watching out for pedestrians / other obstructions. This is just about the most dangerous thing a vehicle driver can do. It causes accidents.
Another dangerous aspects of this 'cult of slowness' would be the resultant increase in air pollution. Travelling so slowly requires that vehicles use a higher gear, which reduces efficiency and results in greater fuel consumption. More used fuel means more air pollution. It also means more taxation revenue for the government.
The lower speeds apply to buses too, and for bus operators the need for more buses and drivers to maintain service frequency results in higher costs (hence fares) - plus of course increased fuel consumption and air pollution.
Travelling more slowly negatively impinges upon everybody, making all journeys take longer. A mile at 30mph takes 2 minutes, but at 20mph it takes 3, half as long again. Cutting the normal speed of 25-40mph on most roads to 18-22mph would make journey times 40-70% longer. Even in the rush hours when traffic is at its heaviest there will still be times when vehicle speeds are reduced. Of course for those with empty lives, who do not need to get the children off to school and then themselves travel to work, etc., so longer slower journeys mean nothing.
A car and bus pass a bus calling at a bus stop in the Gospel Oak area of inner north London. Note the speed limit signs.
|A growing trend nowadays is towards designating entire towns - and cities - as 20mph (30 km/h) zones. Even on inappropriate main roads.
It could be said that for all but residential roads and past schools (at the specific times when the children are actually outside the school) twenty is only plenty for those whose cranial cavity is empty - ie: people with 'nothing doin' in their lives - or people who live in small communities where distances are so low that even when walking / riding a pedal bike travelling does not consume much time. If everyone else wanted to live their lives in the slow lane they would already be doing so.
Whilst roads should not be raceways, neither should they be snailways.
New 20mph limits see KSI rate increase!
In 2007 Portsmouth became the first British city to introduce a city-wide 20mph scheme where the limit was lowered from 30mph to 20mph on all residential streets - at a cost of £500,000. In 2010 the DfT published an analysis of the scheme which found that rather than see the numbers of people 'killed / seriously injured' (KSI) in road accidents going down (in line with a 14% nationwide fall in road casualties) the number of people killed or seriously injured on affected roads actually went up!
The analysis found that the previous average of 18.7 people per year killed or seriously injured on the streets covered rose to 19.9 per year after the speed limit had been reduced.
The full article can be found here: (link to an external site which opens in a new window)
|Nowadays horse & carts belong to seaside resorts and other leisure industry locations where their sedate speed can be appreciated by holidaying people living outside of the "rat-race".
Many pro-slowness campaigners are trying to force all road traffic to travel as slowly as the horses' trot - but if people wanted to travel that slowly they would be doing so without being prompted.
The only advantages gained from horse powered transports are that they do not pollute the air which we breathe and their deposits, which whilst unhygienic when in the street make excellent garden compost!
This image was sourced from Salzburg, Austria, a historic city where the urban environment (including clean air) is seen to be so important that they are replacing virtually all of their diesel buses with clean overhead wire powered electric trolleybuses.
Perhaps the most dangerous groups of people are the 'politically correct' lobbies who get hold of ideas and try to force them onto the rest of society irrespective of whether or not these ideas are either beneficial to or wanted by everyone else.
Motoring too has its 'pc' groupings, and one of their favourite ideas is that speed is an evil which at all costs must be curtailed. To that end they seem to see a virtue in ALL rural roads (except motorways and motorway-style roads) having a maximum speed limit of a positively slothful 40mph, and ALL urban roads being reduced to snail-ways with a limit of just 20mph (which is only appropriate for narrow residential roads).
These 'pc' lobbyists seem to forget is that we live in a society which values 'quickness'; indeed it could be argued that 'the quest for speed' is a natural condition within the human species. Think of athletics and how we celebrate the fastest - since when did the person who came last ever receive a medal? (more likely they would receive a 'wooden spoon'); think of children - and compare what we think about the child who is 'slow' or 'dim-witted' against those who are 'quick to learn', 'sharp', 'intelligent', etc.
They also seem to forget that travelling can be quite boring - especially for long journeys - and all that extending the journey time through slower driving will do is to cause tedium and drowsiness, which will significantly increase the danger. Already more than 1 in 5 accidents in Britain are sleep related - this is more than are alcohol related. It is too easy for 'experts' to say that drivers should stop and take a break, but in reality most drivers would rather be there already so wasting time breaking is the last thing they are going to do.
For many years the anti-car pro horse-and-cart 'pc' lobby groups successfully hoodwinked the Department for Transport (DfT) into believing the chimera that the optimum way to improve road safety would be through reducing vehicular speeds, so we are constantly being subjected to 1984-style Orwellian brainwashing doublespeak trying to make us believe that an untruth is in fact a truth.
Phrases used include "speed is a major contributory factor in about one-third of all road accidents", "one third of all accidents are caused by excessive or inappropriate speed" and "one third of all accidents are caused by speeding".
The DfT has also been using emotional blackmail by encouraging people to believe that around 1100-1200 road fatalities (ie: one third of the annual accident total) can be directly attributed to vehicle speeds and to that we should all make similar comparisons with the accident figures in our local areas too.
By the end of 2007 it became pretty obvious that the one third myth was just that (ie: a myth).
The newer data is included in a section called 2008 update 2 - The death of the one third myth might be nigh.
The DfT claims that its 'one-third' statistics come from report No. 323 issued by the Transport Research Laboratory. However, this report says nothing of the kind! Instead it suggests that excessive speed is a "definite contributory factor" in 7.3% of all accidents and "the prime factor" in just 4.3% of all accidents - so what about the other 88.4% of accidents??
Other causes include:-
* frustrated drivers dangerously overtaking inconsiderately slowly moving vehicles which refuse to pull over to let them pass (especially on rural roads);
* poor road and junction design;
* maintenance spending on roads being insufficient to keep them all in an appropriate (safe) condition for the traffic using them (more than sufficient funds are raised for this but the treasury uses it elsewhere);
* inclement weather;
* drink/drug influence (both of drivers and pedestrians who are so stoned that they wander into the path of moving traffic);
* vehicle defects;
* falling asleep whilst driving (perhaps caused by tedium from extended journey times caused by being forced to drive too slowly?);
* the non-use of seatbelts;
* foreign drivers who have not been adequately trained or tested for British road conditions;
* insufficient mirrors on large vehicles resulting in dangerous 'blind spots' which mean that the driver is effectively partially blind to other road users;
* plus others...
