London, 9 Dec 2000.
For immediate release.

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Press Release

Government Engages The Wrong Enemy
The Association of British Drivers condemns the contents of the new Vehicles Crime Bill.
The number of speed cameras on the roads of England and Wales is estimated to double under provisions in the new Bill to crack down on "vehicle crime", with the windfall money from speed camera fines to be ploughed into buying yet more cameras by police forces and local authorities.

ABD spokesman, Nigel Humphries, said,

"The crackdown on vehicle crime, which we could reasonably have expected to be aimed at the criminals who take, vandalise and steal from cars, is instead going to be aimed at the owners of cars as they safely go about their lawful business."

Brian Gregory, Chairman of the ABD asks,

"Whose side is the government on? Every rigorous investigation into the causes of accidents says that speed is the main factor in less than 7% of them, yet the Government and its agencies persist with the lie that the figure is one third, even though they have no figures to substantiate this. Either way, the Government is ignoring the causes of the majority of accidents."

"It is alarming that there is endless money for ill conceived entrapment measures, supposedly aimed at this 7%, yet there is no cash for hazard perception training, demonstrated to improve safer driving by over 700%."[1]

Further information:-

[1] Recently, the Driving Standards Agency (DSA), in conjunction with the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), carried out a programme of research that proved unequivocally that the most effective form of accident prevention was road user hazard perception training

(Ref.1) . This conclusion is supported by evidence from the Australian Driving Standards Authority

(Ref.2) . The programme - if administered to all road users - has the capability to deliver a 700% improvement in road user hazard perception and a huge reduction in road accidents. Its beneficial effects would be far in excess of anything achieved or achievable under the current road safety régime -which has the largely ineffective speed reduction technique as the sole weapon in its armoury.

The DSA wishes to roll the "What If?" programme out to all road users; but initially to those most at risk: young learner drivers and riders. The cost of this measure would be some £2.5 million; but bearing in mind the disproportionately high accident involvement rates of younger road users, the benefits - both human and financial - are immediate and obvious.
John Prescott's Department of Environment, Transport and the Regions (DETR) has apparently informed the DSA that there is no money available to fund this initiative.

The Association of British Drivers finds this situation inexplicable. Only very recently, the fixed penalty fine for speed limit offences was increased by 50%, from £40 to £60. The DETR's target for speed offence detection in the year 2000 is 1.3 million. On this basis alone, Exchequer revenues will be increased by some £26 million per annum - probably enough to administer the "What If?" programme to all road users, not just learner drivers.

Recently, Plymouth took the decision to make the position of all its speed cameras very obvious, by giving each of them a highly visible paint job. This is presumably because Plymouth's road safety professionals take the view that speed enforcement cameras should only be at accident blackspots, and thus that these should be highly visible to warn drivers and prevent accidents - since this is supposed to be their sole purpose. The result has been an 80% reduction in the number of speeding tickets issued and a 43% reduction in accidents.

Along with numerous other, less upright regional road "safety" régimes, Northamptonshire has no intention of following Plymouth's laudable example. Why? In the last 12 months Northamptonshire has seen a 2500% increase in the number of tickets issued (and hence a 2500% increase in fine revenues). Accidents have only reduced by 16%.

Perhaps this is because, like Plymouth, Northamptonshire makes its cameras as unobtrusive as possible; even stooping to hiding them behind road signs or in bushes and vegetation on long, straight sections of road which have no history of road accidents. This ensures that the revenue from speed camera operations is maximised, while their effect on accident reduction is limited. By ensuring that that the real problem is not actually addressed, the authorities can then continue to lull drivers into entering genuine hazard areas at too high a speed, thereby still having accidents - so justifying ever-burgeoning numbers of speed cameras in often altogether inappropriate locations - and still generating ever-increasing revenues for the Exchequer.

The Association of British Drivers demands of the abandonment of such misguided and heartless policies. What is required to achieve the greatest road safety improvements is the institution of a vigorous campaign of road user education - as exemplified by the DSA/TRL "What If?" programme - coupled with investment in re-engineering and removing known blackspots or better identifying them where this is not feasible.

Ref.1: This research has resulted in the joint DSA/TRL hazard perception training package and video named the "What If?" programme.

Ref.2: (Australian) National Road Transport Commission: "Driver Licensing Requirements and Performance Standards Including Driver and Rider Training", Report Prepared by Dr Ron Christie, RCSC Services Pty Ltd, ISBN 0 642 54468 1, Section 3.7 pp.23-25.


Notes for Editors