Lower Speeds, but More Deaths Than Expected for Fifth Year
Road casualty figures released last week show clearly that more people than expected are dying despite the government claiming a "significant" fall in vehicle speeds. The Association of British Drivers believes that reducing road safety to the simplistic "speed kills" mantra is not working — we now have lower speeds but, tragically, the number of deaths has failed to show any significant reduction for the fifth year.
Deaths on England's roads rose by 79 (although Scotland and Wales saw falls), and overall fatalities were down by just 19 - despite millions spent on new lower speed limits, speed cameras, casualty reduction partnerships and traffic calming.
Since 1993 — the year speed cameras were introduced — road safety has increasingly ignored education and engineering measures, preferring instead to target speed limit enforcement. A decades-long emphasis on education, engineering and commonsense enforcement by trained traffic police had made Britain's roads the safest in the world. Sadly, this has now been replaced by almost sole reliance on lower posted speed limits enforced by cameras.
Brian Gregory, the ABD's Chairman, comments:
"Of course, driving at a safe speed is vital, and many drivers need to slow down, but lowering limits, installing cameras and calming is not the way to save lives. If the 1978 to 1993 accident trend had continued we would now have under 2,400 deaths per year not 3,431."
The ABD has called for a return to the sound safety principles of the 'Three Es': Education, Engineering and Enforcement.
ABD Road Safety Spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie said:
"We've called time and again for a shift of enforcement towards those driving unsafely. We have called for a reinstatement of police traffic officers. We have called for road safety experts to be involved in the setting of speed limits. We have called for proper education campaigns on safe road use techniques. We have called for money to be spent on proper road safety schemes. We have called for incentives for drivers to take extra training. All have fallen on the deaf ears of a government interested only in making as much money as possible from those exceeding often improperly set speed limits, often in safe conditions. How many more have to die in the 'dash for cash'?"
The ABD has today put forward an initial five-point action-plan to restore the downward trend in road deaths:
- National and local governments to be required by law to follow expert police advice on the setting of speed limits, including a return to the 85th Percentile Rule. This includes a review of all existing and planned speed limits.
- All accident blackspots to be reviewed by police and planning experts to determine what engineering and education measures can be taken to reduce or eliminate danger.
- All traffic law enforcement to be geared to prevention rather than prosecution. This means that all enforcement exercises are to be clearly visible to road users.
- Traffic Police units to be restored to strength with a key responsibility for tackling dangerous, reckless and careless driving rather than simple speed enforcement.
- Speed cameras to be sited only at proven, speed-related accident blackspots, clearly marked with advance notices carrying details of the hazard they cover.