Of course dealing with most of these will require money to be spent whereas the use of speed traps both raises money and results in extra prosecutions which can be used to boost police force's 'conviction' rates, giving a false impression that the police are actually solving more 'crimes' when in fact the opposite is true.
Inattention - which includes such things as not looking properly, distraction by other people in the vehicle (children playing up or talking to passengers), being on the telephone while driving ('hands-free' mobiles still divert the driver's attention away from the road), trying to look at a map, finding & unwrapping a sweet and fiddling with the in-vehicle hi-fi - - is the principle cause of accidents. Inattention is especially a problem on our motorways, where the most significant cause of accidents comes from broken - down vehicles which have stopped on the hard shoulder being hit by moving vehicles where the driver is not watching where he (she) is going. As with all accidents, speed may be factor in deciding the severity of the crash, but again, if the driver is not concentrating on driving then sadly, an accident is likely - whatever the vehicles' speed.
Inexperience mostly affects newly qualified drivers whose lack of experience means that they do not always recognise potential hazards until it is too late. Unfortunately when people learn to drive they are really learning to pass a series of examinations, driving is just a 'by product' of achieving a pass. Although inexperience is usually associated with younger adults (18 - 25 age group) it is actually a problem for all new drivers - of all ages.
Most high-speed motorway pile-ups that occur in fog are not just the result of the crass stupidity of drivers travelling so fast that they cannot see a danger until it is too late to safely stop, but are also caused by the inexperience of these drivers in this type of weather condition which prevents them from fully comprehending the danger. This would also explain why they fail to understand the need to use headlamps & foglamps, even though they (think) they can clearly see another vehicle just 10 yards / metres away.
Has no-one ever heard of see and be seen, which includes being seen by a pedestrian who is about to cross a road and would rather that the motorist driving blind di not suddenly appear from the swirling mists when they were already half way across the road.
|Click the speed camera / cashtill / speakers icon to hear a cashtill ring up a "sale". (This will download an 8kb file called "cashtill.mp3").|
So, given that travelling above the speed limit (ie: "speeding") in itself causes so few accidents why is it the primary focus of the government's road safety activities?
This is indeed a very good question. There is no known simple answer but it probably comes from a combination of the way in which speeding offences are now detected & dealt with and the success of the anti-car pro horse-and-cart 'pc' lobby groups in convincing the DfT, traffic planners (etc;) that the easiest (aka; 'cheapest' or 'least expenditure') way to reduce the 'inappropriate speed' accidents occuring within the speed limit would be to lower the speed limits - a simplistic act which in time also created the potential for the cameras to be self-financing!
In the past motoring offences involving moving vehicles used to be detected by the police while traffic wardens would assist them dealing with offences involving stationary vehicle - these typically being for 'illegal' parking. For the police to catch an errant motorist they either had to be out on patrol and physically see a vehicle being driven in a way which attracted their attention or stand at a roadside with a hand-held radar gun with which to literally ambush the unsuspecting approaching motorists.
However, in 1992 automated roadside speed cameras were introduced, thereby enabling motorists to be prosecuted for speeding at all times seven days a week without a police officer having to be physically present. To 'sell' the new technology the public were assured that these cameras would only be used at accident blackspots and being a trusting gullible load of "sheeple" ('sheep people' ie: people who do not think for themselves but just follow the herd) so the cameras were meekly accepted without too much complaint.
Incidentally, at about the same time the government also introduced cameras designed to catch motorists who jump red traffic signals. These have a clearly defined function which the general public strongly support, although it would also help improve road safety if (especially on faster roads) motorists were given advance warning that the traffic signals were about to change to red - to avoid duplication this is looked at more thoroughly on the roads page.
|Mobile speed cameras are often used at roadworks - however this one on the Great North Way (A1) in London outstayed its welcome - the roadworks and lane restrictions finished several weeks previously yet the speed limit reduction & camera remained in situ.
Why? Yet more fundraising? (If roadworks finish earlier than anticipated then surely the restrictions should too?)
Also of note is that despite the lower speed limit many of the road signs showing the higher limit were still visible - suggesting that it was still permitted to drive at those speeds.
Dateline : September 2004.
|This speed camera on London's North Circular Road was installed just weeks before Christmas 2003 and is located in a 40mph zone - but just 1/10th mile further on the speed limit rises to 50mph! (seen more easily in the clickable larger version).|
|This image shows the speed limit change referred to above - note the different speed limits - the lower limit is used when a short road tunnel is closed and all traffic must use a former surface route which has had its capacity reduced so that when diverted in this way significant traffic congestion is now a 'design feature' - even in the evenings! (aren't our transport planners 'wonderful' [sic]). Of course showing the different speed limits is a mistake...|
After a few years and once the speed cameras had become accepted by the general public the criteria for their usage was changed, with the government deciding to experiment in allowing the police to keep some of the funds these cameras raise - rather than having it all go to the national exchequer. To a large extent this bringing in of (ultimately) unpopular ways to control people dressed up like wolves in sheeps clothing mirrors what happened with parking meters many years ago; originally introduced on the back of a promise to use the revenues raised to fund off-street parking, umpteen years later this is yet to happen and instead parking meters - plus their modern day "pay & display" variants - have become nothing more than a highly profitable, self-financing way to regulate on-street parking...
As an aside similar tactics are planned for ID cards which will eventually be merged with the electronic smartcards (sic) being introduced on our public transports and RFID (radio frequency ID) tags being used by stores such as TESCO to prevent shoplifting. The good(?) news is that eventually no-one will ever lose their ID cards - but this is because the ultimate plan being slowly enacted is that everyone will be required by law to have the RFID 'chip' inserted under the skin in much the same way as we chip dogs and cats; then as people walk about these will be continuously "read" by the number-plate RFID chip readers which it is planned to install in connection with road tolling. They will also be automatically read when travelling on public transport, replacing the need to pass through ticket barriers.
Initially eight police areas trialled the 'self-funded' system however by 2005 this concept had spread to almost every police force nationwide. The system works by the police and other locally-based organisations creating what nowadays are typically known as "Safety Camera Partnerships" (also known as "scamera partnerships") with "safety camera" being the new Orwellian doublespeak name for what used to known as a speed camera.
At present these organisations are required to use speeding fine monies to promote road safety and to this end most - if not all - of them are blindly following the DfT's one-third propaganda and putting a special emphasis on catching vehicles travelling above the speed limit. In many areas the local governments have kindly assisted then by reducing road speed limits too, thereby making it easier to catch people for speeding (is this way of doing things not a form of "entrapment"??) - especially those drivers who have not slowed down to the frequently inappropriately low new limits. However many people see the self-funding status as giving the partnerships a conflict of interests to put more emphasis on "revenue generation" than road safety. Of course they deny this but in their actions they prove their detractors to be correct.
