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PostPosted: Fri Apr 09, 2004 12:59 
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Doubts cast on speed policy
[08 April 2004]

Recent figures published by the Department for Transport confirm that exceeding the speed limit is not a large factor in causing road accidents. That's the conclusion of the Safe Speed campaign, which aims to debunk the myths on which it says government policy on road safety is founded. Basing its research on data returned by thirteen police forces in 2001, Safe Speed says the most frequent causes of crashes are:

Inattention - 25.8%
Failure to judge other person's path or speed - 22.6%
Looked but did not see - 19.7%
Behaviour: careless/thoughtless/reckless - 18.4%
Failed to look - 16.3%
Lack of judgement of own path - 13.7%
Excessive speed - 12.5%

Of course, 12.5% is still a significant number of accidents. But this figure includes all accidents in which someone was driving either above the speed limit or simply too fast for the conditions - and as everyone knows, that can cover a massive variety of situations.

Indeed, figures from Avon and Somerset police - the only such data available in the UK - shows that 70% of these accidents occurred within the speed limit. Extrapolating from that, Safe Speed concludes that 'in all probability, only some 3.75% of our road accidents involve exceeding a speed limit' - and on top of that, points out that in many cases, there's a common cause for the speed and the accident itself, most commonly drink, drugs or joyriding.

'When the main causes of accidents involve drivers failing to properly observe or react to road hazards,' says Safe Speed founder Paul Smith, 'it should be obvious that the modern emphasis on speed limit enforcement by camera risks increases these common accident types, as precious and vital driver attention is diverted to the speedometer, speed limits and the risk of speed enforcement operations. Our modern road safety policy is based on incomplete data and false assumptions. No wonder we have had the poorest road safety decade on record - the policy is wasted on attempting to solve a problem that simply does not exist.'

Meanwhile, Safe Speed has alerted all drivers that if they get caught by a mobile speed trap, they should insist on seeing the evidence before going to court - as is their legal right.

This comes after what the campaign says is a rash of prosecutions being dropped in suspicious circumstances after drivers have exercised their right to see the video by which they've been collared - with the equipment most commonly used having been linked to giving spurious readings in other countries, Safe Speed believes the police may be dropping cases in a bid to cover up a reliance on unreliable evidence.

Alan Kidd

Paul Smith
Our scrap speed cameras petition got over 28,000 sigs
The Safe Speed campaign demands a return to intelligent road safety

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