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November 1999
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Safe to Crash?


Speed - MAG's policy


Picture 1. MAG recognises that the public road is not a racetrack. It is neither economically viable nor reasonable that an environment which is 'safe to crash in' should be sculptured to accommodate the competitive aspirations of an irresponsible minority. Roads must be shared and crossed by slow moving and non-powered vehicles or individuals whose vulnerability must be a matter of prime concern.

2.a. MAG recognises that many accidents are caused through the inappropriate use of speed and fully recognise the need for speed limits on public roads. We feel that it is useful to cultivate a public attitude which diminishes the macho associations that speed enjoys and ostracises high-speed risk takers to that same territory of contempt which is occupied by drunken drivers.

2.b. MAG recognises that for speed limits to be respected, their need must be understood. An unnecessary speed limit fosters contempt for the law and breeds an anti-social attitude of non-compliance. We believe that the best way for the police and courts to foster that respect, lies with a slightly revised policy of enforcement and sentencing. Such a policy should reserve the severest penalties for those who have selfishly put the lives of others at risk, rather than one which arbitrarily links penalties to increments of speed in excess of legal limits, irrespective of circumstance. MAG recognise that resentment does arise where motorists feel they have been disproportionately penalised and while it would be unwise to 'send the wrong signals' to the public at large there would seem to be scope for more advice to courts on sentencing in this area.

3. MAG welcomes the dramatic and encouraging reduction in accident occurrence where speed-calming measures have been employed in residential urban side streets, in particular, the reduction in pedestrian and child fatalities.

4. MAG is aware that some motorcyclists are unhappy with the employment of road humps, street furniture and raised cushions, which are intended to slow traffic on residential streets, particularly at intersections. We do understand however, that where the employment of such measures adequately justifies itself and that, as long as PTW's are taken into consideration when these devices are employed, and subject to regular maintenance, no motorcyclist travelling at a reasonable speed in the locations where these devices are installed should have any problem negotiating them.

5. MAG recognises that staying within the prescribed 30mph limit under certain circumstances does not necessarily represent a sufficient duty of care. In many circumstances such as narrow residential streets, particularly in the vicinity of schools, a vehicle may often be travelling too fast for safety even if it is within the prescribed 30mph limit.

6. While MAG would not welcome a blanket reduction of the 30 mph limit across urban areas, we believe that the principle of selectively imposing lower limits, as already introduced in some areas is entirely justified in the interests of saving life. However, lower limits must be realistic and enforceable, otherwise they will be ignored.

7. MAG is not convinced that the current obsession with reducing speed limits on all roads will reduce risk exponentially and opposes a reduction of the national speed limit from 60 mph to 50 mph unless the need to do so is conclusive.

8. MAG is not convinced that 70mph limits on motorways are appropriate for all of today's vehicles but we keep an open mind on the subject and would welcome an independent and objective study to assess the probable consequence of raising motorway limits for some vehicle groups.

9. MAG does not welcome the prospect of in-built engine speed limiters. We do not feel that the case for these has been adequately made and view as a 'Red Herring' the pre-occupation of the media with extreme high-speed offenders. Inappropriate speed is the cause of most accidents and it is in controlling this that we feel effort and resources can best be spent.


Speed: Highway Robbery


Recent comments on the subject of blanket reductions in speed limits and heavier "zero tolerance" speed limit enforcement from both Police and junior Government Ministers, have, at last, provoked a long overdue outcry which supports what MAG have been saying for years.

Speeding is widespread, most riders are guilty of it, and usually safely, but the distinction between excess speed (driving faster than the relevant limit) and inappropriate speed (driving too fast for the prevailing conditions) must be understood and reinforced to our politicians otherwise we face a future of abused speed camera technology for predominantly revenue-raising purposes which is as socially unacceptable as the armed robbery it so closely resembles.

We are currently facing a barrage of preposterous new proposals aimed at catching speeding motorists, however, these continuing to ignore the root causes of crashes which is bad driving. Lowering speed limits will not deal with this problem, but will merely continue the present culture of 'automaton' drivers - people who think that if they are doing less than the speed limit, they are driving safely.

John Prescott, Deputy Prime Minister, is believed to want to cut the limit from 60 to 50 mph on rural roads and reduce many 30 limits to 20mph.

Rob Gifford of PACTS, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, a body on which MAG is represented, wants to see speed limits on single carriageway roads reduced from 60mph to 40 or even 30mph. Like Prescott, he also wishes to cut speeds in residential areas from 30 to 20mph.