Apparently is a little known fact that they only get to retain keep a proportion of the fines monies if it is paid directly to them - so if a driver chooses to dispute the speeding ticket in a court of law and loses then all the fines money still goes to the national exchequer. However there is a risk of the court imposing a stiffer fine than the normal £60 imposed for speeding.
The "Safety Camera Partnerships" operate as businesses and as such must "pay their way" (ie: earn more than their costs, and if possible "make a profit"). Since their only source of income comes from catching (snaring?, entrapping?) vehicles travelling faster than the speed limit there has been a significant increase in the number of cameras with which to catch the errant (sic) drivers of these vehicles. In January 2005 it was revealed that the numbers had swelled to over 6,000 cameras - of which about 2,500 are mobile cameras - with yet more still being installed.
Home Office guidelines for the deployment of speed cameras require that two pre-conditions are met.
i) More than one in five vehicles using the stretch of road have to regularly exceed the speed limit,
ii) There must had to have been at least two collisions involving death or serious injury along the proposed stretch over a three-year period.
Once deployed the cameras should be in highly visible locations where they can act as visual reminders to encourage motorists to keep within the speed limit.
However it is often alleged that (especially with the mobile cameras) the location / visibility rule is frequently ignored (brazenly flouted) and too often unmarked camera vans are hidden behind hedges, bushes etc - and even parked illegally. Although rare it has happened that whilst entrapping motorists these mobile speed camera vans have received parking tickets because of their illegitimate location! It also often happens that where a (quote \ unquote) "dangerous" road is near a bridge / underpass / another road then the interpretation of "proximity to a dangerous road" regulation is twisted so that the cameras can be used on the "other" road too, even when that roads' lack of accidents does not justify such use.
As already mentioned above in many areas it has also become policy for highway authorities to assist them in their revenue generation by reducing speed limits, and this combined with newly installed speed (oops! safety) cameras makes entrapping unwary motorists as easy as fishing in a fish farm. One camera near the southern end of the M11 which was installed concurrent with a 30% speed limit reduction (70mph down to 50mph) has been known to raise as much as £840,000 in a single a week!! (the Essex Safety Camera Partnership is amongst Britains most enthusiastic camera operators.)
These "Safety Camera Partnerships" don't just have contempt for government operating regulations and road users. At the time of writing this piece (December 2003) the Avon & Somerset Safety Camera Partnership seemed to be cocking a snoot at its locally elected councillors too. Even though the council is itself a partner in the partnership when the councillors asked for detailed information regarding the exact number of people caught speeding and the partnerships' running costs they were refused this information. The information was requested because the locally elected officials wanted to know how well their partnership was performing because if it loses money then the taxpayer will have to pick up the tab - and hey, isn't it also the taxpayer picking up the tab if they are profitable?
So maybe the Avon & Somerset Safety Camera Partnership has something to hide? Maybe the Audit Commission ought to investigate their finances - in case some money is going astray?
The possibility that this partnership is behaving in an underhand manner is fuelled by the finding of an investigation into camera positionings by a local newspaper (the Bristol Evening Post) which found that contrary to government guidelines comparatively few cameras are sited at accident blackspots whilst many cameras are on roads that are not accident blackspots.
Perhaps another reason for their dislike of democratic accountability is that in 2002 (the year the speed camera partnership began) the 903 "killed or seriously injured" road accidents in the Avon & Somerset Police area represented the highest number for 5 years and a whopping 13% rise over the previous year.
Information sources include - The Association of British Drivers http://www.abd.org.uk/local/avon_and_somerset.htm.
It could be said that the noble cause of road safety is being marginalised and in essence the police have now become nothing more than modern-day versions of the ancient highwayman, out to relieve the honest and law-abiding traveller of his or her hard earned money. Certainly when the partnerships start behaving like this it is no wonder that the public become concerned that revenue generation IS the real name of the game; with vehicle speeds controls being just an excuse to fleece the motorist.
In July 2005 it was disclosed that one of the initial eight police areas which had trialled the 'self-funded' system (Essex) has been paying its police officers a whopping £500,000 a year to operate mobile speed cameras! Apparently six off duty police officers work shifts of approximately 10 hours each doing this on their rest days. As Arthur Daley might say, a nice little earner...
|The organisation "SafeSpeed" has made available a royalty-free image which portrays the sinking speed camera (scamera) partnerships.
They ask that the image should be circulated widely, and suggest sharing with friends (perhaps via email), printing in magazines, newspapers, adding to web sites etc. Alternatively it could be made up in to stickers, used on T-shirts, etc which could be given away or sold.
Above all, they ask "use freely".
To obtain the images (which are available in 5 file sizes) either click the image or this link:- http://www.safespeed.org.uk/sinking.html.
The next link leads to their websites' homepage http://www.safespeed.org.uk/
(both are external links which open in new windows)
|Digging an electricity supply trench whilst installing a speed camera on the A12 near to Redbridge Underground Station. As with many other locations this is not an accident blackspot, rather it is a London
anti-'illegal' parking 'red route' for which the installation of these cameras has been a matter of policy.
The parked vehicles seen on the former cycle track are in marked bays.
|No.1 marks the location of Britain's first camera to be used successfully in a criminal prosecution. Note how it is hidden behind a large road junction direction sign; although the policy has now changed (cameras are now yellow & not supposed to be hidden like this) it is this type of entrapment & subterfuge which fuels the suggestion that revenue generation is the main aim - not road safety. Camera No.2 on the opposite carriageway is much more visible.|
Was this legalised entrapment?
In September 2004 a motorist won his appeal against a speeding conviction after the case against another driver for the same offence in the same place was dropped. A judge at Bristol Crown Court said natural justice should prevail and overturned the £150 fine with £35 costs and four penalty points given
to the unfortunate motorist.
|These are just three of a range of Speed Camera Signs as freely offered by the Association of British Motorists. Clicking them will take you to their website. To visit the specific page for these signs click http://www.abd.org.uk/speed_camera_signs.htm here (all external links open in new windows).|
|The message on the sign below is a Russian proverb. Transliterated it reads: Kogda dengi govoryat, togda pravda molchit
Translated it reads: When money talks, then truth is silent.
The money floods in...
In February 2005 the true extent of the soaring profitability of speed cameras was revealed. As the table shows, receipts and profits are rocketing sky-high - these figures represent the sort of very healthy balance sheet which any business would be delighted to call their own.
