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Invitation to provide discussion points for next TAG meeting

Having shifted focus from trying to get any sense out of Dorset Road Safe to trying to understand why our councils are wasting money on DRS, after a slightly reluctant start, Councillor Ron Parker spoke to me on Friday and invited me to provide some points for discussion at the next TAG (Transport Advisory Group) meeting, which will be on the 24th Feb. Very good, we’ll see what happens.

This is what I've provided:

Observations / suggestions for TAG meeting, 24th Feb 2011   

 

1. Dorset, despite some of the lowest tolerance speed camera enforcements and most severe speed limit reductions is among the worst performing counties in casualty reduction. Speeding is only one of many driving problems, and cameras detect the wrong types of speeders, typically mature, safe drivers, often with unblemished driving records for 20 years+, a small amount above limits which have been reduced well below the natural safe speed for the road. They are predictable, either fixed or mobile, so do not effect those who want to speed, either (in some cases safely) because they now find some limits impractical, or because they are dangerous speeders, racers, criminals, etc., as they have 99.9% of road space available to do what they want, and all they have to do is to not go past yellow boxes and stripy vans above the limit, it’s not hard. From these simple starting points, the claimed benefit in casualty reduction of speed cameras looks, and actually is, totally implausible. But speed cameras and ever reducing limits have completely dominated efforts to reduce deaths (or so we are told).

 

2. It seems that the unsatisfactory reductions in casualties that seem somewhat inevitable to many observers has resulted in massively increasing the dose of the wrong medicine rather than looking for a medicine that works. Limits are being used now just as a way to have less serious accidents, rather than to define a sensible maximum safe speed, and actually working on accident prevention by properly addressing the primary causes. This results in limits that really have become too low for normal safe drivers, such as Holes Bay, Dorset / Canford Way, Wessex Way, even when the higher previous limit was not being properly respected / enforced. This increases accidental and deliberate speeding, reduced respect of law and limits, and escalates the whole unfortunate situation. DfT guidance recognises the danger of inappropriately low limits and warns against this.

 

3. The probability and severity of impact is dependant not only on the speed immediately prior to the situation developing, but also how far ahead that situation was seen and avoidance started, i.e. attention and anticipation, probably the 2 most fundamental, important qualities of a good driver. It’s easy to spot an inattentive driver. If I was going to fall off my bike, I’d prefer to have drivers around me driving up to 70, but watching the road, keeping a safe distance and thinking about what they need to reduce speed for, than driving at 50 and thinking that’s all they need to do to be safe. Just imagine the effectiveness of a campaign that shows a driver thinking “what can go wrong” as he drives down the road.

 

4. When do you take most notice of your speedo? Is it when you’re going past a speed camera, or a busy school? I don’t look at my speedo at all when I’m going past a busy school, and that doesn’t mean I’m doing more than 20. There’s just more important things to look for. In fact most of the time, more than 10 would be insane. And when the school is empty 40 might be entirely safe. You simply can’t micro-manage every inch of every road with the huge dynamic variations, with speed limits. You have to rely on drivers knowing what is appropriate, to some extent, and in reality, enforcement will never detect a large proportion of all problems in all places. Therefore, you must enthuse and encourage safe driving both where there are and are not enforcements, rather than treat all drivers like naughty children, “Caught – no excuse”. Rigid enforcement of arbitrary limits which the driver can see no reason for is anti-productive and therefore dangerous. Driver psychology is obviously a critical factor and to work against it is seriously irresponsible and damaging.

 

5. Sadly, it could not be possible for DRS to have more effectively demonstrated that all it ever does is about making money. The insistence that it is only concerned with saving lives, in total conflict with the nature of it’s operations, communications and performance, and that it has continued in this way for so long, is shocking and insulting to those who are and are not directly effected by road trauma. I’ve lost count of the number of simple fundamental questions that DRS refuses to answer, presumably as any answer can only start to reveal the truth.

 

6. While trusting everything to DRS, the right things are not being done. Putting the responsibility with the driver to think about anticipating what may happen ahead. Doing something about the appalling standard of driving, inability to use sliproads properly, driving too close, distraction, inattention, lack of respect / tolerance for other road users, etc. Being smart about the future, developing new technology to help with traffic enforcement of a wide range of problems AND flow management, reducing journey times, stress. I had no problem detecting 1 problem a minute with a camcorder, the opportunities are vast. None of these things will make a fast buck, but will bring financial rewards through proper reduced accidents and reduced wasted time on the roads. The only way to properly deliver effective road safety is to consider financial benefit as a fortunate but guaranteed side effect, rather than a primary (and possibly exclusive) reason.

 

7. We need to use the precious few resources we can afford in the very best way. We must observe and identify the most abundant and serious real driving problems, and target them properly. It will be much better to do a small amount of the right thing rather than continuing to do more and more of the wrong thing. There is poor speed limit compliance away from cameras, so they are pointless and we must not spend another penny on them. Intelligent people on the road and new technologies are the way forward and as a technology expert and having taken a great interest in road safety, I would be very happy to contribute more.