London, 21 Feb 2000.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Anti-Speed Protesters "Misguided" About Road Accidents
Focus on Speed "Could Worsen Road Safety" Says Leading Driversí Group
The Westminster anti speed protesters, and their demands for extensive speed reduction measures in the Governmentís forthcoming review, are dangerously misguided both about the causes of accidents and how to best prevent them.

Far from improving road safety, these anti speed protests are likely to divert attention away from dealing with the REAL causes of road accidents -failures of observation and judgement by all kinds of road users.

Recently, the Transport Research Laboratory conducted the first serious and rigorous investigation into accident causation for many years. The results clearly highlighted the importance of taking a broader approach to road safety - demonstrating how excessive speed accounted for the causes of between just 4% and 7% of accidents. *

"At best, this means that the current focus on speed reduction is ignoring 93% of the causes of accidents," says ABD Spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie, "but to slow safe drivers unnecessarily can only cause distraction and undermine their ability to recognise and respond correctly to hazardous situations, leading inevitably to a WORSENING of the skills needed to avoid collisions. Safe driving is too complex to be reduced to "speed kills" - drivers need to do much more than simply stick to speed limits."

"Lets use the horserider as an example of how speed reduction policies can go wrong," continues McArthur-Christie. "When encountering a horse on a country road, it is often necessary to slow to 5mph or less, even though 60mph may be appropriate for much of the time when there are no hazards. If blanket 40mph limits were introduced, as these campaigners want, under the pretext of protecting horseriders, then many people would be forced to slow needlessly on empty roads. But when a horse was there, drivers would be much less likely to show the necessary courtesy, believing that doing 40mph was all that was required. Some drivers may even develop a negative and aggressive attitude towards horses, blaming their riders for these restrictions which slow them down even when the horses are safely tucked up in their stables."

This type of scenario, where everybody loses, is played out time and time again everywhere you look when speed reduction takes precedence over more enlightened and positive road safety policies. No wonder road safety has stopped improving since "Kill Your Speed" took over.

Rather than concentrating solely on lower speeds the ABD believes the government should work towards a coherent, properly funded system of roaduser training and education.

Reducing impact speeds is of little use if the measures used to do so actually increase the number of collisions: the ABD believes road safety should aim to prevent accidents happening in the first place.


* The researchers in Transport Research Laboratory report TRL 323 looked at the way in which police forces recorded the contributory causes of accidents using the old, oversimplistic report forms and found significant inconsistencies across the country (for example, attribution of excessive speed as a cause varied between 5% and 19% in two similar rural police areas). They then devised a new system of categorising accident causes and piloted the system with eight police forces.

Accidents were split into fifteen "precipitating factors" to evaluate what actually happened, then 54 different "causation factors" were offered up for the investigating officer to attempt to establish why the accident had occurred. Up to four causes could be entered on the form, and each could be identified as a definite, probable or possible cause of the accident.

The results are fascinating. In almost 3,000 accidents studied, excessive speed accounted for only 7.3% of the 6000 causal factors, well behind observation and judgement related causes.

Even more tellingly, only 2,100 "definite" factors were identified, less than one per accident, showing the difficulty of establishing the cause of many accidents after the event, with often unreliable or deliberately misleading witness statements to go on.

Excessive speed was only identified as a "definite" causal factor 126 times out of 2897 accidents - 4.3% of the total.

Other fascinating results from the study concern pedestrian accidents - 84 per cent of fatal and serious and 75 per cent of slight pedestrian accidents were the fault of the pedestrian! Just 12 per cent and 13 per cent respectively were the fault of the driver for 'failing to avoid the pedestrian' - even these are likely to be nothing to do with speed but to inattention or failure to see the pedestrian, often on crossings.


Notes for Editors