The difference between the profits (which go to the national treasury) and the receipts is the cost of installation & maintenance of the cameras plus running costs of the various safety camera partnerships which operate them.
1) In April 2005 the East Anglian Daily Times (EADT) regional newspaper reported that it had used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that the Essex Safety Camera Partnership appeared to have twisted the rules for speed camera positioning with respect to using a bridge over the A12 near to Kelvedon as a new site for a mobile speed camera.
This was because although there had been 5 serious accidents in the vicinity none of the police scene of crime reports listed "excessive speed for the conditions" as accident causations.
Instead it transpires that the crashes involved stationary vehicles, vehicles reversing without due care and attention, a pedestrian intoxicated on a mix of alcohol & drugs, a foreign lorry driver and a driver with impaired vision.
The county of Essex is noted as being home to one of Britain's most enthusiastic safety camera (scamera) partnerships.
The full EADT story can be found here (link to an external site which opens in a new window). Additional information comes from (paper based) reports in the Daily Telegraph.
2) Also in April 2005 the London Evening Standard newspaper reported that it had obtained secret papers which made it clear that one of the prime aims of proposals by Transport for London (Tf L) to introduce up to 180 new fixed camera sites in London is to introduce a steady daily flow of offences. In this instance the Department for Transport (DfT) refused Tf L's application for some of the requested locations, although it seems that Tf L still intend to pursue its ambitions for all 180 camera sites and would be re-submitting its proposals to the DfT.
Perhaps significantly, top officers in the Metropolitan police helped to block the plans
Apparently the Metropolitan Police and Tf L are involved in a back room power struggle over the London scamera partnership, which in financial year 2005-6 is expected to have an operating surplus of over £ 700,000. The police are especially concerned that the cameras are compromising their relationship with the public, and that this will negatively affect their efforts to fight real "serious" crimes in London. Tf L's policies are set by London's Mayor (Ken Livingstone) who is on record as having said that he hates cars and will do anything to obstruct them and their use.
The full newspaper story can be found here (link to an external site which opens in a new window).
A particularly underhand and nefarious action by another scamera partnership involves 13 motorists who were wrongly convicted of speeding at a speed camera site near Bristol. Apparently they received a very curious offer by a scamera partnership more interested in retaining as much fines money as possible than in true justice. The deal was to quash the convictions - but only if they kept quiet so that the other 200 innocent but still prosecuted victims would not find out!!!!!!!!! This information became public knowledge because some of the 13 were annoyed that the settlement both included a gagging clause and that legal costs were not being refunded.
More information on this can be found on a page dated 8th September 2005 on the Bristol Evening Post website and on this page by The Association of British Drivers http://www.abd.org.uk/local/avon_and_somerset.htm (links to external sites which open in new windows).
Traditionally the British have liked the police, seeing them as "the thin blue line" which keeps order and prevents anarchy. Unlike many totalitarian & 'police state' countries where the police are renown for brutality and heavy-handedness the sight of the British 'Bobby' on the beat has always been seen as a friendly, welcoming sign that all is well, safe and sound.
However, with the rise of the ‘cash-for-cameras’ schemes that image is quickly changing. The police are supposed to protect travellers and make our highways safer - now the public perception is that they have changed sides and joined up with Dick Turpin and his merry band of highwaymen, out to prey on the travelling public.
The British public are not as quick as the French to take 'direct action' but that does not mean we have not cottoned-on to whats happening. With so many speed cameras located where revenue generation is easiest instead of at schools & accident danger-spots there is a rising tide of anger against the speed cameras and everyone involved with them. This means the police too. Whatever the reality the impression gained is that the police are putting so much energy and resources into revenue generation that they now seem to have little or no interest in solving 'real' forms of crime. The newspapers are rife with instances where (for instances) traders have apprehended shoplifters but the police are "too busy" to come and deal with the situation.
Maybe the 'problem' is that solving crimes involves spending money whilst getting more convictions for exceeding the speed limits is very easy, raises oodles of money and all the prosecutions help boost the police force's 'conviction' rates - giving a false impression that the police are actually solving more 'crimes' - something that is always popular with the electorate!
Whatever the reason the net result is that criminals are getting away with their crimes whilst otherwise law-abiding motorists using roads with reduced speed limits are now being criminalised. Or in other words we now live in a topsy-turvy world where Orwellian logic reigns supreme - the thief is now an honest person whilst the law-abiding person should be penalised for his/her 'crimes'.
|Many areas operate mobile cameras such as this. In this instance the motorists are more fortunate in that at least the van is in plain view (frequently they hide behind walls, bushes, etc) however only those drivers who have seen these speed trap vans before would recognise them when approaching from the rear. Many drivers would allow their attention to wander from road safety and the potential hazards at the road junction to wonder why a vehicle was parked on the grass, and whether it had broken down and come off the main carriageway to avoid creating a road hazard (which of course it does simply by being there). Unless perhaps they were traffic wardens as then they would be thinking if they could give the van a parking ticket for being on the grass verge (speed camera partnerships are wealthy businesses so they should be able to afford the well-deserved ticket which any other road user would receive if they parked likewise.)|
It is now some years since the safety camera partnerships began their missionary zeal for tackling vehicles travelling above the speed limit, so assuming that speed really is the biggest single cause of death on our roads then the official accident statistics should be showing conclusive evidence of a significant fall in road traffic accident fatalities.
But they are not! Indeed, if anything it seems that as the cameras proliferate so what used to be a year-on-year improvement (ie: reduction) in road deaths is stalling.
The period between 1972 and 1991 saw traffic levels nearly double - up from 226bn to 417bn vehicle kilometres - yet despite the increasing traffic levels there was a significant improvement in road safety with the annual accident death rate plummeting from 7763 to 4568 people killed. However, from the introduction of speed cameras in the early 1990s (the first one was installed in 1992), the reductions in road deaths slowly began to become smaller, and as the speed-focussed / money raising approach to road safety became more widespread with the number of speed camera ballooning through the late '90s the stall became more marked.
