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The apparent effect of the speed camera industry on road safety organisations such as RSGB

An interesting debate developed recently on the Road Safety GB website about schoolchildren in Rochdale being used to talk to drivers caught speeding near their school rather than receiving points and fines: http://www.roadsafetygb.org.uk/news/2544.html  . I contributed as I have been very concerned about the disproportionate attention speed has received over the past decade when exceeding the limit is only a factor in just 7.6% of deaths and serious injuries while simple driver error is a factor in nearly TEN TIMES as many. Just by reducing driver error by a small proportion we could reduce overall bereavement, pain, suffering, cost and disruption by more than if speeding was eliminated entirely. I believe that, as irresponsible as speeding may be, having misled the current generation about speed, enforcement and effectiveness, and missed those opportunities to improve, we should not be misleading the next generation or prolonging the single minded obsession with speed at the cost of a more balanced and effective approach any longer.

But my concerns became deeper when the spokesperson for the scheme, Stuart Howarth, Rochdale’s casualty reduction officer, made some rather arrogant and unprofessional remarks (such as refusing to enter debate about right or wrong but that it would continue anyway) and went on to mention that a driver was let off after talking to a child when he would have faced a driving ban due to existing points and even after having been on a speed awareness course.

It’s incredibly easy to be caught for speeding but most would consider that if a driver has been caught presumably 5 times in a few years and failed to respond to a driver course then that driver needs to be questioned by a judge with the authority to ban the driver, not a schoolchild. On what authority does ANYONE allow a repeat driving offender to stay on the road without any investigation into the overall fitness of the driver whatsoever? Who will take responsibility if that driver kills someone in the near future? What professional qualifications does Mr Howarth hold that prove that he has a sound understanding of principles of safety / traffic work and that his interfering, no matter how well intentioned, is not actually increasing danger? Is there any evidence whatsoever that Mr Howarth had even thought for a second about these and other issues? None that he has been willing to mention.

The debate therefore escalated in seriousness and interest – and at that point, was suddenly cut off by the editor of RSGB. Why? These were serious questions with serious implications which were starting not to look good at all for a speed enforcement scheme.

But it was the tip of the iceberg. The debate continued for a short while offline by email, then the extent to which organisations such as RSGB will avoid inconvenient truths and some reasons why became clear.

And I have experienced this before – investigating the Prince Michael Award given to Dorset in a year when road deaths increased, one of them resulting from a Dorset Road “Safe” activity, Mr Walsh of “RoadSafe” was chosen to answer my comments. Never have I seen such a naïve, feeble and misguided attempt to stand up for anything: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog96.aspx  .

Back to RSGB, as the debate developed, I mentioned to the editor of RSGB (Nick Rawlings) that I (and various other fully independent professional engineers) have seen widespread incompetence and dishonesty in road safety. The question came back “how do you know this to be the case”? I and Idris Francis (http://www.fightbackwithfacts.com) came back with an abundance of proof.

The response then was rather odd – just that he would “bow out” of the debate and that Road Safety GB had nothing to do with speed cameras – the biggest “road safety” “intervention” of the last decade in GB.

Not surprisingly I and the 2 other fully independent engineers in the debate were not satisfied. RSGB clearly has a presence in important subject of road safety – it therefore has influence, and that gives it a responsibility to be impartial, to help to uncover any areas of incompetence and / or dishonesty. Any deliberate acts of covering up inconvenient truths are completely inappropriate and likely to slow the development of road safety in the public interest – therefore costing lives.

These points were made crystal clear to the senior members of RSGB – Nick Rawlings, the editor, Honor Byford, Vice-chair and Alan Kennedy, Chairman, but all we saw was a total communications shutdown, no comment. Very sadly, there is an explanation that sticks out like a saw thumb. RSGB receives funding from companies involved in the speed camera industry, such as RedSpeed and DriveTech. And the fact that RSGB won’t even comment on the unfortunate link between this finance, and the apparent enthusiasm of RSGB to protect the speed industry is leading to an unavoidable conclusion: Road safety organisations such as RSGB are knowingly protecting the speed industry for financial gain. I wish it didn’t look like this but it does.

Likewise, I offer information relevant to road safety, however, being completely independent and receiving money from absolutely no one, I am free to publish whatever I find, good or bad, and it would therefore be irresponsible of me not to report what I have found about Road Safety GB. It is the classic final communications clampdown in the face of undeniable evidence that I have seen so many times before (particularly in Dorset) that has given me the total confidence to report this.

The apparent corruption of road safety organisations such as RoadSafe and RSGB by the speed / speed camera industry is one of the many reasons that the speed industry, which has made probably in excess of a £ billion all together, while failing even to progress one of the smallest opportunities to reduce deaths and injuries and taken attention from one of the biggest opportunities, has continued for so long, and it seems that these organisations are behaving just as badly as the industry itself.

And here is the proof that a decade of obsession with speed has done NOTHING to reduce the percentage of deaths and injuries with speed as a factor: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog124.aspx (updated)