DfT Boilerplate
In emails to the public the Department for Transport (DfT) repeat spin and lies in support of their failed speed camera policy


The DfT are sending out highly misleading boilerplate emails intended to deflect people from road safety facts. Here is an example email based on "boilerplate" which is critical of Safe Speed's views. It's stuffed full of incorrect and illegitimate claims. Our comments interleaved in cyan.

Dear member of the public

As I explained previously, cameras are placed where they are most likely to reduce casualties that have resulted from speed related accidents. This may or may not be near playing fields and schools where there is a speed related accident problem. There are very strict rules for the placing of cameras that ensure they are used to reduce accidents in known accident hot spots. To place them in locations without a casualty problem would leave the scheme open to accusations of revenue raising and this is certainly not the case.

Safe Speed agree that the motivation has not been for revenue. However as quango bosses go about building empires this is changing, and the DfT has not yet addressed the problem with proper controls, proper public accountability and transparency.

The Department is well aware of the website safespeed.org.uk and one or two others like it which, for whatever reason seek to disparage Government policy on speed management. There is little that can be done if individuals wish to create websites in order to run spurious stories and campaigns about speed. It therefore might be helpful if I provide some background into policy on road traffic speed. 

Safe Speed disparages government policy because it is formulated on a conspiracy of stupidity by individuals who have insufficient understanding of the principles of safe driving. They have ignored the important factors which gave us the safest roads in the world in the first place.

Around 3,400 people are killed and a further 37,000 are seriously injured every year as a result of road traffic accidents. This is clearly unacceptable and quite simply would not be tolerated on any other form of transport. Contrary to the view held in this website, research shows a clear link between increased vehicle speeds and the risk of accidents. 

We deplore the loss of life on UK roads. The DfT cannot explain the loss of trend in the fatal accident rate which is now responsible for the loss of 1,200 lives each year. If we go back to proper road safety principles, the fatality rate reduction will be restored.

There is no research which support high levels of speed enforcement, nor is there any research which explores the negative side effects on safety of high levels of speed enforcement. We believe the negative effects outweigh the potential benefits by a large margin.

For example, the TRL Report 323 vilified in the website is entitled “A new system of recording contributory factors in road accidents” and is about identifying contributory factors in accidents in the context of the new accident data recording system  brought into STATS 19, the form used by the police at the scene of a road traffic accident. Much of the confusion and disagreement arises because excessive speed as a stand alone contributory factor is shown in the context of the report to occur in about 7% of accidents, whilst we would normally quote about one third. This apparent disparity is easily

Yes it is. The DfT has a false bee in its bonnet about speed and is seeking to mislead the public.

In addition to the stand alone factor, excessive and inappropriate speed is clearly a factor in and may be coded in the report for any of the following reasons; sudden braking; careless/reckless driving; following too close; behaviour – in a hurry; loss of control of a vehicle; poor overtaking, etc.

Really! This is utter utter claptrap. These other factors have absolutely nothing to do with exceeding a speed limit. You can see how desperate they are to support their policies when this sort of nonsense emerges in support of them.

When these figures are added together, the report effectively confirms the “one third” figure. The relatively low incidence of excessive speed as a stand alone factor in the report suggests that where other factors such as those above are coded, the police may consider it unnecessary to code excessive speed as well. The Department is addressing this in revised guidance developed with the police for officers that complete STATS 19 forms.

More piffle. We recognise some of the words from a similar exercise in baloney perpetrated by the formerly world renowned Transport Research Laboratory. (click here)

It is interesting that doubters, including those with websites such as the one you highlight tend not to mention any other reports from TRL and other research organisations on speed and accident risk, of which there are many. For anyone seeking to draw meaningful conclusions from research a full search of the available literature is essential. TRL has published a comprehensive report on speed and accident causation, TRL report number 421 called “The effects of drivers' speed on the frequency of road accidents”. Also published is TRL report 440, called “The characteristics of speeders”.  Both were published in April 2000 to support the launch of the speed review and Road Safety Strategy, and full references appear in the Speed Review.

False. TRL 421 is a travesty of science and we dismiss it utterly (click here) We wrote to the TRL expressing our concerns, and to our amazement they didn't disown the claptrap, but instead proved themselves corrupt. (click here).

Any report entitled "The characteristics of speeders" is highly dubious right from the outset since virtually all drivers are "speeders". The title of the report alone is sufficient to reveal its prejudice.

Thus, effective speed management policy is aimed purely at reducing road accidents, deaths and serious injuries.  Contrary to your view, safety cameras to enforce speed limits are an important element of that policy. It has been developed over many years and is based on sound published research both at home and abroad. If sound evidence were published to throw doubt on the effectiveness of cameras the Government would of course take account of it.

How about the loss of trend in the fatality rate? How about some of the poorest overall road safety results we've ever seen in the UK? How about the growing mistrust between the Police and the public? How about the loss of fatal accident trend in Australia (where they are also camera crazy)? How about the loss of fundamental human rights (right to silence, innocent until proven guilty) and the effects of these on the process of justice? How about the total lack of research into the negative side effects of high levels of speed enforcement? How about the opinions of Dr Alan Buckingham? (click here)

There exist three pieces of key research into camera use. The two-year evaluation report of the safety camera cost recovery system (mentioned in my previous e-mail) was published in February this year. In 1996 the Home Office published a cost benefit analysis of traffic light and speed cameras that showed a 28% reduction in accidents at speed camera sites. In 1997 the London Accident Analysis Unit published an analysis of accident and casualty data 36 months after the implementation of a number of speed cameras in West London with 36 months worth of “before” data. The key finding was that fatal accidents reduced from 62 in the 3 year before the period to 19 in the three year after period. A saving of at least 43 lives.

The first of the three reports mentioned has been the subject of some correspondence. (click here) Professor Heydecker refuses to answer our key question, which we find very revealing. The other two were somewhat before Safe Speed's time, and some of the information required for a full critique is no longer available. However, the ABD offered robust criticism.

What the DfT cannot offer is anything at all showing wide area road safety improvements. And it should be completely obvious that saving 20 at a camera site (even if true) would be completely useless if we kill 20 elsewhere.

These reports, all undertaken by independent researchers, consultants or academic organisations are published works, freely available and open to scrutiny. None has been questioned by experts in the field.

Independent? Who paid for them? Is that what you call independent? As far as questioning is concerned, Safe Speed has asked key questions that the authors are unable or unwilling to answer. We find that revealing.

Those opposed to camera use make assertions about their being ineffective but these are simply not supported by any reliable evidence. Policy will not be altered while all the available and reliable evidence points firmly to excessive and inappropriate speed remaining a serious causation factor in accidents resulting in death and injury, and enforcement cameras continue to play a significant role in reducing accidents on our roads. 

Ineffective? They are downright dangerous. Try asking expert drivers. There is evidence that cameras increase excessive speed accidents because drivers are less effective at slowing down when necessary. (click here) and (here)

Ultimately the Government have nothing to gain from exaggerating the effects of speeding. The only concern is to reduce the number of accidents that occur on our roads and make them a safer place for all road users. As I have mentioned above, around 3,400 people are killed every year on our roads. The senseless loss of life, grieving families and cost to the NHS is something that no Government can ignore.

The Government has the blood of 5,700 citizens on its hand due to this failed policy. And they have the foolish audacity to play the "loss of life" card.

I hope this is helpful.

Only in as much as it helps to expose the complete lack of adequate evidence behind your oversimplified and dangerous road safety policy.

Safe Speed - exposing stupidity in government

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Copyright © SafeSpeed 2003
Created 5/12/2003. Last update 6/12/2003