Steve Pilkington - Chief Constable of Avon and Somerset answered our vital road safety question.
We believe that Avon and Somerset have contributory factors for 
"excess speed (conditions)" and 
"excess speed (limit)".


While examining a report published by the Avon and Somerset S camera partnership, we noticed that they may have vital road safety information of national significance. After emailing the partnership (request refused) we decided to ask the Chief Constable direct.

new letters added 10th October. (it's getting very interesting indeed!)

new on 7th November 2003 we received analysed data from Avon and Somerset. (click here)

1st October 2003
Steve Pilkington
Chief Constable
Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Police Headquarters
PO Box 37
Valley Road
BS20 8QJ

Dear Mr Pilkington,

My organisation campaigns for traditional road safety based on skills, consideration and responsibility. We campaign against excessive speed limit enforcement, because we believe it makes the roads more dangerous.

I found a document on the Avon and Somerset Safety Camera Partnership web site that  mentions Avon and Somerset accident causation codes. It appears that (perhaps uniquely in the UK) Avon and Somerset gather accident causation codes separately for “inappropriate speed” and “speed in excess of a speed limit”.

Since it appears from Canadian research that something like two thirds of “excessive speed accidents” take place entirely within the prevailing speed limit, it should be obvious that some of the figures widely quoted for possible accident reductions available from speed limit enforcement should be discounted by perhaps two thirds.

I very much wish to examine Avon and Somerset accident causation data to confirm or deny that the approximate two thirds proportion applies on at least some UK roads.

I refer you to section 1.2 of “Safety Camera Partnership Road Accident Review 2001” which may be downloaded from: It contains:

“The accidents used to identify speed related accidents for this review have been based on the contributory factors allocated by police officers - three factors have been used:
• “Excess Speed (conditions)” (30)
• “Misjudge Speed/ Distance” (39)
• “Excess Speed (limit)” (51)”
I emailed the safety camera partnership requesting the information and received the following reply:
“We operate under guidance from the Department for Transport and as such we have been advised that queries of this nature should be directed to them. You can visit their website at”
When further pressed they responded:
“I'm afraid we cant give out more detailed information at this time. Again under guidance we can't. We do supply as much information as is possible. Sorry we can't be anymore help.”
I'm perfectly happy with the politeness of their response, but I am appalled and concerned about the apparent efforts of the DfT to control the availability of basic road safety information. I am left wondering what they think they have to hide.

Can you please provide me urgently with the basic breakdown of Avon and Somerset accident  contributory factor information for 2001? It would greatly assist our efforts to uncover the truth in road safety.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Paul Smith

cc:  Mr D Underhill 
 Mr Alan Ham
 Debi Kinghorn [this page]

A letter from Avon and Somerset (kindly provided in electronic form as well as on paper)

Superintendent Lawrie Lewis – Road Policing Unit
Police Headquarters,  P O Box 37, Valley Road, Portishead, Bristol BS20 8QJ
Tel. 01275 816842   Facsimile 01275 816884    E-mail 
Office Hours 0800-1630 Monday to Friday

Our ref:    Your ref:    Date:  10 October 2003

Dear Mr Smith

Thank you for your letter of the 1st October concerning the response you have received from the Avon and Somerset Safety Camera Partnership.

As one of 11 organisations that make up that Partnership we are disappointed that the response you received from them does not seek to answer your query. As a partner organisation we believe that transparency is important to inform and reassure the public that the work of the Partnership is properly focused on tackling a significant cause of road collisions and casualties. However, the Avon and Somerset Constabulary is not the lead agency for the Partnership. That responsibility falls to Somerset County Council and, in the first instance, the correct place to raise your concerns of the Partnership failing to adequately respond to your query should be addressed to;

The Chief Executive
Somerset County Council
C/O Mr Nigel Farrow (Oxon) DMS, MCIPP
Corporate Director
Economy Transport and Environment Dept
Somerset County Council
County Hall
Taunton TA1 4DY

In common with all police forces officers who attend the scene of a fatal or personal injury road collision are obliged to complete a statistical return (Stats 19) for the Department of Transport. The content of Stats 19 is subject to period review and change by the Department of Transport. Although the police are responsible for collecting the data we are not responsible for it’s collation and final publication. Once collected it is passed to the consortium of local authorities that make up the Avon and Somerset force area for verification, electronic inputting and subsequent transmission to the Department of Transport who, in conjunction with the National Statistics Office, publish annual reports on Road Casualties in Great Britain. 

I enclose for your information a copy of the Stats 19 form that was in use up to 2002 and a copy of that which is currently in use. You will note that the speed related causational factors have been changed in the latter example.

My own unit uses Stats 19 data as a component that informs intelligence led policing, targeting police activity in the vicinity of collision hotspots. It is used by local authorities, their road safety officers and highways units, to influence local road safety initiatives and road re-engineering decisions. It is used by safety camera partnerships, working to Department of Transport criteria, when developing their annual operational case for fixed and mobile camera sites that has to be agreed by the Department. 