According to information obtained under the Freedom of Information legislation by the organisation SafeSpeed the government (DfT) seems to be ignoring a report which the Highways Agency had commissioned looking into the safety performance of traffic management at major motorway road works. Dated from early 2004 and known as TRL 595 this report's conclusion included that far from reducing the risk of accidents speed cameras actually increase the risk quite significantly! (See the table below)
|Road Works||Open Motorway|
|Analogue speed cameras||55% increase||31% increase|
|"Average Speed" speed cameras||4.5% increase||6.7% increase|
|Police patrols||27% reduction||10% reduction|
According to SafeSpeed five different methods were used in an effort to keep this report from becoming well known. These include...
i) ; It not being announced to the public and the summary report mislinked on TRL web site to lead to report No. 594 instead of 595,
ii) ;The report having to be bought (cost: £40.00) instead of being made available FOC,
iii) The report's conclusions lumping together the benefit of police patrols (called 'other') with the disbenefit of the cameras to give the neutral result that is also reported in the executive summary,
iv) ;The disbenefit of cameras not being calculated out, highlighted or made clear - although the source figures are there,
v) ; The executive summary comparison groups "road works with camera : open motorway without camera" instead of the more logical "road works with camera : road works without camera", with this being how they get to claim the 1% and 2% benefits.
Obviously not an intended consequence, but the rise in the 'camera' society has had an unintended side-effect in helping make the roads more dangerous by prompting a rise in the number of vehicles which either display false number plates or are not registered (with the Driver Vehicle Licensing Agency) at all.
These mean that the vehicle's driver (and owner) cannot be traced. This is however a wider issue than just one which relates to speed cameras, as a small but significant number of people are resorting to illegal means of preventing their identities becoming known so as to avoid cameras such as those used for the Central London Congestion charge.
County Durham has the only police force which has decided not to take part in the cash for cameras scheme. This is partly because the Chief Constable does not see how fining people for speeding can reduce accidents which he suggests are almost always due to other factors, such as drink/drug driving or even carelessness but also because they have not been able to identify any specific accident blackspots which comply with government guidelines for the location of speed cameras - instead their studies showed that accidents can happen anywhere & everywhere.
Whats more, the county's accident figures back him on this. In all there are 34% fewer accidents than the national average, with the casualty rate being an impressive 43% below national average! These low accident and casualty rates are, according to the Chief Constable, because speed is rarely a factor in crashes.
Of course the Co. Durham Police still believe in casualty reduction and doing everything possible to make our roads safer, but they also realise that when just 60 accidents out of a total of 1,900 are speed related then its crazy to focus on the speed related accidents. Especially when that figure of 60 includes many people whose mental state is such that they would not be influenced by speed cameras even if there was one every 100 yards along the road.(drink / drug drivers, joyriders in stolen cars, thieves fleeing scenes of crime, etc).
As far as the rest of the accidents are concerned the primary single factor appears to be drug drivers, with a highly significant 40% of all fatal accidents in their area involving one or more people with drugs in their system. Other typical accident causes include fatigue and drivers turning right not looking out for oncoming vehicles.
In Co. Durham the police are very enthusiastic in improving driving skills through education - especially for the highly vulnerable 17 & 18 year olds and for people who have been involved in accidents. The Chief Constable would like to see the government instituting a national driver-improvement scheme aimed at educating drivers - especially new inexperienced drivers and those convicted of motoring offences - as being a far more effective road safety alternative to the present lucrative but ineffective tax subsidising policy of using speed cameras.
Incidentally, Co. Durham does have one speed camera but it is a 20 year-old mobile camera which is totally different to the modern cameras. And the police do still use other traditional ways of stopping motorists for speeding, so motorists must not think that by not having masses of cameras this area is an easy touch. For a guestimate of how
much money Co. Durham Police are not earning the North Wales Police force is of a similar size and in 2002 they took £2.6 million from speeding fines, which after administration, etc.,
costs left them a whopping £1.7 million in profit. Kerching go the cash tills!
Information sources - Sunday Telegraph 7/12/03 & Channel 4 TV news news report and interview 09/12/03
|Road with an absurdly slow limit that only serves to bring whole system of speed limits into disrepute. Due to the downhill gradient even milk floats have difficulty keeping within the 30mph limit here!||A contrast that only fuels the question of absurdities in the setting of speed limits.|
What logic is there in a straight dual carriageway on a steep downhill gradient having a 30mph limit? Giving a road such as this (above left) such an absurdly low limit encourages speeding,
bringing the whole idea of speed limits into disrepute.
NB: note the heavy morning traffic travelling towards London on the bridge in the foreground and the Central Line underground train leaving Debden station (just visible on the bridge in the distance) which will reach central London far sooner than the traffic.
As a contrast the other picture (above right) shows a rural residential road which despite having many private accesses and other junctions has a more realistic (for it) 40 mph limit.
Villagers in Five Oak Green, Kent campaigned long and hard for a reduction in the 60mph speed limit through their village. Parents were frightened that fast moving traffic was putting their children's lives at risk as they walked to school
So they were delighted when in February 2002 their wishes for a 40 mph speed limit were finally acted upon. Strangely though, when in June the local parish council arranged for a traffic engineer to survey vehicle speeds it was found that average speeds had risen - and not fallen. The average speed rises varied along different roads but in the most extreme situation it was noted to be an average 2.5mph increase from 37 to 39.5mph.
At a loss to explain his findings the traffic engineer said that these figures suggested that motorists who were travelling quickly are still driving as fast as ever plus those who used to travel more slowly had taken into account the new lower 40mph limit by increasing their speeds - treating it as a target and not a limit. He continued: "The problem with a lot of traffic calming devices and measures is nobody has looked at the effect they have."
The above example suggests that where the speed limit is ridiculously high motorists actually try to drive at what could be called an "appropriate" speed for the location, whereas when the decision-makers do the thinking
then motorists will switch off their brains and assume that the lower limits are safe speeds.
Information source - The Association of British Drivers http://www.abd.org.uk/five_oak_green.htm (NB: page opens in new a window).
When the A134 between Sudbury and Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk started having fatal accidents (over three deaths in separate accidents within months of the introduction of the 30 mph
speed limit) the coroner for west Suffolk was moved to call for an urgent review of the 450 speed limit reductions that the council had recently introduced. (Many of these reductions were on
rural roads where previously the "National Speed Limit" - 60mph for cars, 40mph for lorries - had applied). Speaking in court he criticised the
policy of reducing of speed limits, suggesting that while they may not cause accidents directly, they might contribute towards them elsewhere. He added "Unnecessarily restrictive limits
reduce the chances for overtaking, which makes people try all the harder further along the road. They cause tempers to be frayed and may lead to people taking unreasonable risks. There seems
to be a myth among the policy-makers that the more you obstruct a motorist the safer it will be. That philosophy is mistaken.".
Studying the road traffic accident figures for the county of Suffolk shows that before the speed limit reductions total accidents were reducing by an average of 171 per year, now they are increasing by an average of 51 per year.
