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Name and shame

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DorsetSpeed response to coroner’s report of death of Timothy Rowsell


I know that comment may seem insensitive for those close to Mr Rowsell but there are some serious problems here and lessons that must now be learned could reduce the chances of this from happening again. In the interests only of road safety, i.e. minimising loss of life on the roads, here are a few points:

1. The speed camera was without question a major contributory factor in this death. Had the mobile speed camera not been present the death would almost certainly not have happened. It is even possible that if the speed limit had been higher, more appropriate for the road type, the death might not have happened.

2. Dorset Road Safe (even after this incident occurred) dismisses any suggestion that there may be negative effects to speed enforcements as “speculation” or “assumptions”. Despite the obvious reaction of sharp and unpredictable braking that often occurs around speed cameras, that almost all drivers have noticed, it says only that there is no “qualified evidence”. Perhaps this is because such evidence would not be convenient to an organisation who’s aims appear to be purely motivated by fine / course revenue. But any professional and ethical organisation would be just as keen to find “qualified evidence” against it as for it, as only when you test in this way, do you have confidence that you are getting it right. Such as it is with engineering, not just when you have done what you think is right, but only when you have also explored all of the challenges to a design you can possibly imagine under all worst case scenarios, do you have any confidence it will stand up when you build it. It is this level of quality, that should be a requirement of road safety decision making, which as many of us have known for a long time and surely now even Dorset Road Safe must know now can both help to save life BUT CAN ALSO CONTRIBUTE TO LOSS OF LIFE, that is totally and deliberately lacking in Dorset Road Safe. If Dorset Road Safe were building houses, they would fall down in no time. I have not seen such arrogant, optimistic, unrealistic, incompetent, unfounded self interest of anything like the scale of Dorset Road Safe anywhere else, ever.

3. “A spokeswoman for Dorset Road Safe said a meeting would be held today to consider its response to the Echo’s request for a statement.” It seems then that this has come as a surprise to DRS. Why has there been no statement (just as Dorset Police failed to make a statement about course profits)? Why should this event be a surprise to DRS if they were actually THINKING about what they were doing? Almost everything has unintentional side effects, even taking aspirin has it’s risks. Why do Dorset Road Safe believe this simply doesn’t apply to them? Shockingly, but not out of character, Johnny Stephens has even stated that he refuses to talk to operators (who must see it all the time) about potential negative effects.

4. There is plenty of evidence of negative effective of speed cameras. Here is a very good one I found just now: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200708/cmselect/cmtran/460/460we56.htm There are even videos of crashes that have occurred in front of speed cameras for no other reason than braking for the camera. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xJLlH6GgmfU Dorset Road Safe was made aware of some negative effects in August last year: http://www.thisisdorset.net/news/tidnews/8316512.print/ It said at the time it had “no knowledge of this report” but it most certainly did after this time. “Thirty one per cent of motorists questioned in a poll of 1,532 drivers have witnessed an accident or a near-miss as a result of drivers’ erratic behaviour when faced with a camera with five per cent braking suddenly when a camera come into sight.” 40 negative effects were listed here in 2007: http://www.safespeed.org.uk/sideeffects.pdf How can an organisation claiming to be interested only in saving life possibly not know about all of this or even not be able to work it out for itself?

5. So when Dorset Road Safe sent that mobile camera to the Cooper Dean Flyover on the 9th of April 2011, it was therefore not just in ignorance of, which would have been bad enough, but on point blank refusal, despite all the evidence and common sense, to accept that such interventions can have unintentional and unfortunate negative effects. When any professional, competent, and ethical organisation decides on any activity, particularly where loss of / saving life is concerned, it carries out a proper risk assessment, and DOES MOST CERTAINLY NOT cherry pick the facts that are convenient to it and ignore the ones which are not. Such professional process is of course highly likely to influence the nature of the operations carried out and the very fact that DRS refuses to acknowledge negative effects is enough to prove that it has NEVER carried out ANY risk assessment properly.

6. If Dorset Road Safe had been factoring in the negative effects that it should have been, perhaps thinking about the reducing benefits of camera enforcement (if there are any anyway, for ROAD SAFETY, not REVENUE) as a limit increase is approached, and the increasing risks as more drivers are likely to be increasing in speed, and therefore more likely to panic brake dangerously if they saw a camera, it may well have considered that an alternative location for this camera may have been more appropriate, and THIS DEATH MAY NOT HAVE HAPPENED. Perhaps that alternative location would have resulted in detecting a speeding driver where speeding was more likely to have been dangerous and this might have saved a life somewhere else that was lost because DRS were not there – they were at a better position for MAKING MONEY.

7. The death happened at least partly due to the presence of the speed camera van. The presence of the speed camera van at this position was at least partly due to deliberate lack of proper consideration of the risks, which Dorset Road Safe should itself have been aware of, and which in any case, had been widely reported over many previous years. Proper consideration of the risks could even conclude that the potential numbers of lives saved (if any) from mobile (and fixed) cameras can never exceed the numbers of lives lost because of them and that therefore they should be immediately and permanently withdrawn. Don’t ask DRS to make these decisions because they clearly are not capable of making them properly and are strongly motivated to exaggerate effectiveness and understate the risks of speed cameras in order to protect their jobs, jobs which perhaps should never have been created in the first place.

8. Dorset Road Safe exists largely because of funding from Dorset Councils, who I have also made sure are aware of the problems through large numbers of communications over many years. Dorset Councils have been introducing widespread unrealistic speed limits which give rise to these dangerous conflicts, apparently WITHOUT EVEN THINKING if existing limits were effective or needed better enforcement. Councils gain directly and / or indirectly by money coming back to the local authorities (through driver awareness courses).

9. The motorcyclist made some mistakes and is partly to blame for what happened, as so often must be the case, a disproportionate disaster compared to the severity of the mistake made. Dorset Road Safe and the organisations that support it have continued with badly chosen operations despite plenty of warnings over many years and now we know for sure one badly chosen operation has contributed to a death. Dorset Road Safe and supporting organisations have demonstrated serious incompetence and negligence and must therefore be considered at least partly responsible for this death, I wonder how many other accidents, deaths, serious injuries and close misses have had a speed camera as a significant contributing factor. I asked this question of DRS but like many others it was not properly answered.

10. DRS, Dorset Police, and supporting councils MUST immediately review operations and capability and motivations of staff, and MUST communicate that they understand changes are needed and must communicate all of this honestly and transparently, and must implement changes immediately and hopefully before anything like this happens again. It could not be clearer that these organisations thinking is distracted by money, and that this distraction must be properly and permanently removed. THERE MUST BE ABSOLUTELY NO LINK between job security, availability of course / fine profits etc, and the decisions made about road safety operations – and the quality / integrity of the people involved needs to change completely.