Zero tolerance on speeders - On 14 September, on BBC Radio, the senior police advisor to the Traffic Committee of the Association of Chief Police Officers, Asst. Chief Constable Paul Manning, signalled his intention to prosecute (or should that be persecute?) every driver found breaking the 30mph limit by even 1mph.

On the basis of the road accident record of Asst. Commissioner Manning's own force, 'The Met', he would be better occupied lobbying for the money he currently wants frittered away on road user oppression to be spent instead on better road user training, investments in road improvements and considerate enforcement. What we need is effective road safety policing, not mercenary road user fleecing.

Most current enforcement in so-called built up areas happens on 30mph roads that should by rights should have a 40, 50 or even 60mph limits, or on 40mph dual carriageways which should be 50, 60 or even 70mph. Places where it is actually dangerous to do more than 30 (or even to do 30) don't benefit from the enforcement that is needed. This is bad enough, but ratcheting up unnecessary enforcement still further will have a devastating effect on safety.

A zero tolerance approach to these badly set 30mph limits will mean that drivers can do nothing but concentrate on their speed to the exclusion of every other aspect of safe driving,

In 1995 there were 18,138 child pedestrians injured in built up areas. If people were ignoring the limits most of these children would have been killed. In 1995, only 0.5% of child injury accidents were fatal, suggesting that the average impact speed was well below 20mph. Since 50% are killed at 30mph, zero tolerance enforcement could mean up to 9000 child fatalities even without causing any additional accidents. Making drivers do 20mph in a similar way would reduce this awful toll to 900 deaths, but in fact less than 100 are currently killed on built up roads in a typical year.

Many of the fatalities that do occur are as a result of the driver not even 'seeing' a perfectly visible motorcyclist, cyclist or pedestrian. These are exactly the accidents promoted by campaigns such as "speed kills" and which zero tolerance would further encourage due to road users being further distracted keeping to strict limits.

Or perhaps the motive is more cynical? 'Metline', the Metropolitan Police Federation magazine, says this about speed camera technology in its March 1999 edition: "Speed cameras at the moment have their limitations, but when these can be overcome they are a sure winner for raising revenue".

Many police forces have applied to adopt the Government's new approach to speeding fines and have submitted "Business Plans" for the exploitation of speed enforcement technology; the potential revenue stream from which inside sources admit to be "very big". Equally it's no wonder that Mr. Manning wants our motorways (arguably the safest roads in the world) - and other high-quality, low accident risk roads - carpeted in these devices: it's to ensure sufficient fine revenue will be generated to justify their installation. Who cares about the absence of any tangible road safety benefits?

It is MAG's aim to make official abuse of speed camera technology for predominantly revenue-raising purposes as socially unacceptable as the armed robbery it so closely resembles.

Here in MAG Central Office we are surprised at the number of serving police officers who agree with us on this issue and have spoken out - confirmed by the large numbers of them who have recently signed up as members - Listen to these courageous and honourable individuals for they are putting their careers on the line to save our freedoms, and ultimately, quality of life.

It is essential that the Speed Kills policy is dropped NOW, and that effort is diverted into working with drivers to give people the ability to judge what is a safe speed, with help from signage and PROPERLY SET limits where they are needed.

Perhaps Asst. Chief Constable Manning, John Prescott and Rob Gifford would like to consider some of the following points:


· The UK has not investigated motorcycle accidents in detail since the early eighties, so why concentrate so much effort on reducing speed to the detriment of the main crash causes?

· Road Accidents GB 1997 reports that the most frequent cause of injury was a collision with a car, 63%, followed by accidents in which there was no impact with another vehicle, 19%, light goods vehicle, 4%, pedestrian and 4%, HGV or bus only 2%.

· Despite much hysterical media hype about 'born again bikers', the risk of fatal injury in a solo accident is more likely to occur in a built up area - despite these already having lower speed limits.

· A 1993 EEVC report on vehicle safety identified 70% of motorcycle crashes as involving a car. The mean motorcycle impact speed was not high - typically in the range of 30 - 45km/h. 90% of all injuries tended to occur at less than 60km/h

· Otte (1998), from a study of 402 crashes, reported that 60% involved cars, with 27% involving just the motorcycle. 80% of collisions occurred at below 62km/h. Otte also showed that scooters have a lower impact speed than motorcycles with 80% of crashes occurring at less than 40km/h and that 79% of motorcycle accidents occurred in built up areas. 51% of crashes occurred at junctions.

