Looking Inside the 12.5%
Safe Speed Press information

 release date: 4th April 2004 number: PR112


News: for immediate release

Safe Speed recently highlighted that "excessive speed" was only the 7th most common factor in a study of road accident causation recently published by the Department for Transport. Just 12.5% of all road accidents had "excessive speed" listed as one of the contributory factors.

But this is not the whole story. Within the 12.5% of "excessive speed" accidents we estimate that only about 30% involve exceeding the speed limit (based on the only UK data available, from Avon and Somerset Police).

  • The 12.5% also includes excessive speed factors classed as "definite, probable, possible and not-recorded."
  • And the 12.5% even includes accidents where "excessive speed" was a minor contributory factor.
So if we have a drunk driver skidding on ice at 20mph, that may well have been coded as an excessive speed accident.

Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed Road Safety Campaign said: "It's high time that the DfT came clean and published this vital road safety data in full. They have been gathering it since 1997 and we have been requesting it for over a year with no joy. Now that we have finally seen a small portion of it, it is crystal clear that the data does not support the modern policy emphasis on speed limit enforcement."

Safe Speed demands the immediate release of the rest of the data gathered since 1997, with full details including "factor groupings" and "confidence" data.

Paul continues: "This is the way we see it. We start with 12.5% of accidents where "excessive speed is listed as a contributory factor. Then we look at 30% of those that actually involved exceeding a speed limit - that gives us 3.75%. Then we look inside that 3.75 percent and eliminate those accidents within the "possible" category where speed wasn't likely to have been a factor at all. That get's us to about 3%. Then we look inside the 3% and eliminate those circumstances where the excessive speed and the accident both had a common cause (for example a drunk or drugged driver, a reckless driver, drivers racing or criminals escaping the scene of a crime). That's very like half of the remainder gone. We are left with about 1.5% of accidents that MIGHT have been caused by a normal motorist exceeding a speed limit. But even in this 1.5% the primary cause of the accident may not have been excessive speed. Many of them were probably inattention exacerbated by excessive speed. Finally we should look at the potential effectiveness of the speed enforcement. We know that enforcement by speed camera isn't very effective because they plan to issue more tickets every year and because speeding behaviour has not changed significantly in the last 5 years according to the DfT's own figures.

Paul continues: "The bottom line is that we have a vanishingly small proportion of accidents where the results are contributed to by normal drivers exceeding a speed limit. No wonder we're not seeing the national figures go down in the speed camera era!"

Paul continues: "Speed camera policy is a farce based on incomplete data, false assumptions and oversimplified thinking. Camera operations must stop now, and we must return immediately to the excellent policies that gave us the safest roads in the world in the first place."


Notes for editors:

This press release follows on from our earlier release: PR110

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:  

web: http://www.safespeed.org.uk   
email : psmith@safespeed.org.uk  
telephone: 01862 832000 anytime.   
mobile: 07799 045553   
note: the mobile does not work well at our office. Always try land linefirst.   
Location: North Scotland   

We are available for press and media interviews.

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Created 9/04/2004. Last update 9/04/2004