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UK Road Sense, Dorset Way / A3049 50 limit

Speed cameras, limits, road safety, moving forward

I learned from a response to my email yesterday (below) that Dorset will cut it's proper traffic police capability by 25%. And this just after Dorset decided to continue wasting money on speed cameras, mostly on non (desk) jobs sending out as many fines as they possibly can to try not to make a loss. Incredible.
The thugs and boy racers will be delighted.
If I'm wrong about any of this, please tell me, someone. If I'm right, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT, Dorset / Poole / Bournemouth Councils and Police. Please don't carry on ignoring it while irreversible damage is being done to our road network and people's lives.
Subject: Speed cameras, limits, road safety, moving forward

I am aware that various decisions are being made now and in the near future on speed cameras in Dorset and other areas. Criticism is at a minimum in this message, it’s just a summary of the reasons why to reduce deaths and serious injuries, we must be receptive to new ideas. 

Change is difficult. Any removal of an enforcement device brings the risk of blame if a death then happens at that site. Much has been invested, many systems are in place, many arguments made about why we should carry on. But the correct course of action for the future must not be hampered by what happened in the past. It is always the one that reaches the destination with the highest probability of success and with the minimum of wasted time and resource from now, based on all factors as they are now, a bit like a car journey itself, even if at the start all the wheels have fallen off the car and it’s pointing in the wrong direction.

It doesn’t matter what is done, there are still going to be deaths and serious injuries. A method that agues that because there was a death, the limit has to go down, is not workable as it will only result in unusable roads. So any decision must be a compromise involving many factors, including, quite simply, and as insensitive as it sounds, what is an “acceptable” fatality rate for any road / road type. We must use science, not emotion, to give us the right answers. Science will bring agreement, emotion and opinion only disagreement.

Once we know if the actual rate is above or below what it should be, we will know if something needs to be adjusted. With proper attention given to causes, we will know what needs to be adjusted. Trying to solve all problems (and there are many) only by trying to reduce speed will naturally be extremely inefficient. Given that the compromise must include a decision on how many should die, an inefficient solution is a very serious failure.

This is why it is so important that decisions and methods are right and the limited resources used for enforcing them are very carefully and rightly deployed. “Getting it right” should result in a number of positive side effects including reduced congestion, journey times and emissions, and support from the public.

Here’s a couple of truly worrying examples demonstrating “getting it wrong”: Steve Tite indicated that as there had been 2 deaths on the A3049 since they started considering speed reduction, this was justification for the reduction, with no reference to cause or speeds, or what would be expected on such a road, and no thought about what to do if there are another 2 deaths in the next year or so. James Duncan, (behind the equally unpopular Wessex Way 40 limit) who I believe did not even drive in the area, was astonished when I showed him a video of bad driving on the road. I asked him if he had actually observed what was happening on the road a stone’s throw from his office, and he said “we don’t make a habit of watching traffic”. You couldn’t even make it up!

The point is, a spectacular failure to properly consider the facts and to use a predictable, consistent, method to reach an objective conclusion has been clearly demonstrated in both of these controversial reductions. And those who were speeding before are likely to continue to do so, resulting in even greater speed differentials, tailgating, stress, conflict, etc.

And no-one can argue that road policing is not massively disproportionate on the subject of speed, another case of “getting it wrong”. I am 100% sure that I could drive without thinking, tailgate, overtake dangerously, and behave like an idiot on sliproads, have several near misses, until I crashed (or caused someone else to) before I would be detected and disciplined.

Many more people do things like these even than speed dangerously. And if you want to speed dangerously you can do that as well, as long as you don’t do it on the 0.1% of road space in front of fixed bright yellow boxes.

THESE are the reasons Dorset has such appalling road casualty figures:

“In 2008, there were 442 road casualties per 100,000 people in Dorset, the highest rate in SW counties and unitaries (SW 368, England 397). Bournemouth (420) & Poole (403) had the 4th and 5th highest proportions, respectively, among South West county and unitary authorities.”


Let’s face it, speed cameras have been in Dorset for a very long time and despite some record making financial income from some (which still hasn’t covered their cost) they have SPECTACULARLY FAILED to improve road safety. It is now time to move on. Removing speed cameras, as a part of a new strategy, will save, not cost lives.

If Dorset wants to meet and even surpass the targets, it can do it easily as there are so many opportunities to do better.

The only way to deliver proportionate, intelligent, efficient traffic policing of 100% of the problems is with traffic police. Automation done properly could help but currently has badly lost it’s way.

So the answers are blindingly simple. Pull all funding from speed cameras, and put traffic police on the road, even if a very few. And let them get on with real work, not distracted by targeting entirely safe driving a small amount above some of the ridiculous low limits we now have. Restore credibility, enforceability, and compliance of speed limits by reversing some of the recent incorrect reductions. You know it makes sense.