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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 11:47 
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The following article in a local Dentist-waiting-room style glossy got my goat. Green pen moment followed.

Article:

Quote:
Drivers - Aware!
We all enjoy the privilege of living in one of the most scenic county’s in the UK; steeped in history and magical vistas, the allure of the county prompts most of us to jump in the family car to explore these delights. But how safe are the roads of Dorset? And what is being done to make them safer?

To answer these questions, I visited the Driver Awareness Scheme base at Winfrith. The Scheme, authorised by the Chief Constable of Dorset, pioneers a fresh approach to deter reckless and inappropriate speeding. Should you receive a low-end speeding notice, and the thresholds apply, it is likely that you will be offered an alternative of attending a three-hour Driver Awareness Course.

It is acknowledged that speedometers can be inaccurate by up to 10%. Thresholds for safety cameras take these inaccuracies into account. The enforcement thresholds are the level at which Police Forces begin prosecution for speeding offences. The actual thresholds are decided by the Chief Constable and are classed as exempt information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. The disclosure of enforcement thresholds would be likely to increase the speeding, which would subsequently impact on the safety of pedestrians and other road users.

The Driver Awareness Scheme has been in operation since 1st April 2005 as part of the aims of Dorset Police to encourage safer driving on our roads. The prime aim of the Scheme is to work in parallel with other projects in reducing the number of people seriously injured and killed on the county’s roads. To put this philosophy to the test, I attended one of the courses at Winfrith.

On a bright, sunny morning I walked into the sterile security office and handed the uniformed officer my ID. I must confess I felt a sense of apprehension welling in my stomach. A short drive through the Winfrith complex brought me to the Driver Awareness reception area. To my relief, half of the assembled participants were women of varying ages. A deep, friendly voice echoed across the room asking us to follow him along the corridor, where we split into two groups to enter a compact lecture room. My flutters were fast disappearing as we took our seats in what was a most relaxing atmosphere; we waited a few seconds for our instructors to appear.

That was my first surprise. I fully expected two burly uniformed officers to stroll in the room, but instead two jovial characters appeared and introduced themselves as ADI driving instructors. They requested that we introduce ourselves and divulge our offences. It was made clear that these declarations would remain confidential. Each class comprises between 12-15 participants and, to date, the course has been delivered to over 15,000 Dorset drivers whom were referred through low-end speeding offences.

The first part of the course employed the sandwich techniques of shocking us with the anguish caused to families who had endured the pain and grief of losing a family member as a result of a traffic accident, to a more light-hearted session on aspects of the Highway Code. This form of presentation certainly gripped my full attention, many of the points striking a chord relating to my own style of driving. After a short break for coffee, we reconvened to the lecture room for the final session.

At the conclusion when I was handed my course-attendance certificate several salient points burned in my mind. Firstly, that 75% of collisions occur in urban areas, but what will stay with me forever is the difference speed can make in saving a life in built-up areas. If you hit a pedestrian at 30mph, 80% will survive. At only 10 miles per hour over the limit, only 20% will survive – an alarming fact. Just a small reduction in speed could save a life!

My three hours on the Scheme had certainly influenced my awareness, touched my conscience, and would certainly make me a more responsible and attentive driver in the future. If a referral is received to the Driver Awareness Scheme, records are checked to ensure that they offer only this option on one occasion within a three-year period.

But has this initiative reduced collisions and fatal accidents in the county? There can be no doubt that the Scheme has made a significant contribution in making Dorset’s roads safer for us and our families. The initiative is still in its infancy with an overall aim to work alongside other projects in reducing the number of people killed and seriously injured on Dorset’s roads. Injury statistics confirm that collisions and fatal accidents have been reduced in the county, despite an increase of vehicles on our roads.

But the course run by the Driver Awareness Scheme goes a great deal further than encouraging you to reduce inappropriate speed. Your whole attitude to driving, and your responsibility as a road user will be influenced by the three-hour session. The message is delivered in such a way that it just makes common sense.

Should you wish to obtain more detailed statistics, these can be obtained via the Department of Transport website www.dft.gov.uk or from the road-safety charity ‘Brake’ at www.brake.org.uk


Backed up by the editorial (excerpt):

Quote:
This year I am going to be a better driver and that means slowing down a bit. I’ll tell you why. Last year I got points on my licence for breaking the 30mph limit as I drove into a village. I was slowing down at the time when the policeman with the speed gun got me, but obviously not enough. The points I received were the first in over 40 years of driving and it hurt. Having read Jan Seymour’s piece in this issue on the Driver Awareness Scheme at Winfrith I am now in no doubt as to the damage speeding can do. To be blunt, speeding kills. So please read Jan’s article. And don’t just read it, act on it. In fact, let’s all make a New Year’s resolution to drive a bit slower. And let’s keep it beyond 5th January. Let’s keep it so long as we are able to drive.


My email response:

I wrote:
I wish I could take such a starry-eyed view of the road safety message championed by approaches like the Dorset Driver Awareness Scheme as Jan Seymour’s article does.

Setting aside for a moment the larger issue of whether enforcement of speeding alone is the panacea for road safety, the article has a couple of inaccuracies, which I must raise.

