PR132: The Great Speed Camera Con Trick
Safe Speed Press information

 release date: 18th July 2004 number: PR132

PR132: The Great Speed Camera Con Trick

News: For immediate release

For over three years Safe Speed has been working tirelessly to analyse the road safety trends in speed camera era. And the trends have been truly awful.

For example:

  • National annual road deaths fell more in EACH of the three years before speed cameras than they have in the TEN years since.
  • The most important road safety indicator of all, the fatal accident rate (i.e. the number of road deaths per billion vehicle kilometres), gradually slowed during the speed camera decade, and finally in 2003 went into reverse. This follows a former trend spanning at least 50 years during which the fatal accident rate fell by between 5% and 7% per annum with clockwork reliability.
  • In 2003 the fatal accident rate rose by 1.3%. This is thought to be the first genuine rise in the history of UK motoring.
  • Britain is now the slowest improving country in Europe in terms of roads fatalities according to the Department for Transport's preferred indicator.
  • If the former trend (1978 to 1993) in the fatality rate had continued, over 6,800 people who have died on British roads would still be alive, and annual road deaths would be down to about 2,200 (not 3,500 and rising)
  • The difference between the expected and actual trends has been termed "the fatality gap". The fatality gap now represents over a third of annual road deaths.
  • At the same time that the trends have gone so badly wrong we have seen an explosion of speed camera fines. In fact speed camera fines are presently doubling every three years.
  • After over 5,000 man-hours of effort on the subject Safe Speed believes that the loss of trend, and the 6,800 extra deaths have been caused by bad road safety policy, and that the bad policy has been founded on speed cameras.
  • It is absurd and fraudulent to claim that speed camera saves lives when the trends have been so bad.
  • We know that vehicle safety, road engineering and post accident paramedic care are improving and are making similar crashes significantly more survivable each year. And we know that these effects are much greater than the annual growth of traffic.

Official Lies

Safe Speed has uncovered and exposed a series of official lies forming the very foundations of speed camera policy.

  • It isn't true that we have many crashes caused by otherwise responsible motorists exceeding a speed limit.
  • The claims of speed camera effectiveness entirely depend on a well understood statistical artefact known as "regression to the mean". This has been pointed out to the main authors of the recent DfT report, yet still they persist in the deception.
  • It isn't true that a 1mph reduction in average traffic speed will lead to a 5% reduction in accidents. This too has been pointed out, yet the deception continues.
  • It IS true that pedestrians are much more likely to die as impact speed increases from about 20mph to 40mph. But in the real world the proportion of pedestrians dying in injury accidents with motor vehicles points to an average impact speed of just 11mph.
(at 40mph 90% die, at 30mph 50% die, at 20mph 10% die, but in the real world, in 30mph AND 40mph speed limits just 1.5% of pedestrians injured die)

Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign said: "It is absolutely outrageous that modern road safety policy is founded on nothing more than oversimplified beliefs and bad science. It is even more outrageous that the government and the camera partnerships are trying to gloss over the abject failure and convince the public that their policies are working. False road safety information is extremely dangerous and is very likely to cause loss of life because the wrong policies are followed."

Paul continues, "The speed camera fiasco amounts nothing less than the great speed camera con trick. Every motorist should write to their MP right now demanding proper answers to the following two questions:

1) What proportion of road accidents in the UK are caused or contributed to by otherwise legal motorists exceeding a speed limit?

2) How large is the regression to the mean benefit illusion incorporated in the recent official report of speed camera effectiveness?"

In a recent report for the BBC Radio "Today Programme", Professor Emeritus Mervyn Stone said (regarding the partnership based speed camera programme): "The emphasis on political acceptability has led the program down a cul de sac in which essential public trust has been lost. The mistakes already made should be openly recognised, and the program should be subjected to a root and branch rethink."

It should came as no surprise that Safe Speed says: "Let's make speed cameras as unacceptable as drink driving."

See the Safe Speed web site for further information:


Notes and links for Editors

FATALITIES FIGURES FOR GB 1950 to 2003 (2004 projected)

Excel spreadsheet:

The same spreadsheet in a zip archive:

The spreadsheet includes exact web references to official data sources and a range of interesting graphs.


Previous Safe Speed PRs:

Recent Safe Speed letter to Professor Heydecker:

Professor Heydecker admits the error on Radio 4:

Safe Speed regression to the mean primer:

DfT Report: "The national safety camera programme: Three-year evaluation report":

DfT Road Safety Good Practice Guide:

Professor John Adams (UCL) quoted in The Times, 25th June 2004,,1-2-1157290,00.html

Professor Mervyn Stone (UCL) See...


Introduction and overview:

The 1mph lie: and

The truth about accident causation:


How road safety really works:

The real reason why responsible drivers speed:

Overview of the real effects of speed cameras:

Academic support for Safe Speed analysis:

Safe Speed's case against speed cameras:

The trends in serious and KSI accidents are unreliable as trend indicators:

And see throughout the 320,000 word Safe Speed website:

About Safe Speed:

Since setting up Safe Speed in 2001, Paul Smith, 49, an advanced motorist and road safety enthusiast, and a professional engineer of 25 years UK experience, has carried out about 5,000 hours of research into the overall effects of speed camera policy on UK road safety. We believe that this is more work in more detail than anything carried out by any other organisation. Paul's surprising conclusion is that overall speed cameras make our roads more dangerous. Paul has identified and reported a number of major flaws and false assumptions in the claims made for speed cameras, and the whole "speed kills"  system of road safety.     

The inescapable conclusion is that we should urgently return to the excellent road safety policies that gave us in the UK the safest roads in the World in the first place.     

Safe Speed does not campaign against speed limits or appropriate enforcement of motoring laws, but argues vigorously that automated speed enforcement is neither safe nor appropriate.     

Contact Safe Speed:     

email :    
telephone: 01862 832000 anytime.     
mobile: 07799 045553     
note: the mobile does not work well at our office. Always try land line first.     
Location: North Scotland     

We are available for press and media interviews.

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Created 18/07/2004. Last update 18/07/2004