Safer Speeds – The Real Data

I have commented before on how Transport for London (TfL) have failed to justify their “Safer Speeds” proposals which includes imposing 20 mph speed limits on many roads. We have previously pointed out how TfL have been misinterpreting police accident data to support their claims that the measures are justified.

For example, they issued a Tweet that said “speed accounts for 37% of all death and serious injuries” in road accidents in London. That figure is simply wrong. The claim was allegedly based on the STATS19 data reported by the police (a form they fill out about every accident involving injuries).  That form allows for multiple factors to be recorded and after submitting a Freedom of Information Act request we learned that they counted all the accidents where factors 306, 307 and 602 were noted.

But factor 602 is described as “Driver/rider either behaved in a negligent or thoughtless manner or was in a hurry….”. Clearly the key word in that sentence is the second “or” when TfL have interpreted it to mean “and”.  There is no basis for claiming that all accidents where factor 602 is attached were rated by the police as ones where a driver was in a hurry. They might have simply been careless. Only where the other factors 306 or 307 were also noted could there be any claim that speed was a factor in the accident.

We now have the complete accident data and the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries) in London. It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years. That’s actually less than the figure of 7.1% reported by the Department for Transport for the national figures in 2018 – see table below. Clearly tougher enforcement of speed limits is therefore unlikely to have much impact on the overall numbers. That of course is particularly so in London where average traffic speed is typically well below the speed limit.

Contributory Factors and Speed - ras50008

The largest contributory factor by far is “Failed to Look Properly” which accounted for 42% of KSIs in London or 35% nationally. But there are several other factors with higher ratings than “Exceeding the Speed Limit” such as “Poor Turn or Manoeuvre”, “Failed to Judge Other Persons Path…”, “Loss of Control” and “Careless, Reckless or in a Hurry”.

Even if you bundle factors 306 and 307 together only 12% of KSI incidents are included nationally so reducing speed limits is going to have only a small contribution at best to reducing such accidents. It’s reducing the other factors that is the key to substantially reducing road casualties. More driver education, improved roads and research into saccadic masking may be productive.

Note also that a lot of the reported factor 306 and 307 claims of excessive speed and speed above the speed limit might well involve illegal use of vehicles such as stolen vehicles so reducing speed limits will have negligible impact in reality.

There is simply no cost/benefit justification for the Safer Speeds proposals as pointed out in our previous article and TfL have clearly been abusing the data so as to make spurious claims.

Roger Lawson

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Londoners May Face £100 For Engine Idling and Decriminalisation of Speeding Offences

London Boroughs may gain powers to fine motorists £100 who leave their engines running under a Bill introduced in the House of Lords. That’s up from the maximum £20 at present. In addition those who run diesel generators when air pollution is high may be banned – Extinction Rebellion please note as they ran a portable generator recently to support a demonstration.

The installation of new ‘combustion plant’ machinery, which includes gas boilers, solid fuel boilers, combined heat cooling and power plant, and stationery generators would only be permitted if the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emitted by the plant did not exceed a limit set by the Secretary of State.

These measures are aimed at overcoming the defects in the current Clean Air Act that are ineffective in controlling some pollution when non-transport related emissions are likely to become the majority very soon. Note that the Mayor of London is also looking for more powers in this area but it would surely be better if such powers were given to the boroughs rather than the Mayor.

Comment: these measures are not unreasonable although the impact on air pollution of engine idling is probably minimal even though it causes a lot of annoyance to residents when people park outside their homes and do it. But enforcement is difficult so little practical impact may be the result. See https://tinyurl.com/y2meb4s4 for more details. There is also no mention of wood-burning stoves which are one of the biggest problems at present.

The aforementioned Bill is being introduced in the House of Lords as a private members Bill so progress is not guaranteed. Another Bill being introduced in that way is one to decriminalise speeding offences. That should surely be opposed as it would lead to an even greater number of fines for speeding with the sole motivation of extracting more money from motorists. That is what happened when parking offences were “decriminalised” so that Local Authorities could enforce them. See https://tinyurl.com/sr37oef   for more information

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Huge Increase in Speed Enforcement

Speed Camera 4The magazine Local Transport Today have run a story headlined “Met Police prepares for huge increase in speed enforcement”. They report that London police are planning a huge programme of speed limit enforcement with the aim of catching a million offenders a year. That’s up from 160,000 per annum at present.

That will be achieved by a large increase in speed camera activities including more mobile speed enforcement equipment. This is likely to mean aggressive enforcement of the 20 mph speed limits being brought in on many London roads.

The above information was disclosed at a meeting of London Councils, the representative body for London boroughs. That organisation is also looking at “decriminalisation” of speeding offences, which would effectively make it possible for local boroughs to enforce speed limits in the same way they do for parking offences at present.

What’s the real motivation behind these moves? It’s almost certainly about filling the coffers of the police by the offer of speed awareness courses, and also enabling local councils to fill their budget holes by also taking a cut of fees paid. Both organisations are under financial pressure and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is unwilling to help with the police budgets but would rather spend money on other things.

There is no evidence that lowering speed limits or more aggressive enforcement has any significant impact on road safety statistics. But politicians like gestures and many are only too pleased to kowtow to the anti-car fanatics. When it can be combined with excuses for revenue raising, it’s difficult to stop.

Just make sure you oppose it though.

Roger Lawson

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ABD Directors Speak to the Express

Two ABD directors, Ian Taylor and Brian MacDowall, recently spoke to the Daily Express about the problems faced by motorists. You can view a video of their interviews including driving around parts of London here: https://tinyurl.com/y2p6qjpa

In summary they say that drivers are finding it evermore “frustrating, inconvenient and expensive” to use the roads with the introduction of new speed cameras and changes to the London Congestion Charge likely to cost road users in the pocket.