Slight injury accidents were reducing by an average of about 87 per year but in the year immediately after the speed limit reductions they rose by a massive 272 (12%) and since then have been increasing by an average of 50 per year.
Serious injury accidents were reducing by an average of about 78 per year but in the year immediately after the reduced limits they rose for the first time in six years. Since then the reduction has been at an average of barely 2 per year.
Before the speed limit reductions fatal accidents were reducing by an average of just over 6 per year; since then they have actually been rising by about 1 per year. In 1996 when the lower limits were first imposed road traffic fatalities jumped from 35 to 59, a massive increase of 69%, and the worst figure for six years.
Information source - The Association of British Drivers http://www.abd.org.uk/suffolk_accident_trends.htm (NB: page opens in a new window).
When used correctly speed cameras can be very successful in making our roads safer - some studies have shown that when located at accident blackspots a commendable 70% success rate has been achieved in frightening those drivers who are aware of their presence to slow down.
|A Vehicle Activated Sign.
Normally the upper and lower row of amber lights flash alternatively, but this image captured them both illuminated.
HOWEVER, in an 8 month trial period (on the A628 near Barnsley) they found that vehicle-activated signs [VAS] (left) were even more effective by achieving a remarkable 87% success
rate in slowing drivers at an accident black spot. In several Norfolk villages trials with 'interactive' speed limit signs have also been successful with instances of a reduction (over a period of a year) from
55% to just 7% of drivers exceeding the trigger speeds. At one accident blackspot where there had been 33 crashes in ten years there were none in the 18 month trial period after an interactive sign was introduced.
Furthermore, it was found that drivers would slow down to avoid triggering the sign, even though it was set to activate at a speed below the speed limit.
The only 'problem' is that unlike speed cameras the usage of these signs does not raise revenue, which might help explain the real reason why the use of speed cameras has been promoted so much more enthusiastically!
In trials on the M6 motorway VAS signs reduced the number of motorists speeding through roadworks with a 50 mph temporary limit by over 75%! This implies that these would be an excellent tool for helping motorists to moderate their speeds, although yet again a revenue raising solution seems to be the preferred choice.
Data source: Local Transport Today 21/10/99
Unfortunately the traffic planners prefer to use computerised camera systems which time a vehicle's journey between two fixed points and if the driver
has been too quick issues a speeding ticket. They really do not care that this encourages dangerous driving by forcing motorists to pay greater attention to their speed than the real hazards -
such as other vehicles, constantly changing road layouts, pedestrians who don't look before crossing the road, children who run out from behind parked cars, etc etc...
But, is this really surprising? - after all, revenue generation IS the real name of the game; vehicle speeds controls are just an excuse to fleece the motorists.
Already we have a situation whereby whenever a boost in a police forces' conviction rate is required the police will stop chasing criminals and instead mount speed traps.
Daily Mail, letters, policeman's brother. 13/02/00.
The answer to this might seem to be very simple, indeed a 'no brainer', yet in reality by their actions it seems that TPTB (the powers that be) would prefer the money - and not saved lives!
In January 2003 the (DfT) published a large-scale evaluation of VAS which it had commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to produce. Known as 'TRL548' this report found that in preventing accidents the VAS were at least comparable to and arguably better than speed cameras, plus that because installation and operating costs were orders of magnitude lower than those of cameras they represented much better value for money. The report found that each VAS cost about £5,000 compared to £30,000 or more for each camera.
Yet despite being much more cost-effective the DfT seems to have ignored the findings of its own report and put its faith in only revenue raising camera systems.
It also seems that in ignoring this data the information the DfT provided to the House of Commons Transport Select Committee led to the latter coming to massively erroneous conclusions about the relative cost effectiveness of speed cameras and vehicle activated signs. This resulted in the Transport Committee claiming that speed cameras are 12% more cost effective than flashing signs when in reality they are 70 TIMES LESS cost effective.
On their own website the TRL's information about this report includes the following text...
The signs appear to be very effective in reducing speeds, particularly those of the faster drivers who contribute disproportionately to the accident risk, without the need for enforcement such as safety cameras. In this study, a substantial accident reduction has been demonstrated.
This can be found here... http://www.trl.co.uk/store/report_detail.asp?srid=2699
and further information can be found here...http://www.safespeed.org.uk/vas.html
(links to external sites which open in new windows).
In a democratic society where the overwhelming majority of drivers vote with their accelerator pedals we - as a society - should be directing our road safety efforts to reducing accidents - howsoever caused -
and not instead focussing on something which (co-incidentally?) raises a lot of money but is only relevant to just 7.3% of accidents.
Persecuting motorists should never be part of any solution, it is through reducing the need to travel, better public transport, better driver training and safety - orientated technology that solutions will be found.
This technology might see the introduction of maximum speeds set by 'off vehicle' means. This would certainly stop 'inappropriately high' (but not low) speeds for the road type / location. However,
in a democratic country this will only be accepted by the 'ordinary' person if it applied to E V E R Y O N E.
The system MUST also enforce appropriate speed limits, which means a reversal of the policy of speed limit reductions just because it is politically expedient; it also means accepting present day realities ---
modern vehicles are different from those that existed in the 1960's, which is when the 'experimental' 70mph limit was introduced on our motorways.
It must not impose 30mph speed limits on the M1 in Nottinghamshire because there is fog in South Yorkshire, unless that is there really is very thick fog in Nottinghamshire too. The present-day 'dot matrix' gantry sign operators do make mistakes - such as displaying '100' - although usually these errors are spotted as such by drivers and ignored.
Even the Government Transport Research Department has said "Bad road design, junction layout and lack of driver awareness are the prime causes of accidents, and the longer the government tries to enforce lower speed limits (instead) the longer people will continue to die on our roads." Daily Mail, 13/02/00
Right at the end of December 2008, during a holiday period when most people would not notice the news a government quango published a report suggesting that there could be significant benefits if vehicles were fitted with satnav controlled speed limiters which would possibly prevent vehicles from travelling faster than the speed limit.
Published by The Commission for Integrated Transport working with the Motorists' Forum the report would like to see a public debate on the issue. This debate could include whether the speed limiters should be able to be over-ridden (eg: to make an emergency maneouvre to avoid an accident) and also looks at possible ways that vehicle drivers might try to get around such technology.
More information can be read at this link...
and this link leads to the report, which is in Adobe Acrobat format...
both links open in new windows.
|Because of accidents involving vehicles turning across the central reservation the speed limit on the A1, at Elkesley, near Retford, Nottinghamshire (a county where it is claimed that speed cameras
have replaced traffic policing) was reduced from 70mph to 50 mph [a whopping 30%!]
