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Points for discussion at TAG meeting, 24th Feb, 2011

Following some communications with Ron Parker, I was invited to present some points for the TAG meeting.

Here were my initial points:

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.

The response can be seen here:



Here was my reply:


Many thanks for the consideration of my points and responses raised. I’d like to raise some responses in reply:

  1. On the point of performance, the data you provide does not look so bad. Can you explain the apparent conflict with the reports I found (quoted below)? When I mentioned “lowest tolerance speed camera enforcements” I referred not to the speed threshold, but to the choice of enforcement operations, for example mobile and fixed cameras used on recently reduced 30 limit non-residential, dual carriageways. 20% over a realistically set limit is not insignificant, but over for example, the 30 limit on Holes bay, Upton Road, or Old Wareham Road dual carriageways, favourite locations for Dorset Road Safe to deploy their limited resources, is rather insignificant. If these resources had been used on residential streets, they would still have been ignored by hardened speeders but at least those who would have been caught would have deserved it.

While stopping drivers for not wearing seatbelts, or holding phones, is of some value, really, you can be just as distracted by any number of other things (including fiddling with dashboard mounted sat navs / phones etc) as holding a phone and not wearing a belt is not going to increase the probability of causing an accident (indeed it might reduce it due to the feeling of vulnerability). I was hoping you might have said that dangerous overtakers, those who simply can’t use sliproads properly, tailgaters, etc. i.e the things that really cause accidents, would be targeted. I don’t think they are, probably because these things are more difficult to prosecute successfully – i.e. the wrong reasons.

While you have identified a number of road user groups, you do have not mentioned what you are doing about them. So, we are left with enforcements tuned for quantity, not quality, even if not only for speeding.   

“Since 2006 there has been a disappointing increase in KSI casualties. The county is currently 10% below the 1994-98 KSI base figure, which is behind target and places Dorset in the lower quartile of performance across GB.”


“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.”


  1. Some of the recent limit reductions conflict not only with DfT guidelines, but normal safe driving and common sense also. 50 on the Dorset Way is as good as saying “we’ve completely given up on bad driving, so we’re just going to try to get everyone to crash into each other a bit slower”. If you ignore current guidance I suspect you will ignore any new guidance from the coalition. While no-one is in any doubt that driving above the speed limit is breaking the law, the simple fact is that in reality making limits too low increases lawlessness without any benefit in return. I’m sure (I hope) you are aware that picking instantaneous figures from 2 years really means nothing statistically with such large variations.
  1. Of course, drivers have a wide range of capabilities. But setting limits based on what will cause the lease possible damage for the worst possible drivers under the worst possible conditions is taking it too far. You only need a safe following distance for 70 to be entirely safe on the Dorset Way. Tailgating etc. are not acceptable driving styles for tired / drugged (prescription or otherwise) or any drivers. To allow this dangerous behaviour on the road but try to reduce it’s effects by installing unrealistic limits is a complete nonsense. And education will do nothing to improve a driver who chooses to drive badly. Indeed, road safety is complex, but all we are really seeing is some irritating signs and a few badly chosen speed camera operations.
  1. Checking that you are driving within a 20 limit at a school when a child is likely to step out from behind a car is completely, totally, pointless, actually only dangerous. In this situation you should be doing 10 or less. If you think you are safe because you are driving at 20 past a school because the number in the circle says so, you should not be driving. Speed limits simply can’t define some magical threshold of safety. And if you think they do, as organisations like Dorset Road Safe tell us, you are not a good driver. I’m sorry, but DRS is totally dominated by speed, speed, speed.
  1. I’m not so concerned with what has already been wasted on DRS, that’s water under the bridge, I and the public do not want any more of our money wasted on this. Dorset Road Safe are not, and have never been, willing to respond to requests for information or to answer simple questions.  
  1. If analysis is performed on casualty data that is good, unfortunately there is little sign of this resulting in science in accident prevention.
  1. I’m sorry, again, all we are seeing is speed limit reductions beyond any stretch of reality or credibility, and badly chosen, predictable, speed cameras. You ARE obsessed with speed and speeding. “looking to develop a package of policies that will work for the vast majority of motorists who drive responsibly, while targeting the actions of the deliberate and dangerous few” THAT is exactly what we need, but we’re a million miles from it right now.

As you can see this leaves little that looks good in your responses. I think it’s unfortunate that there is no recognition whatsoever of problems when it is so obvious that there are some (serious) ones.

I will therefore expect a further response to these points, and as there is still no justification for speed cameras, none of my council tax, or those of the many I represent, being spent on speed cameras.


No further reply of any kind has been received or seems likely.