(updates appended - latest November 5th 2011)

Jan 12 2004
We are told authoritively by a government minister that there are 10 deaths a day on the roads due to traffic accidents and that this is a horrifying and unacceptable figure. The minister used the emotional distress of the relatives of those who suffered from road accidents as a factor to justify this opinion. The well meaning lady spouting this stuff has absolutely no idea of what she is talking about, but that ignorance is just part of the reason she has thought fit to push herself into a position of telling the rest of us how to behave and why we, through laziness, have given way to her enthusiasm and given her the job. This short piece on the web site is just here to relieve those who value their sanity to know that they are not alone.

Any form of transport has risks. The greater the speed, the more the probability of hurt and damage if there is a collision between the traveller and the environment or other travellers using similar or different means of locomotion. This can be mitigated to a limited extent by the construction of vehicles, at a cost related to construction and design. A world in which this was not so would be not only meaningless, it would ensure that the destiny of evolution was an insane nightmare. The word hell would not describe it adequately. Allowing much of our transport needs to be delegated to the individuals concerned, driving their own cars, has been an extraordinary success. If we had attempted to move that number of people around by any other means we would either have failed or caused such mass slaughter that world wars would hardly have been noticed in the mortality statistics. As it is, more people are killed in flying training than action, and more in road accidents than by gunfire. In terms of person/miles we are doing well in the civilian world.

The improvement in accident statistics in the past few decades has been spectacular, in spite of a very mixed performance in the management of our road structure and infrastructure. This has been due to an improvement in vehicle design and performance, growing skills amongst part of the driving population, and improvements to much of the road system. Aberrations of this in respect of some road structures and signs, and certain elements of the motoring community, have prevented results from being even more spectacular. However, it can be described on the whole as extremely satisfactory, requiring only that we concentrate now on the aberrant elements. Instead, the government seems bent on leaning more heavily on those who are part of the solution, not part of the problem. It was ever thus. One recalls the famous Trog cartoon of Harold Wilson as Robin Hood, missing the target and shooting the peasant bystanders with every arrow. Gordon Brown has tried to avoid this, but often been caught in a web of complexity as a result. We may now see the simplicicists making the reverse error. There is in fact no alternative to allowing people in positions of authority and responsibility to develop and exercise good judgment on a case by case basis. The general legislation can only serve as the background. It can never achieve detailed perfection or an overall statistical result which can bid for complete acceptability. Any attempt at perfection will be seriously counterproductive.

We must also make a clear distinction between actions made in error, through inadvertent negligence, through deliberate negligence and through deliberate positive decisions. A burglary or theft is never anything but intentional. It is therefore obviously criminal, designed to benefit the committer and harm the victim and break the law and the social contract. To use the world criminal to describe a motorist who has exceeded a 30mph limit because they are looking where the are going instead of staring at the speedometer is not just Kafkaesque. We have passed the era when Kafka's experience could have occurred. To allow this sort of thinking today in the UK is totally unacceptable. It is criminal in its own  right, though we do not have a law against criminal idiocy of this kind.

If we are going to make exceeding 30mph in limited areas a criminal offense, then we should make the limit 25 miles per hour, as the only way to avoid a serious risk of criminality would be to stare at the speedometer. Furthermore, the way to drive  safely in a built-up, populous area is not only to keep scanning through the windscreen and mirrors but to keep up a speed whereby whenever there is a possibility of a sudden obstruction, the driver's right foot is suspended over the brake pedal. To ensure this, the driver should NOT be pottering around at 25 mph in third gear unless already in a situation that has made this appropriate. Any experienced London taxi driver will confirm this. A speed of at least 30 is safer in most situations. It is not speed that kills unless excessive, it is poor observation and reaction time. The current policy of speed cameras and limits which, frankly, terrorise motorists, are now starting to contribute to accidents more than reduce them. If these cameras are to be used, the filmed results should be used by processing them with human intelligence, where judgments are made whether to proceed with a warning or a fine, and the fine should be proportional to the speed by which the limit is exceeded and other factors relating to the site and the activity at the time. These assessments can be made without knowing the identity of the driver. The final penalty should be decided on after considering the previous record of the driver.