However, when the accidents did not stop cameras were introduced - with one of the first people to be caught out being someone who had campaigned most vigorously for the cameras! He was driving at 88mph - a speed which would have triggered a camera even under the previous 70mph limit!
Such hypocrisy is unfortunately typical of speed camera advocates, who are often caught out like this.
It could be asked whether the lower 50mph limit is appropriate for what is supposed to be the primary route between London and Edinburgh.
Information source: - http://www.abd.org.uk/local/nottinghamshire.htm (link opens in a new window).
Speed cameras and speed limit reductions are always introduced and enforced by people who believe that 'there is a problem' and that these represent the 'solution'. At least thats how the accepted wisdom goes... However in some cases the reality is a little different in ways which mean that the word 'hypocrite' could be used.
As the example with the speed limit reduction illustrated on the right suggests, sometimes the most fervant supporters actually speak with forked tongues, and by their actions suggest that they really want is enforcement for 'other' people but not for themselves.
That example relates to what is not (by any means) an isolated incident - by way of (another) example the situation which may be closer to reality is to be found in the Cornish village of Perranarworthal (near Truro) where a local newspaper reports that even after the speed limit was reduced to 20mph and chicanes were built at the village’s entrance with many local people were still complaining that the village is a rat run
However, when the police carried out speed camera enforcement duties they found that as many as 90% of the people they stopped for speeding were actually local residents!
Such hypocrisy is not at all untypical!
Information source: - http://www.truropeople.co.uk/news/Locals-caught-speeding-crackdown/story-10063097-detail/story.html (link opens in a new window).
BUT... its not just 'ordinary people' who say one thing and do another... (see below).
The Spanish seem to have found an equitable way to slow speeding traffic down in their villages.
All they do is link traffic signals to vehicle speed sensors - and arrange the signals to function so that vehicles which are travelling through a small village more quickly than the speed limit are forced to stop at the traffic signals.
Whilst this could work here in Britain too it quite possibly would result in a drop in takings for the Speed Camera Partnerships. Of course if (as they say) safety is their primary objective then this will not be a problem.
On 15/10/91 The Daily Telegraph published an article about some plain clothed police officers travelling in an unmarked vehicle who were
going to Twickenham rugby football stadium to study crowd control methods. Travelling from Wales they used the M4, and as they wanted to make sure they arrived 'in good time' they drove at
the sort of speeds that many motorists would find quite acceptable. Unfortunately for them they were caught in a speed trap, and at 94mph the local police decided to prosecute.
Now, most people would say 'damn' (or some other choice words) and when the case came to court just accept the penalty points and hope for a small fine. But, in this instance, the driver explained that he had been delayed in heavy traffic and by bad weather, so to make up for lost time he drove above the speed limit. (Nothing special in that - it happens all the time). Furthermore, as he was on official police business he was exempt under section 87 of the Road Traffic Regulations Act. (This allows police, fire and ambulance emergency vehicles to exceed speed limits while on official duties - all very welcome if [for instance] a house is on fire - but not really intended for getting to the rugby 'on time').
The court acquitted him, even though he agreed that after having been stopped for speeding he and his fellow police officers (a chief superintendent and a superintendent) had stopped at the motorway services for a cup of tea, AND still arrived at the grounds a full 90 minutes before kick off.
In July 2000 an unmarked car carrying the Government Minister whose brief includes road safety and speed limits was stopped by the police for travelling at 103mph - 33mph above the speed limit. Apparently the Government Minister was late for some official duties, so his driver (a highly trained police driver) decided that as he was the law he was also above the law and therefore brazenly flouted it. After much press publicity whoever it was that takes these decisions agreed with the police officer and let him off the speeding charge. The Government Minister claimed that as he was busy reading paperwork he did not notice that he was travelling so fast.
I could be mistaken but I understand that even though he is still sitting in the back seat Pinnochio is now able to use his nose to push the buttons that operate the car radio (which, as usual, is located on the car's dashboard)!
In April 2004 the Greater Manchester Police Assistant Chief Constable (whose duties see him being in charge of traffic policing within Greater Manchester) was prosecuted for driving at 104mph on the M6 Toll Road in Staffordshire. Normally when a motorist drives at 30mph (or more) above the speed limit they are punished with a (short) driving ban, however in this instance he received a £450 fine and six penalty points on his driving license. Whilst in court he said by way of explanation for his actions "On the day in question, the driving and road conditions were good, and I was part of a group of around 15 cars all doing around the same speed. I considered that my manner of driving was safe. However, exceeding the speed limit by this amount is unacceptable and I sincerely regret my error of judgement. Excessive speed is a contributory factor in many road traffic incidents and it's everyone's duty to drive safely and at a reasonable speed at all times." Whilst in court he also re-affirmed his commitment to reducing the number of serious road traffic accidents that occur in Greater Manchester. There is no information on the fate of the other drivers. Incidentally, in Germany speeds such as this are legal - although only a fool would attempt to drive so fast in a vehicle not designed for such speeds.
One law for...and another law for... / do as you are told, not as I do...
mark my words, here cometh the undemocratic police state...
...with Orwellian 1984 style electronic smart cards keeping tabs on us - -
freedom denying technology that Hitler & Stalin would have loved to have been able to use.
During the period 2005 - 2007 this page was not updated much, during which time some circumstances have changed.
By April 2007 the Treasury had come to realise just how much money the 38 speed (safety) camera partnerships were raking in, and in an act which could be seen as imposing a tax on excess profits decided to cap their income at 'just' £110 million - with surpluses being creamed off for the national coffers. As a result and to save costs / increase profitability some of the partnerships have started using the much cheaper (to purchase) electronic display systems which flash warning messages whenever a vehicle is exceeding a pre-set speed.
This is touted as a refinement of the previous system by a government which knew that it was facing severe political difficulties selling the "speed kills" message and wanted to reduce that tension by encouraging the partnerships to look at other "traffic calming" options. These include chicanes, road humps and recognition for the success of the speed actuated signs, which Rob Gifford, the director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety pointed out could be especially beneficial at locations such as "dangerous bends and on the approaches to villages."
Of course, technically the partnerships always were supposed to be looking at a range of safety enhancement measures - and not just cameras - however the perception is that instead they put their primary focus on cutting costs (ie: fewer police patrols) replacing them with revenue generating cameras that are incapable of looking out for drunks, wandering pedestrians and other hazards. Otherwise it has to be asked why the formerly significant annual reduction in the annual 'killed seriously injured' has rate slowed down?