The precise manner in which Stats 19 data is used by the Avon and Somerset Safety Camera Partnership is something I consider they should answer and I intend to write separately to Mr Farrow advising him of the police view on that.

Linking the comments you make in the opening paragraph of your letter and that which I read on your website let me reassure you on a few points concerning this Constabulary’s approach to Roads Policing;

? The formation of the Safety Camera Partnership in April 2002 has not contributed to a reduction in officers committed to Roads Policing which is 230 officers, in fact the opposite is true. The four police officer posts that were previously assigned to speed enforcement were freed up to concentrate on the broader aspects of Roads Policing and are now used to tackle road crime in conjunction with Automatic Number Plate Reader (ANPR) technology focusing on the criminal use of vehicles and those who drive without documentation.

? We have a holistic approach to road safety with a programme of themed operations tackling a complementary range of road safety issues;

o Drink driving
o Drug driving
o Disqualified driving
o Criminal use of vehicles
o Construction and use
o Fatigue
o In vehicle safety
o Two wheeled safety
o Vulnerable motorists
o LGV’s and PSV’s
o Anti-social use of vehicles
o Speed

On the issue of speed our officers’ focus is very much on protecting vulnerable roads users in built up areas, driver education and addressing the quality of life in rural communities where residents perception of a speeding problem through villages if of major concern to them, often higher up the local agenda than the fear of crime. Patrolling officers exercise discretion in the enforcement of speed limits. Enforcement is only considered at speeds in excess of the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) threshold of the speed limit plus 10% plus 2 mph. With the exception of the higher end urban speeders, of more than 15 mph above the posted speed limit, any urban speeder justifying prosecution is given one opportunity to attend an educational seminar as an alternative to prosecution and endorsement. All of the residual income from the educational seminar is handed over to a charity; Lifeskills, who deliver a broad base of safety education to primary school children in the region.

Conceptually this Constabulary is fully supportive of the work of the Safety Camera Partnership but it is has not been without media notice that we have been outspoken with our concerns on the ethics of some operational deployments in their foundation period. Those are historic in context and a way ahead has been debated. A programme of adjustments has been agreed and will be fully implemented in time to coincide with the revised Department for Transport operational case period that will commence April 1st 2004. 

I suspect that the ‘Safe Speed’ opinion of safety cameras will always remain polarised to my own and we will have to respect each others views on that subject. I believe that safety cameras play an integral and essential part of a holistic road safety strategy. We are not complacent but in the first year of operation of the Avon and Somerset Camera Partnership, in comparison to the previous years figures, road death was down 15% and personal injury down 4.5%. 

If we can continue with our holistic push to make the roads safer then we have a real chance of meeting the challenging year 2010 casualty reduction targets of the Department for Transport and many more families will continue to enjoy each others love and company in good health for many years. 

Yours sincerely

Lawrie Lewis
Road Policing Unit

Avon and Somerset 2002 (and after) causation coding forms

Avon and Somerset 2001 (and before) contributory factors coding forms

note: pink highlights provided by Safe Speed

10th October 2003
Superintendent Lawrie Lewis
Road Policing Unit
Police Headquarters
P O Box 37
Valley Road
Bristol BS20 8QJ

Dear Superintendent Lewis

Many many thanks for your interesting letter dated 6th October. I also very much appreciate that you took the trouble to also provide the letter in electronic form. Thank you.

I feel confident that you understand the figures that I would like to see, and I fully expect that you will not need to carry out any further analysis in order to provide them. However, for clarity and convenience, I shall spell out my interests precisely.

I want to see basic analysis of accident contributory factor codes for Avon and Somerset for 2001. This would include:

1) The total number of accidents
2) The total number of reports
3) The number of times that each contributory factor was recorded

I note with very considerable interest that your 2001 coding forms also include a box for “emergency or stolen vehicle involved”. I wonder if you have already carried out analysis to see the number of accidents involving excessive speed that also involved stolen vehicles or emergency vehicles. If there is any analysis, I would be eternally grateful if you could please advise me of the findings.

Thank you for your assistance. I look forward to hearing from you.

Yours sincerely

Paul Smith

CC: Mr D Underhill 
Mr Alan Ham
Debi Kinghorn
Steve Pilkington


Various boring emails have been exchanged, and the upshot was that the data requested would be compiled and released if a fee was paid. The fee has been paid, and we await the data with great interest. Here's the latest email:

Subject: RE: Continuing correspondence
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 2003 14:09:57 -0000
From: Lawrie Lewis <>
To: "'Paul Smith'" <>


Yes, thank you we have received the cheque.  Lawrie is away on annual leave this week, but our analyst is aware and is undertaking the work.  I have spoken to her and she anticipates it will be ready in 10 to 14 days - possibly sooner, depending on her work load/other overtime commitments. She will be able to provide the data on an  Excel 97 spreadsheet, as requested by you.

Anne Dimmock
Avon and Somerset Constabulary
Road Policing Unit 
Tel. 01275 816844

You can't measure safe driving in miles per hour

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Created 1/10/2003. Last update 08/11/2003