· The figures for solo accidents include situations where the motorcyclist was avoiding collision with another vehicle, so may not be accurate.

· TRL Report 325 entitled, 'Speed and Accidents' of: 'The factors that influence a driver's choice of speed - a questionnaire study', states: "Of course, the fact that there is an apparent strong cross-sectional association between speed and accidents does not necessarily imply a causal link between the two, and it cannot be assumed that reductions in speed by particular drivers...will necessarily result in accident reductions of a size predicted by this association. It seems more likely that the association arises from the fact that both speed and accidents are related in similar ways to the same variables - age, experience and exposure"

· Transport Research Laboratory Report No. 323: "A new system for recording contributory factors in road accidents", found that 'on-the-spot' analyses carried out by police officers at some 2,800 road accident scenes showed that only 4.3% of these accidents had excessive speed as the primary causal factor - usually accidents involving loss of control in built up areas.

· TRL323 delves deeply into road accident causation, and goes on to establish that "excessive speed" represents only 7% of the (up to four) contributory factors per accident. It also concluded that in accidents in which pedestrians were seriously or fatally injured, the primary responsibility for the accident lay with the pedestrian in 84% of cases.

· TRL Report 323 also showed (as is already well established) that the vast majority of road accident causes are observation-, and judgement-based: road users either failed altogether to observe a potentially hazardous situation developing, observed its development but did not perceive the hazard, or perceived the hazard but reacted too late or inappropriately to it.

· The Top Ten Causes of Accidents:


1. Failure to judge other driver's path or speed 10.7%

2. Behaviour - careless, reckless or thoughtless driving 8.8%

3. Not paying attention 8%

4. Looked but did not see 7.5%

5. Excessive speed 7.3%

6. Lack of judgement of own path 6.3%

7. Failed to look 6.2%

8. Following too close 4.1%

9. Drink driving 3.8%

10. Slippery Road 3%


· If you feel strongly about this issue, please reinforce MAG's campaign by writing to your MP's with the following simple questions:


1. In light of the current preoccupation with reducing speed limits, have you ever been prosecuted for a speeding offence?

2. Would you support a proposed 'zero tolerance' clampdown on speeders, i.e. the prosecution of drivers / riders found breaking the 30mph limit by even 1mph.

3. Would you support proposals to allow the Police and local authorities to keep the revenue generated from speeding fines?






Effective speed management is crucial to road safety, Transport Minister Lord Whitty said at a Speed Review Seminar, at the luxurious Hyatt Carlton Hotel in London, a meeting attended by Henry Marks on behalf of MAG UK.


The Government made a commitment to review speed policy in its White Paper, "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone", published last year. The review is ongoing and will make recommendations in the autumn, but the Minister was able to point to areas under consideration.


Lord Whitty said:


"A lot of work is going into this review and we have made real progress. But this is a very complex area in which there are competing interests. The review has to strike a balance between the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, residents and business, and between safety, the economy and the environment.

"And speed limits are not necessarily the only answer - road engineering, new technology, education and better enforcement also have a role to play. Doing nothing is not an option. We have to deal with accidents and with the fear of traffic. It is a quality of life issue for everyone.

"Last week's accidents statistics showed that Britain is a world leader in road safety, but there is no room for complacency. There are still ten deaths per day on our roads, so there is substantial room for improvement. I am convinced that the right balance can be struck".


· The White Paper, "A New Deal for Transport: Better for Everyone", launched on 20 July 1998, included a commitment to review speed policy. Traditionally speed management policy has been primarily aimed at improving road safety. The review will consider it in relation to the principles in the White Paper in order to recommend policies which will reflect the requirements of safety, mobility, the economy and the environment.

· The Speed Policy Review, launched on 23 October 1998, is divided into three stages. The first stage involved consultation with colleagues in the DETR and other Departments. The second stage sought the views of groups (such as MAG UK) outside Government. The Speed Review Seminar marks the end of the second stage of the Review. The final stage will be the preparation of conclusions and recommendations for Ministers. The Review is expected to be completed in the autumn

· Road Accident Statistics Great Britain: 1998 - The Casualty Report (ISBN 011 552161-5) is published by the Stationary Office, price £19 on behalf of the DETR and the Scottish Executive and the National Assembly of Wales.

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