Speed reductions – costs and benefits

The cost of reducing speed is of particular interest since ‘speed’ is said to be a factor in a high proportion (30%) of road accidents. Consequently motorists have been subjected to ever lower speed limits and a punitive speed camera regime.

For example, the current advice (DfT Circular 01/2006), is that speed limits should be set at the average speed rather than, as previously, at the speed below which 85% of motorists travel (the 85th percentile). That implies (a) a universal speed reduction in the range 5 mph to 10 mph and (b) 50%, rather than 15%, of us will be travelling more slowly than we would otherwise choose.

A question not addressed by the authorities is the delay cost due to the lower speeds and the corresponding value of the accident reductions. It is that that we address here.

The value of time for the average vehicle is circa £12.80 per hour at 2009 prices. Hence reducingthe speed of 1,000 vehicles per day from 25 to 20 mph over 5 miles would cost £234,000 per year. The same for all cars and vans on urban roads would cost £12.6 billion and a 5 mph speed reduction on cars and vans on all roads would cost £17.1 billion annually.

Transport Research Laboratory notes 421 and 511 suggest a range of accident savings that are often summarised as a 5% reduction in casualties per 1 mph reduction in average speed.  If that is applied to the 230,000 casualties in 2008, along with the average casualty cost of £53,000 then the saving following a 5 mph speed reduction would amount to £3 billion, far below the £17 billion delay costs implied by the speed reduction.

Since the values of time and casualty are supposed to reflect the way humans react when faced with the real world these numbers suggest that, rather than slowing traffic down, the policy should be to speed it up.

Speed cameras

Speed cameras are credited with saving 100 lives per year. However, this claim ignores effects such as regression to the mean in the context of the practice whereby a camera is installed only if there have been four killed or seriously injured casualties (KSI) in three years within 500 metres of the site.

Instead of the long established nation-wide downward trend in deaths per vehicle-km of 7.1% per year accelerating under the impact of the cameras, that trend flattened off to 2.5% after 1995 as illustrated in Figure 1. That happened despite the cameras being supported by tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of speed humps and the endless traffic management schemes that impose huge economic costs upon the nation.

Had the previous trend continued there would have been 10,000 fewer deaths than actually occurred. Indeed, compared with the pre-1995 trend, there were 370 extra deaths for every doubling of fines. The correlation is remarkable (see Figure 2). Of course there is no obvious causal link but, had the matter been the reverse of the facts, doubtless the cameras would have been given the credit.

The June 2007 value for a fatality is £1.64 million. If that is increased by 10%, to allow for lesser casualties, the 10,000 extra deaths imply a casualty cost, laid at the door of present policies, of £18 billion for the period. Additionally, in excess of 13 million motorists were fined, most of whom were driving as well as could reasonably be expected. If those fines averaged £70 the amount taken was nearly £1 billion, let alone the cost of increased insurance premiums and the losses suffered by those who were banned. A reasonable conclusion is that the road safety policies pursued over the last 15 years have been a financial and human disaster. 

This is laughable. The slowing rate of casualty reduction can hardly be laid at the door of speed cameras. For a start, there just aren't that many speed cameras! It's more likely that is becomes increasingly difficult to continue to reduce casualties beyond a certain point. This article contains no evidence and then goes on to generate spurious figures based on an unjustified assumption. What's more, where is the evidence that speed limits increase average journey times? Why does the author of this article think that variable speed limits are used on the M25? It isn't for safety reasons; its because the average speed of traffic often increases as speed limits are reduced when traffic densities exceed a certain level due to bunching and other effects. And why does the author think that insurance companies charge higher premiums to those that are banned for continued speeding offences? It's because they know that they are at higher risk of accidents - duh! A reasonable conclusion is that the author of this article doesn't have a clue what he's talking about and simply doesn't like speed limits so will construct any argument, however fallacious, to support his case.

@HJ - The article points out that 'there is no obvious causal link'. Nevertheless, it is striking that a whole host of speed reduction measures appear not to have had a strong effect on casualty rates. Indeed reliance on cameras may have diverted resources from more traditional safety improvements such as changing junction alignments etc. Another factor may be the near-cancellation of the road programme in 1994/95, since new roads (especially motorways) tend to be far safer and divert traffic from more dangerous routes.

Of course, you are correct that under certain circumstances lower speeds can increase capacity, but a very high proportion of the road network is uncongested at any given time. Many rural A-roads have seen their speed limits cut from 60mph to 50mph, with speed cameras installed at intervals. It is implausible that such a big cut would not have increased journey times, yet local authorities appear to have paid scant regard to the economic costs.

