The public’s paranoia about speeding drivers on our roads seems to be increasing. That may be partly driven by the fact that average traffic speeds have been rising as the roads are often empty due to the coronavirus epidemic. But it is also raised by politicians and even the police who are using social media to promote a false message.
For example, this was a recent exchange on twitter that I had with Councillor Nicola Dykes (she is a ward councillor in the London Borough of Bromley and also a Committee Chairman):
Posted by Nicola Dykes: SPEEDING- Police are increasing their operations to tackle this. Please contact them direct via @MPSBromley to share roads where this is an issue. As ward Cllrs we have already highlighted roads we know there is an issue – Farnaby, Hayes Road, Siward etc. Please share!
Posted by me in reply: What is the accident record in those roads that justifies expending police resources on a witch-hunt?
What followed was not an answer to my question, but a long dialogue criticising my comments but never answering the question.
Unfortunately there is too much paranoia about people exceeding the speed limit with the result that a large amount of effort is being expended by the police and others on stopping it when that effort is very unlikely to result in any reduction in road casualties.
As anyone who has looked into this issue would know, the number of road accidents where speeding (i.e. exceeding the speed limit) is a factor is very low. In London the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306 on the police STATS19 reporting forms) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries). It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years.
The largest contributory factor by far is “Failed to Look Properly” which accounted for 42% of KSIs in London or 35% nationally. But there are several other factors with higher ratings than “Exceeding the Speed Limit” such as “Poor Turn or Manoeuvre”, “Failed to Judge Other Persons Path…”, “Loss of Control” and “Careless, Reckless or in a Hurry”.
Bearing in mind that multiple factors can be recorded, and that many of those involved in accidents will be under the influence of drink or drugs, or otherwise be involved in criminal activity (e.g. in stolen cars), even if the speed limit was rigorously enforced it would be unlikely to make much difference to road casualty statistics.
That is why I say that the whole policy of more speed enforcement is driven by paranoia and is actually diverting resources from more productive and effective road safety policies – such as improving roads, improving driver education and other possible approaches.
As regards the possible problem of excessive speed in Farnaby Road, Hayes Road (the B2212) and Siward Road before the police or Bromley Council spends money on tackling that alleged problem it is best to obtain some data on the actual speed of traffic in those roads and the accident record – the latter should already be available.
I have therefore requested under the Freedom of Information Act the following information:
- The details of all road accidents in the following roads: Farnaby Road, Hayes Road and Siward Road for the last three years that are available. That should include not just the totals but the details of accidents in those roads as reported on STATS19 forms (but excluding personal information of course).
- Any information held by Bromley Council on the speeds of traffic in those roads.
One of the persons who has been very active on social media promoting the hysteria over speeding is Superintendent Andy Cox of the Metropolitan Police. One of his recent tweets said: “With some very high speeds in London increasing risk of fatal and serious crashes which would add pressure to the NHS, Police, Fire causing potential impact on Covid-19 patients”.
This suggestion that accidents are increasing, putting pressure on the NHS is unsupported by any facts. In reality NHS A&E facilities have fewer patients and plenty of spare capacity at present and the suggestion that treating accident patients might affect treatment of Covid-19 patients is simply wrong. It’s too early to obtain the actual data on vehicle accidents but insurance companies such as Admiral are already refunding part of their car insurance premiums because the number of car accidents has fallen.
We are also seeing the same biased and inaccurate messages from those campaigning for 20 mph speed limits where they suggest that imposing them would relieve pressure on the NHS. It’s simply nonsense.
Readers should make sure they oppose this frenzy of fake news by responding to it with the facts.
Postscript: The results of the FOI Act request for data on roads in Bromley can be summarised as follows. It does not provide all the information I requested but there are some conclusions that can be drawn from it.
- Recent traffic speed data is only available for Farnaby Road but it shows average traffic speed is well below 30 mph, at about 26 mph. The 85th percentile figure also suggests this road is best signposted at 30 mph. There is some research available that shows that setting the speed limit at the 85th percentile of traffic speed actually results in the minimum of road accidents.
- The accident records for the last 5 years from Crashmap shows a few slight accidents in Farnaby Road, one serious accident in Hayes Road and only one slight accident in Siward Road. There were no fatalities. These are not exceptional figures for any roads in Bromley. Slight accidents can be quite trivial but it might be worth looking at the details of the serious accident in Hayes Road to see what the cause of that was.
- If local residents are concerned about the speed of traffic in Hayes Road or Siward Road, I suggest that council officers be asked to undertake some speed monitoring on those roads.
Speeding is often a subjective matter, reported by some people but not considered a problem by others. Whether there is a problem, or one worth expending resources upon, is best judged by looking at the accident data. The roads mentioned are obviously not ones that should take priority for road safety measures in Bromley as there are many other roads with a worse accident record. That is where money should be spent – not on roads where there is simply a vociferous group of residents.
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