Mr Davies of the Tory party does not make an articulate case, however. He is just another bumbling, confused thinker who knows what he objects to but does not know how nature really works, or how to use the law. The government has said that their latest suggestions, whereby speeding fines remain a criminal matter, and may now carry a supplement to compensate victims, is just a consultation paper to elicit public response. What a terrifying idea. The ignorant asking the uneducated to tell them what to do for the nation. Not only would someone of limited finances risk a £60 fine and a criminal record for driving safely, looking out of the windscreen instead of staring at their instrument panel but exceeding a speed limit, the start of which they may easily of missed as the sign was behind a bush, a lorry, or other obstruction. They would be asked to pay a supplement to compensate victims. A £60 fine is, in the first place, absolutely excessive for the automatic minimum punishment of an unintentional breach of an arbitrary limit. The punishment should fit the crime. If it does not, the law will fall into disrepute.

If it is deemed necessary to reduce the accident statistics even further, then it should be done by concentrating on the individuals who are a serious risk to others, not by driving good and experienced motorists up the wall. If money is sought for compensating victims, the current take from cameras should be used for this as suggested by Eddie Mair in his interview with the spokeswoman on Radio 4 today. That would be acceptable.

Would those in positions of authority read, mark, learn and inwardly digest the above. I have been studying these issues since before you were born and also have more practical experience.

JB - Jan 12th 2004

The question has been raised this week as to whether, after the removal of inappropriate speed-bumps, an accident takes place, an injured party could sue the local or national authority responsible for their removal. Contemplation of this scenario might, one hopes, clarify the minds of those who think road accidents can be avoided other than by means of motorists and pedestrians learning as best they can how to behave when using the road; that is to say by keeping a good lookout and moving at the speed appropriate to the circumstances at the time. This will minimise accidents. It will not eliminate them, nor should it; nor should any attempt to eliminate accidents be part of any government policy as it would be either immediately, or eventually, counterproductive.

I am very pleased indeed to see that somebody in the government (maybe many) has seen sense and realised that a marginal breaking of the speed limit, in places where there are few if any possible hazards at the time, is not deserving of a massive fine and a large number of points towards disqualification - a disqualification which can be tantamount to depriving some drivers of their employment. There will now be a graduated penalty rate. I suppose it is too much to ask to make it retrospective for those whose lives have been seriously disturbed.

"Speed Cameras Dangerous for Pedestrians" (Click here if you missed the link in the text for January 2004).

OCTOBER 3rd 2005   -  At last some intelligent thinking.

Speeding Brits may get lessons instead of fines

  Monday October 3, 01:15 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Some heavy-footed motorists caught speeding may be offered driving classes as an alternative to fines or prosecution, according to plans outlined by police chiefs on Monday.

A National Speed Awareness Course will aim to allow police officers the opportunity to take account a driver's motoring history and the risk to other road-users.

"There may be circumstances where driver education is a better deterrent to future speeding than fines or penalty points," said Richard Brunstrom, chief constable of North Wales police.

Results from pilot courses show drivers who have undertaken a re-education course are less likely to re-offend in the future.

"I believe that the national course will give real value to drivers in improving their understanding of the consequences of speeding and their overall driving ability," Brunstrom said in a statement.

The precise timetable for courses being rolled-out will be up to individual police forces.

The RAC motoring organisation said it welcomed the offer of speed awareness courses.

"We have argued for three years that these courses would take the sting out of camera enforcement which surveys suggest is seen as a revenue raiser," said Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation said in a statement.

"The Foundation believes that much greater emphasis should be put on driver re-education as an alternative to prosecution. We also stress that automatic enforcement by camera is no substitute for traffic police."

The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) also announced plans to launch an operation to tackle uninsured drivers using data from the Motor Insurers Information Centre.

"The data we will get provides demographic information relating to the profile of uninsured motorists and the predominate "hotspots" for incidents of uninsured motoring," said Meredydd Hughes, chief constable of South Yorkshire.

Uninsured drivers not only are more likely to have un-roadworthy vehicles but there are up to nine times more likely to be involved in accidents than insured motorists.

JANUARY 22nd 2007
Many of you will have noticed the installation in more and more places of flashing speed limit signs warning motorists as they enter restricted areas if they are over the limit. What an absolutely excellent idea!  It is the diametric opposite of a speed camera. It is the equjvalent of giving every motorist there own on-board speed trap detector device - a device which is illegal in most countries. It is also a reminder to those looking where they are going rather than at the dashboard that they may not be at or below the exact speed limit. What are we to make of this? Is it an admission of the malevolent insanity and danger of the speed-camera and fining campaign? I hold my silence. I just do not know. As an observer of human folly, I usually wait for someone to justify their behaviour before launching into criticism.

