Tory Safer Roads Policies Doomed to Failure
... Unless the False Arguments Behind Camera Policy are Debunked
Road safety campaign group the Association of British Drivers welcomes the new road safety policies announced by Shadow Transport Spokesman Damian Green this week.
These include long time ABD objectives such as:
- setting speed limits that are respected by the majority of drivers
- siting cameras only where there is a proven safety benefit and
- targeting dangerous behaviour with traffic police
as well as abolishing the camera partnerships.
However, any future Conservative Government will find these excellent policies impossible to implement without first dismantling the speed spin which has backed up misguided enforcement tactics of the last 15 years.
The Tories have recognised that the over-simplistic "speed kills" policy has completely failed to make the UK's roads safer, leading to road fatalities increasing by 2% and 2.5 million speeding tickets being issued, generating £120 million in fines. One in every 5 drivers has been caught for speeding since 1996.
"Speed limits are not "magic numbers" that will prevent accidents, and drivers will not be safer if they simply concentrate on their speedos," says Mark Mc Arthur-Christie, the ABD's Road Safety Spokesman. "Scrapping the revenue-camera partnerships, as the Conservatives propose, would be a major step forward, but the authorities need to recognise that safe driving can't be measured in miles per hour and encourage drivers to improve their skill levels."
"The Conservatives' ideas are a first step towards making our roads safer for all, and the ABD has always supported this approach" said ABD Chairman Brian Gregory. "But they will find it difficult to make these changes when the false arguments that have driven blanket speed reduction policies are so deeply entrenched in DfT and Local Authority thinking. These must be taken apart one by one if the new approach is not to be undermined from within."
For example, speed camera advocates have always claimed that speeding is the biggest single cause of accidents, with the DfT's "one third" number being the most widely used in support of all manner of speed related measures.
No proper evidence has ever been produced by the DfT in support of the "one third" "rule of thumb", as the DfT have called it.
On the contrary, whenever genuine research is carried out on the causes of accidents (Note 1), the results show very different conclusions. Ten to twelve percent of accidents are caused by "going too fast", but over half of these are within the speed limit. That leaves around 4% caused by "speeding", many of which also have aggravating factors such as drugs, alcohol and unlicensed drivers involved.
"This false claim that speeding is the biggest cause of accidents leads to entirely the wrong safety measures being implemented because the real causes of accidents are misdiagnosed," continues Gregory. "This is why speed limits are reduced until they are not respected. This is why money raising cameras are "justified" on spurious safety grounds. This is why there are fewer traffic police to target dangerous behaviour. This is also why 100 more people were killed on Britain's roads last year."