1. “The enforcement thresholds are the level at which Police Forces begin prosecution for speeding offences. The actual thresholds are decided by the Chief Constable and are classed as exempt information under the Freedom of Information Act 2000. “

A bit wrong. The thresholds are set by the 10% + 2mph formula (e.g. 30mph limit is enforced at above 35 mph), which is the policy of the Association of Chief Police Officers. What individual forces choose to police is governed by this initial caveat.

2. “But has this initiative reduced collisions and fatal accidents in the county? There can be no doubt (my bold) that the Scheme has made a significant contribution in making Dorset’s roads safer for us and our families.”

Wrong. In an article that wears its statistics on its sleeve, I think it’s only fair to not make wild assumptions when it suits the author. Since the concentration on speed enforcement over everything else began in about 1992, the long decline in road fatalities that began after WW2 has been completely arrested (excuse the pun). You can therefore graphically plot where road deaths would be now if the previous approach to road safety had continued, where they actually are, and work out the difference. It’s a lot of lives needlessly lost. Sadly, because the medicine of more speed cameras isn’t working, the doctor is prescribing more speed cameras. I want a second opinion!

What the article utterly and uncritically fails to address is the fact that the perceived problem is “reckless and inappropriate speeding”, but the course is only available to people who have exceeded the limit by a tiny margin, not the reckless. You say yourself that “The points I received were the first in over 40 years of driving and it hurt”. It hurt because after 40 years of trouble-free motoring you know you’re a safe driver, and you’re being done while the really bad drivers aren’t.
It’s telling that the author refers to the participants being mostly women, whereas statistically the problem drivers – as far as fatalities are concerned - are young men. This raises another telling statistic: there is a lack of correlation between the age profile between those who accrue speeding endorsements (older, higher mileage drivers), and those who insurance stats show are involved in more serious accidents (younger, lower mileage drivers). In other words, they’re catching the wrong people.

At the end of the article you then recommend two websites for those who want further statistical information.
1. The DfT. Their own figures – released, then swiftly buried – are used to justify the oft-repeated claim that one in three accidents are caused by speeding. This in itself seems much lower than one might expect, but a careful analysis of their own figures shows this isn’t really true. In fact only 4% are directly caused by ‘reckless & inappropriate speed’, the rest of that third being accidents where speed was one of many so-called contributory factors. Still “1 in 20 accidents caused by speeding” doesn’t carry quite so much weight. To paraphrase your editorial if I may: to be blunt, speeding doesn’t kill.
2. Brake. They are well-intentioned, but right at one end of the debate, to put it mildly. You’ll recall the other day a lady in Bristol was banned from driving for a week for swerving on and off the M32 at 10mph. Brake’s response was to say she was doing nothing wrong; if anyone had hit her it would have been their fault. Right…

Ok, so rant over. What’s the solution? Next time, balance the references with a road safety pressure group that do not believe that cameras are the answer. Before you ask, neither are a bunch of petrol heads, but believe that more real police are needed on the road (bet they didn’t tell Jan Seymour how many police have been taken off traffic duty in the last fifteen years on her course, or how convictions for almost every other driving offence have plummeted in the same period) catching the real bad drivers.
www.safespeed.org.uk
www.abd.org.uk

Also, in the interest of balance and local interest, it’s worth pointing out that an old book on the subject: “Road Accidents: Prevent or Punish” by Prof. J J Leeming” has just been re-published. The local interest is that Prof. Leeming was Dorset County Councils chief traffic engineer for many years, so a lot of the stats & examples are local.


I haven't managed to register at the magazine's forum yet, but there's a post about above article from some ex-townie complaining about the fast driving down here.

"F*** off back to London" springs to mind, but.....


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 12:12 
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I was in Dorset over Christmas and saw this article as well. The front cover had a strap line like "the truth about speeding".

Congratulations for responding. It was, indeed, a load of tosh and your pointed remarks about the wrong people being on the course are very telling.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 14:55 
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Wow!

Despite the rather combative tone of my letter, I have had a very friendly & sympathetic reply from the magazine editor, indicating that she would very interested in getting & reviewing a copy of Leeming for the magazine, and asking if I'd mind my contact details being put on the website. I declined, but said I'm sure any contributors would be welcome here.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 16:30 
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Johnnytheboy wrote:
Wow!

Despite the rather combative tone of my letter, I have had a very friendly & sympathetic reply from the magazine editor, indicating that she would very interested in getting & reviewing a copy of Leeming for the magazine, and asking if I'd mind my contact details being put on the website. I declined, but said I'm sure any contributors would be welcome here.


A rare thing nowadays - an editor who still wants to know.

Congratulations. [cynic]If she takes anything on board[/cynic].

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 09, 2008 21:18 
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Nice one, JTB! :D

Encouraging to see that the editor may take some of your points on board.

I had a similar "discussion" via e-mail with a local radio presenter who was championing the reduction of urban speed limits to 20. Despite all of the evidence, he eventually stated that, "thinking about it, I'm not bothered whether speed cameras are a road safety measure. I'm just happy with the fact that they catch people breaking the law".

:(

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 02:36 
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Quote:
"thinking about it...
Actually, no, he wasn't thinking about it at all. :roll:

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 23, 2008 23:56 
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Thatsnews wrote:
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"thinking about it...
Actually, no, he wasn't thinking about it at all. :roll:


Indeed.

His "signal to noise ratio" (as Paul once coined it :lol: ) was in the order of 1 to 1000. No change from his on-air manner either.

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