Meanwhile, here is some news from America for your amusement.

U.S. drivers eat, shave, email -- oh, and drive

 Monday January 22, 05:06 AM
By Andrea Hopkins

CINCINNATI, Jan 22 (Reuters Life!) - Talk on the phone while you're driving? Fix your makeup? Check e-mail? You're not alone.

A survey released on Monday shows 81 percent of Americans do more than drive when they're behind the wheel.

More than eight of 10 people surveyed by Nationwide Mutual Insurance said they adjust the radio or music while they drive, while 73 percent talk on the phone, 68 percent eat, 19 percent send text messages and 5 percent checked their e-mail.

Personal hygiene was also a big driver distraction, with 19 percent fixing their hair, 12 percent putting on makeup and 2 percent shaving while at the controls of a car.

"Clearly Americans have much to do and little time to do it, so to cope with that we've become multi-taskers," said Bill Windsor, associate vice president of Safety at Nationwide.

"The problem with that is driving requires focus, and multi-tasking while driving puts you and your fellow drivers at risk."

Drivers in the survey also admitted to changing seats with passengers, watching a movie, painting their toenails, nursing a baby and putting in contact lenses while driving.

Younger drivers multi-task the most, the survey found, with 35 percent of 18-to-27 year olds saying they always multi-task in the car, compared to 21 percent of baby boomers.

Windsor said the consequences for young drivers are severe, with car accidents being the number one cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 27.

"The bottom line is if it can be done in the kitchen, bathroom, office or bedroom, it should not be done in the car," Windsor said.

While some U.S. jurisdictions require hands-free devices for cellphone use in cars, most of the activities listed in the survey are not illegal unless they are determined to be the cause of an accident.

The survey of 1,200 drivers between the ages of 18 and 60 found that while 83 percent believe they are safe drivers, 38 percent admitted they have driven a certain distance without any recollection of doing so.

Sandra Guile, spokeswoman for AAA in Cincinnati, said the automobile club's driving instructors have seen it all, and work hard to try to correct the bad habits.

"Imagine if you're going 55 miles an hour down the road and you spill something on your suit and you have a meeting that day -- you're going to be more worried about grabbing a napkin than watching the road," said Guile. "But it just takes a split second to look away and there's an accident."

Cincinnati professor Penny Braboy said that while she never eats or makes phone calls while driving, she does answer the phone if it rings -- and she admits to other distractions.

"I have put on lipstick in the car," Braboy, 55, said with a laugh. "And I might try to look for something in my purse, which I know is dangerous."

But she said her distractions have never caused an accident.

"I try to be careful," said she, getting into her sport utility vehicle, Starbucks coffee in hand,

APRIL 04 2007

WHOOPEE! The Thames Valley Police have done exactly what I recommended with their speed cameras and limits, fines and license points. That is the way to get all motorists on side and driving well. I will post the details her as soon as they are available.

SEPTEMBER 9th 2008

Experts dispute speed cameras claim

Press Assoc. - Tuesday, September 9   07:49 pm

Government claims of the value of speed cameras in preventing death and injury have been greatly exaggerated, claim scientists.

A statistical quirk meant that estimates of about 100 lives saved a year should be cut by half, according to researchers.

The assessment methods used to evaluate speed camera success failed to take account of random "bad luck" at notorious accident spots, it was claimed.

Dr Linda Mountain, from the University of Liverpool's Department of Engineering, said: "Although some parts of the road network are undoubtedly more dangerous than others, there is also a degree of randomness in where accidents occur - driver error, bad luck etc - which means that an accident can happen anywhere."

A study forming the basis of the Government claims looked at trends at all 4,100 camera sites in the UK.

It found that over a period of four years speed cameras were responsible for a 22% drop in the number of all accidents. The number of people killed or seriously injured was said to have fallen by 42%, amounting to around 100 lives saved a year.

Dr Mountain re-examined the evidence, conducting a new study looking at road accident numbers before and after cameras were installed at 215 sites.

This time an alternative analysis method was used called Empirical Bayes which took into account the element of uncertainty.

