Safe Speed Press information

 release date: 1st April 2004 number: PR110

News: For Immediate Release.


Figures recently published by the Department for Transport confirm that exceeding the speed limit is not a large road accident causation factor.

Data from 13 Police forces for 2001 reveals the following most frequent accident contributory factors:

  • 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%
"Excessive speed" includes both "speed in excess of the speed limit" and "inappropriate speed for the conditions". Data from Avon and Somerset - the only such data available in the UK - warns us that 70% of these "excessive speed accidents" take place entirely within the speed limit. We should therefore assume that in all probability only some 3.75% of our road accidents involve exceeding a speed limit.

The factor analysis presented includes coding for "definite, probable and possible" factors. It follows that within the 3.75% a significant percentage will only list "excessive speed" as a possible factor. Not only that, but in
many serious accidents where excessive speed is coded there is a cause in common for both the excessive speed and the accident - frequently the cause in common is drink, drugs or joyriding in stolen cars.

Even with these both sorts of "excessive speed" added together excessive speed is still only the 7th most frequently reported factor.

It is crystal clear that the real main causes of road accidents are carelessness, inattention and misjudgement.

Paul Smith, Founder of the Safe Speed campaign, comments: "When the main causes of accidents involve drivers failing to properly observe or react to road hazards it should be obvious that the modern emphasis on speed limit enforcement by camera risks INCREASING these common accident types as precious and vital driver attention is diverted to the speedometer, speed limits and the risk of speed enforcement operations."

Paul continues: "It is outrageous that we have had to wait many years to see this important road safety information. It turns out that certain Police forces have been supplying such data to the DfT since 1997, yet the DfT have failed to publish it and have failed to respond properly to requests to view the data. 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."

Paul continues: "Road safety is a complex matter involving all our road users in complex interactions. Mostly it works well. With some 30,000,000 drivers we only have about 300,000 road injuries each year. This implies that the average driver goes 100 years between injury accidents, 1,000 years between serious injury accidents and 10,000 years between fatal accidents. With DfT figures confirming that the majority of drivers in free flowing conditions exceed the speed limit every day it should be obvious that exceeding the speed limit in itself is unlikely to distinguish an event that only happens once in a hundred years."

Paul continues: "The authorities must now acknowledge that "speed kills" road safety policy backed with speed cameras is not benefiting road safety. The whole ethos must be scrapped immediately and we must instead borrow from the best practice in health and safety. Our road safety results - the best in the world - are simply the result of our superior road safety culture. Health and safety experts will tell us that feeding the safety culture is the only way to improve our national road safety performance."

Paul continues: "Speed cameras could only save lives and reduce accidents if we had a significant population of accidents where normal motorists exceeding the speed limit caused or contributed to road accidents. These new figures confirm that we have very few accidents of this type. The policy is wasted on attempting to solve a problem that simply does not exist."


Notes for editors:

See also our follow-up press release: "PR112 Looking Inside the 12.5%"

The new DfT report "Review of the contributory factors system" is available from:

The figures quoted above appear in Appendix B2 on page 41. Safe speed fully supports the report and its conclusions.

We have tried on previous occasions to obtain this data. See our correspondence and notes here:

The Avon and Somerset data referred to was obtained by Safe Speed:
... following this correspondence:

DfT Report "Vehicle speeds in Great Britain" (VSGB) (published annually) confirms that the majority of drivers exceed the speed limit at sample sites. We can no longer find these reports on the DfT web site, so have gathered the last six copies on our web site:

Safe Speed has long been gathering information on road accidents contributory factors where ever they have been publish. Most of the results are very similar to the new data and can be referenced from:

Safe Speed has also analysed the mistaken and oversimplified beliefs that underlie modern road safety policy. The analysis is available here:

About Safe Speed: 

Since setting up Safe Speed in 2001, Paul Smith, 48, an advanced motorist and road safety enthusiast, and a professional engineer of 25 years UK experience, has carried out in excess of 4,500 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 1/04/2004. Last update 9/04/2004