PR139: You can't measure safe driving in miles per hour, Mr Darling
Safe Speed Press information

 release date: 1st September 2004 number: PR139

PR139: You can't measure safe driving in miles per hour, Mr Darling

NEWS: for immediate release

Government proposals fail to reduce the damage done by speed cameras says Safe Speed.

The Government has announced today "fairer speeding fines". They plan to introduce variable penalties for speed limit offences. Clearly they recognise that the present system is unfair - but equally clearly, they don't understand why it is unfair.

But Safe Speed points out that the danger of a speed cannot be expressed in terms of the number of miles per hour over the speed limit. Reference to the immediate circumstances is vital. 

Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign said: "This is simply a continuation of the blind obsession with numerical speed. It hasn't delivered an improvement in road safety and it never ever will. The problem is that there's no magic number of miles per hour that delivers safety - circumstances are far too variable.

The Government must recognise that road safety is far more complex - forcing drivers to pay more attention to the speed limit than they do to the road ahead is potentially highly dangerous."

"The big problem", Paul explains, "is that any speed at all can be deadly. Even at an impact speed of 30mph, according to government approved research, 50% of pedestrians struck by vehicles die.

Fortunately in the real world this does not reflect reality. In 2002, in 30 and 40mph speed limits just 0.41% of child pedestrians struck by cars died. This is crystal clear evidence that road safety is already being delivered by drivers slowing down way below the speed limit when necessary. That's the behaviour we need to improve road safety."

There's no research into the net effects of high levels of concentration on speed enforcement. There are a range of very important side effects and false messages that outweigh the potential benefits. For example:

* Speed cameras tend to make drivers concentrate on their speedometers, rather than the road ahead. According to "straw poll research" carried out by Safe Speed, three quarters of drivers give up at least 40% of their attention to the speedometer in the immediate vicinity of a speed camera. Amazingly there are no better figures available.

* Government messages about the importance of the speed limit leads to a tendency for drivers to believe that their speed is safe if they are not exceeding the speed limit. This is extremely dangerous.

Paul continues: "It's very important that drivers don't go too fast, but you can't measure safe driving in miles per hour, Mr Darling. There is no magic number that represents a safe and appropriate speed. Driving by numbers isn't safe - it's deadly.

Notes for Editors

Some background:

Why drivers speed:

The overall effects of speed cameras:

Checking the speedo in a speed camera zone:

About Safe Speed

The Safe Speed road safety campaign is primarily the work of engineer-turned road safety analyst Paul Smith.

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:

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Location: North Scotland      

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Created 8/10/2004. Last update 8/10/2004