Allowing for the randomness element - known as "regression-to-the-mean" - showed a fall in accidents of 19%. Not allowing for this element would have indicated a reduction of 50%.

Speaking at the British Association Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool, Dr Mountain said: "I think it's not reasonable to say that 100 lives a year are being saved. I would have thought a smaller figure would be the correct one. The number has been overestimated by 50% on the basis of our data."

I marvel at all this talk of lives being 'saved'.... as if people were going to live for ever. Of the 50 lives we now think have been affected in the whole of the UK in a year, one should then eliminate those who only had a few years to run in any event. By the time that is done, the only possible conclusion is that the entire exercise, including the cameras and their maintenance and the court proceedings is a colossal waste of time and money.

JANUARY 18th 2010
Now this, on the other hand, DOES MAKE SENSE.
The speed limit on this stretch of the A13 is to be raised, but average-speed cameras installed to catch obvious abusers.

JULY 26thy 2010
Oxforshire is scrapping speed cameras. I hope this will spread nationwide. The arguments against in this report ignore the fact that they are at present financed almost entirely by fines on innocent, safe drivers who have missed the signs or, through looking where they are going, have failed to keep their eyes glued to their speedometer. People just cannot afford these heavy fines, based on no evidence of danger or even intention to break the law.

AUGUST 10th 2010
A 'snapshot' on 3 sites has been taken over the days since Oxfordshire speed-cameras were switched off. Road safety (so called) experts and lobbyists are 'horrified' to see that there has been an increase in people exceeding the speed limits. Er.. that would be because they are looking where they are going rather than constantly checking the speedo. I doubt very much if that will result in more accidents, quite possibly fewer.

APRIL 01 2011
Speed cameras in Oxford have been turn back on again, in spite of their being no evidence that switching them off increased the accident rate. Meanwhile across the nation as a whole, more cmaeras are being switched off. I am afraid this is the sort of thing we can expect from those with the immature and self-important mentality that leads them to believe they can 'save lives' and that this is 'a good thing to do'.

OCTOBER 1st 2011
Unbelievably I find myself AGAINST the government 
in the way they are trying to introduce an increase in the motorway speed-limit to 80 - up from 70. Their thinking is immature and half-baked. 80 mph is indeed a more sensible limit in many cases, but the claim that raising the overall limit will bring quicker journeys and savings of billions to the economy is dubious. What will save billions and make for less frustrating driving is for motorists to be able to drive at a speed appropriate to the conditions. That means that on a comparatively clear road the limit should be 80 or even higher, but otherwise 70 is quite reasonable provided there is no tendency to prosecute drivers who momentarily exceed it. Drivers should be looking where they are going, not worrying about  having a speed as near to but not over the limit, which is the case at the moment and actually CAUSES accidents.

It would be good if an advisory limit could be shown on motorway gantries, set by a control centre with access to all relevant factors. Unfortunately experience so far shows that we cannot staff and run such centres properly and the advice they give out with warning signs in words and speed limits is NEVER to be relied on. They are treated with contempt - and quite rightly. I have no idea why this should be the case, but clearly the staff who are responsible in some critical parts of the operation are very inadequate in a number of skills, or in their motivation and quite possibly general and specific education and knowledge

There has been a further daft suggestion that if faster driving led to  a greater carbon footprint this could be offset by introducing more 20mph zones in 30mph areas. This again is crazy, as 20 mph zones cause considerably more, not less waste of fuel - for technical reasons I will not bore you with but are clearly beyond the intelligence grade of the average Tory MP (or Labour or Liberal).

Given all the above, I suggest the government leave things alone as they are until we have a capable and coherent service that can deal with the issues. I can't see that coming for a generation, but then quite possibly.

NOVEMBER 5th 2011
The accident on the M5 las night near Taunton will now be used as a reason not to raise the speed-limit to 80. Until it is accepted that speed should be related to surface, visibility, traffic levels and density and type and all other factors that a driver should take into account. There will be times and places and circumstances where it would be pointless to enforce a limit of 70mph and vexatious to prosecute anyone exceeding it. There will be other times, places and circumstances when to exceed 70mph would be pointless and rash, and times when one should drive at 40 mph limit even on a motorway. However, to encourage people to drive at times when the motorways are uncongested, which makes both economic and environmental sense, an 80 mph limit makes more sense than 70.