Ian Taylor claimed that every measure introduced by the Government “seems to hit the British driver in the pocket” and said that “Whether it be ordinary parking charges, workplace parking charges, it is always hitting you in the pocket, and always trying to exert greater control over every aspect of where you go and what you do.”

They also criticised the Congestion Zone in London which is one of the biggest concerns for drivers and warned against the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which could see drivers penalised if they do not comply to the restrictions. Brian Macdowall claimed the introduction of the ULEZ would see the lowest earners hit, which would see a “big cost to drivers” by “unnecessary changes”. The ULEZ, which will be introduced as of April 2019 in London, will see some drivers charged £12.50 a day to use, which when paired with the Congestion Charge fee will total £24.

Roger Lawson

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Borough Enforcement of Speed Limits – It Could Be a Big Money Spinner

At present only the police can enforce speed limits in London by the issuance of fines and penalty points to drivers who offend. The fines resulting from prosecutions are generally paid to the Treasury, although the police can obtain some money by using “waivers of prosecution” and diverting drivers to speed awareness courses. The ABD believes the latter is illegal (see our AMPOW campaign).

London Councils is the representative body for all 32 London boroughs. At a recent meeting of their Transport and Environment Committee the issue was raised of the lack of enforcement of speed limits, particularly 20-mph limits which are widely ignored. Could it be that they are inappropriate on many roads? Or that the police have decided they have better things to do with their limited resources?

It seems some boroughs would like to acquire the power to enforce speed limits and effectively take over the role of the police. London Councils have commissioned their staff to “explore the feasibility of undertaking such enforcement”. That will include options “for the use and retention of any income from speeding fines”. Note that new legislation would be required, similar to the decriminalisation of parking offences.

You can see just how attractive this could be to local boroughs in that it would enable enormous numbers of speeding fines to be issued, with only the poor appeal system that we have at present for parking fines. This could be an enormous money-generator for councils who would be imposing 20 limits (or even 15 limits as proposed in the City of London) on all their roads, with thousands of hand-held speed cameras in use irrespective of whether there is any road safety benefit. Financial motives would take priority of whether this is rationally going to have any road safety benefit and we would see yet another step in the direction of making the use of cars so difficult that people will give them up – just what the anti-car fanatics would like to see.

Readers should make sure they oppose this proposal by complaining to your Member of Parliament and your local councillors.

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Will Your Car Be Prosecuted in Future?

The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is currently going through Parliament. It covers legislation necessary for self-driving cars. Included in this is a provision that insurers of cars (rather than car drivers at present), will be liable for any accidents caused by them. For example, as a result of a software defect.

That may be sensible. But one pecularity of this brave new world is the fact that you apparently could still be prosecuted for exceeding a speed limit (or of course be offered a speed awareness course which is even more bizarre). In other words, your car or the manufacturer and software designer will not be liable, nor the car’s insurers, even though it may be their fault that you exceed the speed limit.

This may not be a common problem because such cars should have a digital map of the speed limits on all roads. But it may not be up-to-date. In addition it might not include temporary speed limits (e.g. for road works), and it may not be aware of reduced limits imposed by “smart motorways”. In reality such cars will need to recognise speed limit signs, and interpret them, to ensure they stay within the limits. What’s the chance of that happening when other vehicles may obstruct their view, or the weather conditions cloud the picture? Not all the time I suggest.

So if you think that you will be able to relax in self-driving cars, or if you are using ISA (Intelligent Speed Adaptation) which some folks would like to see mandated, then forget it. Life will simply get yet more complex and confusing for drivers – even if “drivers” is the wrong word to use for those sitting in the driving seat of self-driving cars.

Car owners is probably a more suitable word. And if your self-driving car is not insured when it causes an accident, it’s you as the owner that will be liable.

Welcome to the bizarre new world of self-driving cars.

Roger Lawson

National Accident Trends and Bus Accidents in London

Fatal accidents on Britain’s roads rose 4% to 1,792 last year. That’s the highest level since 2011 and is clear evidence that fatal accidents are not falling despite all the chest beating of politicians about excessive speeds, and millions of pounds spent on speed cameras, speed awareness courses and traffic calming.

The DfT say the change in fatalities are not statistically significant, but even more alarming is the KSI figure which was up 8% in 2016 over the previous year and which is more statistically significant. The slight injuries were only up 4% but that may have been particularly affected by a change in the reporting system and are notoriously senstive to “under-reporting”.

Explanations from the DfT are the impact of the weather, the fact that accidents tend to rise when the economy is bouyant, plus lots of other factors. Note that the growth in traffic is only a very minor possible factor, and more traffic congestion can actually reduce accidents.

So in summary, the UK road safety industry and its experts have been an abject failure since about 2011 when the accident figures started to flatline.

An example of political posturing that is irrelevant to tackling the real road safety problems is the ambition of the Mayor, Sadiq Khan, in his Mayor’s Transport Strategy to reduce injuries from bus collisions in London to zero. In reality data from TfL show the number of collisions have been rising – up from 22,676 in 2013 to 28,035 in 2016. The number of injuries also rose to 1,231 in 2016.

What might be the reasons for these increases? Possibly more cyclists on the roads, more pedestrians who cross the road without looking, many using their phones at the time, and lots of other factors. So the response of the Mayor is to look at speed limiting technology for buses and anti-collision sensors. Will they solve the problem? Nobody knows because there is no road accident investigation branch similar to those used for rail and aviation, as the ABD has repeatedly called for.

In my view, only when Government politicians, the Mayor and TfL stop looking for quick answers to complex problems will we get some sense back into the road safety debate. In the meantime, it’s just a disgrace that nobody in power seems to be facing up to the reality that the UK is going backwards in road safety.

Roger Lawson

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