One of the aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill (see Reference 1 below) that is currently going through Parliament and which has largely gone unreported is Section 67 which covers education courses as an alternative to prosecution for motoring offences.
We have pointed out previously that the offer of speed awareness courses was likely to be illegal. It’s a perversion of justice to waive prosecution on payment of a sum of money, and there is no evidence that attending such a course has any impact on road safety. See Reference 2 below for a web site that gives a full explanation.
The new Bill does at least bring the use of such courses into law and allows the Secretary of State to regulate them. However it permits the police to set a fee that is higher than the cost of providing the course. Any such excess must be used for the purpose of promoting road safety, but that does include the provision of more speed cameras and police to operate them. So the gravy train of the industry of speed enforcement will continue, if not expand even further.
In conclusion, this will remain a dubious practice, with money driving the schemes not road safety.
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A very interesting report has recently been published by Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS) under the title “Roads Policing: Not Optional”. It has some particularly interesting things to say about the use of speed cameras but is generally critical about the fall in attention to roads policing. Staff and other resources have been reduced over the last few years, with automated enforcement of speeding offences when all the other dangerous driving activities are ignored.
The chart below from the report shows how road fatalities in the UK have plateaued in the last ten years:
The report states bluntly that “Roads policing in some forces is inadequate”. It is clear that many police forces do not consider roads policing a priority. Fatal and serious injury road accidents where illegal speed is a factor (above the speed limit) also frequently feature a cocktail of drugs, alcohol and crime and hence are not amenable to automated enforcement. The ABD has long argued for more police officers to be deployed on our roads. Instead expenditure on roads policing has been cut and ever more emphasis is placed on speed enforcement when that is a factor in relatively few road casualty accidents. See the ABD Press Release below for more information.
The HMICFRS Report is particularly interesting on pages 28 to 30 where it discusses the financial arrangements associated with police speed camera operations. For example it says: “Crucially, what constitutes recovery of costs is
open to interpretation”. That hints, and quite correctly, that police forces are generating profits that are used on anything they choose as the ABD has previously claimed (see www.speed-awareness.org for details of the evidence). The report also suggests that police forces and local safety partnerships should publish on an annual basis the details of revenue and on what that revenue is spent.
The report also notes this: “This apparent unwillingness to support education over enforcement had led to suspicion among officers, including some at chief officer level, that the focus of activity was intended to increase revenue for the safety partnership. In support of this, they gave examples of some camera sites that they believed didn’t have a history of collisions or other identified vulnerabilities”. And “Elsewhere, we were told that the reason enforcement took place at certain locations was that they were ‘good hunting grounds’, rather than because they had a history of collisions”.
The report suggests that guidelines over how and where cameras are located should be refreshed. But the problem will remain that where there is a financial incentive, the abuse will continue as police forces continue to be short of money.
It is just too much of a temptation to concentrate on speed enforcement rather than focus on the road safety issues that might reduce deaths and injuries.
The whole system needs to be reformed to stop the abuses that cause millions of drivers to pay money to the police and the course operators for “education” which has not been shown to have any road safety benefit whatsoever.
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Police Superintendent Andy Cox has been very active on social media promoting how great a job he is doing for road safety by increasing the number of speeding tickets being issued in London.
For example a recent tweet from him said: “Incredible work by Traffic officers tackling #speeding. Last week we enforced 2,020 speeding offences across #London. By comparison it was 268 in same week in 2019. An 8 fold increase!”
What he does not say is that speed limits have been reduced in that period with a blanket 20 mph limit on all main central London roads. In addition there are more speed cameras and an expanded team of police officers using them.
Supt. Cox and others are saying that due to the lighter traffic from the coronavirus epidemic there is more speeding taking place but no evidence has been provided for that. It may be possible that some people are exceeding limits where roads are quiet and pedestrians non-existent but that hardly justifies a major police campaign. The increase in recorded speeding offences is undoubtedly mainly due to more enforcement activity.
Will it actually reduce road casualty statistics? Exceedingly unlikely because exceeding the speed limit is actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in London in the last five years. It’s just a witch-hunt in essence when the police would be much better to spend their resources on tackling real crimes such as knife crime which is out of control in many parts of London.
There are some extreme speeders that should be stopped because those are the ones involved in drink/drug driving or other crimes. But a lot of police enforcement of speeding is pointless. It does not cut accidents but just leads to more speeding fines being issued. And as we have pointed out before, the use of speed awareness courses now provides a powerful incentive for the police to waste resources on speeding offences because they get a cut of the income generated. It’s distorting road safety priorities.
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Yesterday (18/2/2020) the Daily Telegraph published an article by Lucy Denyer which was headlined “Speed awareness courses work, so let’s make them compulsory”. The article told how she attended a speed awareness course after being picked up driving above the speed limit in a 20-mph zone.
