DfT 'unwittingly' bigged-up speed camera benefits
Rumours of their awesomeness exaggerated, dept admits to Reg
Exclusive The Department for Transport (DfT) has "unwittingly" misled the public over the benefits of speed cameras for the last four years.
That was the shock admission yesterday by a DfT spokeswoman, when finally cornered by the Department’s own research. She also told us that they have finally agreed to put matters right by adding an explanation to future public statements.
The misinformation began with a report produced by the DfT (pdf) itself in 2005. On the basis of this report, it came up with the now infamous claim that speed cameras are directly responsible for reducing the level of killed and seriously injured (KSI) at camera sites by 42 per cent. Yet its own evidence barely supported half that figure.
The claim has been repeated frequently by official spokespersons and road safety campaigners, and on the DfT’s own Think! road safety website. It has also been regularly questioned by speed camera opponents, who point out that other effects should be taken into account. These include overall "trend" improvements in the KSI rate, other road safety measures put in place at accident black spots, and a statistical quirk known as "regression to the mean".
That last factor is important. Scientists and statisticians have long been aware that whenever something out of the ordinary happens – from a plague of frogs to a spate of road accidents - it is probably just that: a freak, a fluke, an anomaly. Anything that you do in that location after the event will look as though it makes a difference – but it hasn’t. The figures would have returned to a more normal average rate of their own accord anyway.
When the DfT first started claiming such a high benefit for speed cameras, respected academics Dr Linda Mountain of Liverpool University and Mike Maher, Professor of the Mathematical Analysis of Transport Systems at Leeds, objected. The DfT took notice, and the 2005 report included an appendix supplied by this pair showing in meticulous detail how the effect of speed cameras was almost certainly less than half the 42 per cent quoted.
The Reg has raised this with the Department for Transport many times since. On each occasion we have been fobbed off. In one instance, a spokesman told us that statistical analysis was no more than "a matter of opinion".
So far, so stonewalled - until this week, when the DfT decided that speed cams were no longer quite so deserving of central government support. Once more we drew their attention to this issue, expecting to be brushed off again. At long last, a spokeswoman told us: "This was basically an oversight and it will be corrected."
We checked: she confirmed. In future, DfT websites will still contain the 42 per cent claim, but there will be further explanation – or so we have now been assured.
A quick check of the Think! site shows the figure has already been changed. ®
About 5 miles from me speed camera have reduced the death toll and accident by about 80%.
Or so they will tell you.
The fact, the reduced the speed limit by 20mph, chnaged sections from a dual carriageway to single, closed ALL the central reservations except one, increased the length of slip roads by about 50m each, clealry had no effect on this.
I'm not anti speed camera, but they should be in logical places (nr schools (during term time), parks, nr shops etc).
Yes I got done by one, for doing 60 (in a 50) on an empty strech of road on a clear sunday evening, with only the odd other car coming the other way, whilst in a sports car. I could easily done 130mph and not been a risk to myself or others
No doubt there are lots of accidents at 8am / 6pm mon-fri on wet december days to justify it.
But the moral of the story is boys and girls is, feel free to drive like a twat, just don't speed!
At last, some truth
Most traffic cameras are not placed at accident blackspots anyway, they seem to be placed exactly where there is maximum discrepancy between the speed limit and the "reasonable speed for the given conditions" - as can be independently gauged by experts, or measured from a large set of drivers.
I object to the "speed is the only parameter" reductive analysis, driving is primarily about anticipation and awareness, almost all accidents could have been avoided with a bit more of either. Slavish adherence to prescribed legal limits de-skills the process and puts you in a "bubble" of assumed safety, of non-responsibility. It fails when the mantra of "slower is safer" causes bad drivers to creep onto main roads or motorways at a relative speed of minus 30mph - the acceleration lane requires you to match your speed. It would be better if some police resource went into these risky behaviours, as well as others.
Not this old chestnut again...
Hmm. The only IQ that is suspect here is yours. Given that in other locations on the globe it is perfectly acceptable to drive at speeds beyond the highest posted speed limit found here in the UK (on the right road, of course) then clearly speed limits can some times appear to be rather arbitrary - and unsurprisingly, they mostly are.
Smart people spot this incongruity and indeed find it irritating. Is there something about the laws of physics in the UK which makes it unsafe to drive over 70 mph on an empty motorway, for example?
The bottom line is that laws which force a behaviour change upon any right-thinking person should always cause at least some reflection. And if we decide to break those laws, so be it. We know the risks. Only sheeple such as yourself would blindly obey any and all dictat from above.