In September 2006 the Department for Transport (DfT) revealed that only 5% of injury accidents involve vehicles which are exceeding the speed limit. This was in the first report based on national figures looking at the contributory causes of road traffic accidents. However, even within that 5% of accidents 'speeding' was still only listed as a contributory cause in the crash (ie: not the primary cause). Furthermore, that 5% figure included many incidents which automated camera systems were simply incapable of preventing - such as: joy riders in stolen cars; thrill seekers; police emergency response drivers; drunks and 'boy racers'.
Also of significance is that the data supplied by the DfT suggests that the 5% figure only applies to young drivers, as for drivers aged over 25 this drops from 5% to 2% (see chart below). This is a serious problem, although there is also a supposition that the primary factor may be related to experience - by which it is meant 'how long a person has been driving' and not just their age. However the statistics listed are solely based on age, and not whether the 22 year old is a novice driver - or already has up to 5 year's experience.
The data below is sourced from a Memorandum submitted by the DfT to a Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport. It can be found at this weblink (which opens in a new window) http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmtran/355/7032102.htm. The chart comes from section 2.5, also included here is the opening text which explains the purpose of the report
Young drivers are involved in too many road casualty accidents. They present a complex challenge; but not all young drivers are novices: many of those whose fatally bad driving is reported in the news are old enough to have passed the test some years previously. Most young people take a responsible approach to learning to drive and gaining experience; others flout basic safety rules, including a minority who drive unlicensed and un-insured. (snip)
2.5 Accident data In 2005, for the first time, the Department collected data on contributory factors to road traffic accidents. Several of these factors are attributed to drivers up to the age of 25 in much higher proportions of cases than for older drivers. These factors were reported for the following proportion of drivers in casualty accidents.
Two question have to be asked...
i) How can the DfT justify telling local government safety officers, the public, et al that 'one third' of all accidents are because of speeding, when in data supplied to a Parliamentary committee they say something very different?!
ii) How can local authorities justify so many speed limit reductions when speeding is NOT the primary cause of most accidents? Surely / hopefully it was not to help with camera partnership profitability by causing more otherwise law-abiding vehicle drivers to be caught out for travelling above the (lower) speed limits? Was it because the local authorities have been hoodwinked by the anti-car pro horse-and-cart 'pc' lobby groups (whose objectives include 40mph limits on most rural roads) into believing the chimera that the optimum way to improve road safety would be through reducing vehicular speeds?
These figures also suggest that very few crashes actually involve otherwise responsible drivers exceeding the speed limit, something which is even more significant when it is considered that according to DfT figures at sample sites as many of 50% of road users are exceeding the 'posted' speed limit. From this a conclusion can be inferred that the huge under-representation of speeding in the crash statistics is simple and positive proof that speed in itself is not dangerous. As detailed in a November 2007 press release by 'SafeSpeed', in a large but unknown number of cases extraordinary recklessness causes both the speeding and the crash.
As far as speed cameras are concerned, it seems that research has never been done to see how frequently vehicle thieves / other criminals for whom speed limits are simply an irrelevance just see speed cameras as an incitement to travel fast enough to have their photograph taken. Maybe however it is simply not possible to ascertain this information.
Also in that report, point 3.4 first blames speeding for a horrific RTA death rate but then goes to suggest that alcohol, recklessness and even racing are notable factors. In effect this seems to be trying to use the convenient excuse of 'speeding' when the real danger comes from other factors, albeit ones where travelling at dangerously high speeds are very frequently part of the outcome. No amount of speed limit reductions would deter drivers from this sort of dangerous behavour. "Over three quarters of fatal accidents involving drivers under 20 were judged to be speed related. For the 20-24 year age group it was about two thirds, dropping to below half by the age of 30 years. These accidents show high levels of speeding, alcohol involvement and recklessness. 68% of occupant fatalities in the 16-20 year age group were with drivers who were slightly older (mean age 21 years), who were speeding or who were being deliberately reckless and racing (36%).
In a November 2007 press release based on data sourced from the DfT after a freedom of information request it is revealed that DfT figures show that 96% of rural road injury crashes in 2006 did not involve exceeding a speed limit. Of the remaining 4% that might have, 2% were rated as 'very likely' to include speeding, and 2% were rated as 'possibly' including speeding.
This too is in stark and dramatic contrast with previous DfT claims that 'one third of crashes are caused by speeding'.
Figures for fatal crashes showed that 7% were 'very likely' to include speeding and 5% more 'possibly' included speeding. SafeSpeed suggest that "it should be obvious to anyone who has examined the figures that a very large but unknown proportion of these fatal crashes involved extraordinary reckless behaviours and certainly not normal responsible motorists a few miles per hour over the speed limit."
In their press release about this Safespeed added the following...
"Department for Transport has had a nasty habit of adding 'too fast for the conditions' figures to 'exceeding the speed limit' figures in an attempt to exaggerate the dangers of speeding and justify their policies. The two should NEVER be added because the first is a driver quality issue while the second is a legal compliance issue. In short they are chalk and cheese and should not ever be added."
This press release can be found here http://groups.yahoo.com/group/SafeSpeedPR/message/425 (link to an external site which opens in a new window).
In summer 2008 the London Daily Telegraph newspaper alerted its readers that after a review Norfolk Constabulary had decided that some of their traffic police were not prosecuting enough motorists for speeding or driving whilst using a hand-held mobile telephone.
So it is to monitor its traffic police and plans to set performance targets, which could mean that to avoid being in trouble with their bosses their officers will have to issue tickets even if they are not really justified.
Apparently recent years have seen a reduction in the number of people killed and seriously injured on the county's roads, so maybe the lower rate of prosecution is because fewer motorists are behaving in ways which could be called 'errant'????
'Going after' motorists who may be infringing a regulation is of course much easier than dealing with other types of criminals, whilst including traffic sourced figures in the annual tally of prosecutions may help the police look good on paper when telling the public how 'well' we are being protected & justifying the cost of the service being provided it rarely actually helps make the streets safer.
The full article can be found here: (link to an external site which opens in a new window)
The information on this page could be much more extensive, (eg: the police driver who drove at over 150mph whilst testing / evaluating an unmarked police car, the significant rise in deaths in Dorset after speed cameras started being used), however the purpose of this page is to look at how the noble cause of road safety is being compromised by revenue generation and not to highlight every instance of the consequential injustices.
Below are web links (which open in new windows) leading to external sites with more extensive information. Some of these sites also have "links" pages from where even more information can be found.
Direct links to other topics within the theme (on this website)...
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