She reports that at least she learned that street lights on a road mean that the speed limit is always 30 mph, unless there are signs saying otherwise, which everyone should know of course. But she admits that 5 months later “I know I have forgotten most of what I learnt”. But she then says that we should stop making the courses a punishment, and make them compulsory instead. It is not clear how she expects that to happen. Perhaps as part of all learner driver training?
But the problem is that the speed awareness courses do not work and the only reason for their existence is to enable the police to collect a cut of the fees paid.
I actually had a letter published today in the Daily Telegraph which spelled it out. It said: “Speed awareness courses do not work – accidents are not reduced. This was made clear by a report published by the Department for Transport in 2018 after research by IPSOS-MORI. The reason why the numbers attending speed awareness courses has gone up is simply that police forces like to make money in this way. They are permitted to take a cut of the fees paid”.
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I have commented before on how Transport for London (TfL) have failed to justify their “Safer Speeds” proposals which includes imposing 20 mph speed limits on many roads. We have previously pointed out how TfL have been misinterpreting police accident data to support their claims that the measures are justified.
For example, they issued a Tweet that said “speed accounts for 37% of all death and serious injuries” in road accidents in London. That figure is simply wrong. The claim was allegedly based on the STATS19 data reported by the police (a form they fill out about every accident involving injuries). That form allows for multiple factors to be recorded and after submitting a Freedom of Information Act request we learned that they counted all the accidents where factors 306, 307 and 602 were noted.
But factor 602 is described as “Driver/rider either behaved in a negligent or thoughtless manner or was in a hurry….”. Clearly the key word in that sentence is the second “or” when TfL have interpreted it to mean “and”. There is no basis for claiming that all accidents where factor 602 is attached were rated by the police as ones where a driver was in a hurry. They might have simply been careless. Only where the other factors 306 or 307 were also noted could there be any claim that speed was a factor in the accident.
We now have the complete accident data and the data makes it plain that exceeding the speed limit (factor 306) is a very minor factor in KSIs (Killed and Serious Injuries) in London. It’s actually recorded as a contributory factor in only 5.9% of such accidents in the last five years. That’s actually less than the figure of 7.1% reported by the Department for Transport for the national figures in 2018 – see table below. Clearly tougher enforcement of speed limits is therefore unlikely to have much impact on the overall numbers. That of course is particularly so in London where average traffic speed is typically well below the speed limit.
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”.
Even if you bundle factors 306 and 307 together only 12% of KSI incidents are included nationally so reducing speed limits is going to have only a small contribution at best to reducing such accidents. It’s reducing the other factors that is the key to substantially reducing road casualties. More driver education, improved roads and research into saccadic masking may be productive.
Note also that a lot of the reported factor 306 and 307 claims of excessive speed and speed above the speed limit might well involve illegal use of vehicles such as stolen vehicles so reducing speed limits will have negligible impact in reality.
There is simply no cost/benefit justification for the Safer Speeds proposals as pointed out in our previous article and TfL have clearly been abusing the data so as to make spurious claims.
London Boroughs may gain powers to fine motorists £100 who leave their engines running under a Bill introduced in the House of Lords. That’s up from the maximum £20 at present. In addition those who run diesel generators when air pollution is high may be banned – Extinction Rebellion please note as they ran a portable generator recently to support a demonstration.
The installation of new ‘combustion plant’ machinery, which includes gas boilers, solid fuel boilers, combined heat cooling and power plant, and stationery generators would only be permitted if the amount of nitrogen oxides (NOx) and particulate matter (PM) emitted by the plant did not exceed a limit set by the Secretary of State.
These measures are aimed at overcoming the defects in the current Clean Air Act that are ineffective in controlling some pollution when non-transport related emissions are likely to become the majority very soon. Note that the Mayor of London is also looking for more powers in this area but it would surely be better if such powers were given to the boroughs rather than the Mayor.
Comment: these measures are not unreasonable although the impact on air pollution of engine idling is probably minimal even though it causes a lot of annoyance to residents when people park outside their homes and do it. But enforcement is difficult so little practical impact may be the result. See https://tinyurl.com/y2meb4s4 for more details. There is also no mention of wood-burning stoves which are one of the biggest problems at present.
The aforementioned Bill is being introduced in the House of Lords as a private members Bill so progress is not guaranteed. Another Bill being introduced in that way is one to decriminalise speeding offences. That should surely be opposed as it would lead to an even greater number of fines for speeding with the sole motivation of extracting more money from motorists. That is what happened when parking offences were “decriminalised” so that Local Authorities could enforce them. See https://tinyurl.com/sr37oef for more information
The magazine Local Transport Today have run a story headlined “Met Police prepares for huge increase in speed enforcement”. They report that London police are planning a huge programme of speed limit enforcement with the aim of catching a million offenders a year. That’s up from 160,000 per annum at present.
That will be achieved by a large increase in speed camera activities including more mobile speed enforcement equipment. This is likely to mean aggressive enforcement of the 20 mph speed limits being brought in on many London roads.
The above information was disclosed at a meeting of London Councils, the representative body for London boroughs. That organisation is also looking at “decriminalisation” of speeding offences, which would effectively make it possible for local boroughs to enforce speed limits in the same way they do for parking offences at present.
What’s the real motivation behind these moves? It’s almost certainly about filling the coffers of the police by the offer of speed awareness courses, and also enabling local councils to fill their budget holes by also taking a cut of fees paid. Both organisations are under financial pressure and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is unwilling to help with the police budgets but would rather spend money on other things.
There is no evidence that lowering speed limits or more aggressive enforcement has any significant impact on road safety statistics. But politicians like gestures and many are only too pleased to kowtow to the anti-car fanatics. When it can be combined with excuses for revenue raising, it’s difficult to stop.
Two ABD directors, Ian Taylor and Brian MacDowall, recently spoke to the Daily Express about the problems faced by motorists. You can view a video of their interviews including driving around parts of London here: https://tinyurl.com/y2p6qjpa
In summary they say that drivers are finding it evermore “frustrating, inconvenient and expensive” to use the roads with the introduction of new speed cameras and changes to the London Congestion Charge likely to cost road users in the pocket.
Ian Taylor claimed that every measure introduced by the Government “seems to hit the British driver in the pocket” and said that “Whether it be ordinary parking charges, workplace parking charges, it is always hitting you in the pocket, and always trying to exert greater control over every aspect of where you go and what you do.”
They also criticised the Congestion Zone in London which is one of the biggest concerns for drivers and warned against the introduction of the Ultra Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ) which could see drivers penalised if they do not comply to the restrictions. Brian Macdowall claimed the introduction of the ULEZ would see the lowest earners hit, which would see a “big cost to drivers” by “unnecessary changes”. The ULEZ, which will be introduced as of April 2019 in London, will see some drivers charged £12.50 a day to use, which when paired with the Congestion Charge fee will total £24.
At present only the police can enforce speed limits in London by the issuance of fines and penalty points to drivers who offend. The fines resulting from prosecutions are generally paid to the Treasury, although the police can obtain some money by using “waivers of prosecution” and diverting drivers to speed awareness courses. The ABD believes the latter is illegal (see our AMPOW campaign).
London Councils is the representative body for all 32 London boroughs. At a recent meeting of their Transport and Environment Committee the issue was raised of the lack of enforcement of speed limits, particularly 20-mph limits which are widely ignored. Could it be that they are inappropriate on many roads? Or that the police have decided they have better things to do with their limited resources?
It seems some boroughs would like to acquire the power to enforce speed limits and effectively take over the role of the police. London Councils have commissioned their staff to “explore the feasibility of undertaking such enforcement”. That will include options “for the use and retention of any income from speeding fines”. Note that new legislation would be required, similar to the decriminalisation of parking offences.
You can see just how attractive this could be to local boroughs in that it would enable enormous numbers of speeding fines to be issued, with only the poor appeal system that we have at present for parking fines. This could be an enormous money-generator for councils who would be imposing 20 limits (or even 15 limits as proposed in the City of London) on all their roads, with thousands of hand-held speed cameras in use irrespective of whether there is any road safety benefit. Financial motives would take priority of whether this is rationally going to have any road safety benefit and we would see yet another step in the direction of making the use of cars so difficult that people will give them up – just what the anti-car fanatics would like to see.
Readers should make sure they oppose this proposal by complaining to your Member of Parliament and your local councillors.
The Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill is currently going through Parliament. It covers legislation necessary for self-driving cars. Included in this is a provision that insurers of cars (rather than car drivers at present), will be liable for any accidents caused by them. For example, as a result of a software defect.
That may be sensible. But one pecularity of this brave new world is the fact that you apparently could still be prosecuted for exceeding a speed limit (or of course be offered a speed awareness course which is even more bizarre). In other words, your car or the manufacturer and software designer will not be liable, nor the car’s insurers, even though it may be their fault that you exceed the speed limit.
This may not be a common problem because such cars should have a digital map of the speed limits on all roads. But it may not be up-to-date. In addition it might not include temporary speed limits (e.g. for road works), and it may not be aware of reduced limits imposed by “smart motorways”. In reality such cars will need to recognise speed limit signs, and interpret them, to ensure they stay within the limits. What’s the chance of that happening when other vehicles may obstruct their view, or the weather conditions cloud the picture? Not all the time I suggest.
So if you think that you will be able to relax in self-driving cars, or if you are using ISA (Intelligent Speed Adaptation) which some folks would like to see mandated, then forget it. Life will simply get yet more complex and confusing for drivers – even if “drivers” is the wrong word to use for those sitting in the driving seat of self-driving cars.
Car owners is probably a more suitable word. And if your self-driving car is not insured when it causes an accident, it’s you as the owner that will be liable.
Welcome to the bizarre new world of self-driving cars.