@Richard Wellings - The article does say that ''there is no obvious causal link' but then goes on to make a series of calculations based on the assumption that there is one! It's pretty easy to check such things out. Clearly speed cameras will have no impact one way or the other in places where there aren't any speed cameras. But statistics are kept on the locations of accidents (in fact, they are used to choose speed camera sites), so instead of presenting a load of spurious calculations, why didn't the author of this article go and check the real statistics? Because they don't suit his case, is my suspicion. Yes, much of the network is uncongested at any given time. That misses the point, as proportionately more people travel on congested routes at congested times - obviously! You say that it is implausible that the fact that 'many' rural A-roads have seen their speed limits cut from 60 to 50 would not have increased journey times. Is it? How many rural roads is 'many'? What proportion? How do you know that this wasn't done specifically in dangerous areas for accidents (and the effect monitored)? How do you know that the reason in some cases isn't for reasons of alleviating peak time congestion? I don't know the answer, but clearly you don't either. So what is the author's argument based on?
@HJ I don't want to wade into the dispute about accidents because I do not have the data you suggest is necessary. Certainly accidents at speed camera points is not necessarily a helpful guide either because of displacement but, as I say, I'll leave that to you and Paul to debate. However, the use of speed limits for congestion management is a completely different issue from the use of speed limits more generally. There are very few places where they have been used for congestion management and they only tend to work if the changing of lanes is prohibited. But a further argument against the reduction in speed limits more generally is that it increases not only the time taken for journeys but the traffic density on the roads. It is certainly the case that many speed limits are reduced after pressure from village communities who want rural speed limits changed to urban speed limits - what the people who campaign for that don't realise is that there will be a greater density of traffic outside their front doors as a result. Quite frankly, I would prefer the roads to be privatised in various different ways for different types of roads and am not convinced that a central planner can come up with the "right" level of speed limits taking all things into consideration (journey times, accident rates, inconvenience to residents, congestion etc).
@Philip I'm not convinced that a central planner can come up with the 'right' level of speed limits either, albeit I really don't think that this is quite what happens at present. I'm not sure what you mean about 'displacement' and speed cameras. Are you suggesting that people alter their route to avoid them? I suspect that is somewhat unlikely. My point really was not that I think that it's always a good thing to lower speed limits, but that many of the arguments in this article are based on completely unverifiable assumed 'facts' and they completely ignore other factors. It's a very poorly argued piece - I think we can all agree on that.
On displacement, I meant somebody driving like a lunatic, slowing down for the camera and then driving like a lunatic again!
@Philip If you care to look here, it is stated that AREAS with speed cameras have shown a reduction in accidents, so the data would indicate that 'displacement' doesn't affect the reduction in accidents: www.parliament.uk/documents/post/postpn218.pdf Those people driving like lunatics before and after speed cameras would just drive like lunatics anyway - and will probably cause accidents at some point. At least with speed cameras there is a good chance of catching them and getting them off the road before they cause accidents. I'm not saying that speed cameras are the most cost-effective way of cutting accidents. maybe other measures would be better. The point is that the argument above is full of holes.
I think it's also worth adding that speed cameras are frequently used as a revenue-raising measure rather than having a strict relationship to road safety. I find some of the figures used above (and, therefore, on both sides of the debate) rather spurious - how on earth is the time value of an average vehicle arrived at? It's this sort of aggregation which makes a mockery of centrally-planned attempts at transport. What is needed is a free market in roads and road pricing so that proper market assessments of risk and speed can be made, not arbitrary bureaucratic ones.

@HJ - The problem with the official analysis of the effect of speed cameras is that it ignores several unintended consequences from camera enforcement, many of which are geographically dispersed, related to 'driving culture' and therefore difficult to quantify with any precision. A summary of possible unintended consequences is provided here: http://www.safespeed.org.uk/sideeffects.pdf

As other commenters have noted, the answer is to move roads into private ownership so that safety practices can benefit from the market discovery process and avoid the pitfalls of central planning.

@Richard Wellings Hard to take seriously a paper from an organisation which seems to have as its sole raison d'etre the abolition of speed cameras. It claims that it opposes them for safety reasons which, frankly, is unlikely for the simple reason that it doesn't seem too bothered about campaigning for other safety measures instead (or as well). If it was against speed cameras as just one part of a general safety campaign arguing for better use of resources, then it might be worth taking seriously. Most of the points it makes are tenuous, to say the least. Most are simply assertions, unsupported by evidence. Many are quite orthogonal to the issue of speed cameras. Whether private road ownership is desirable or not is not the subject of this article. Even if it were, it's hardly likely that local roads could, or will, ever be effectively privatised - and that's where most accidents occur.
@HJ - road pricing is highly relevant to the issue of speed cameras as they are controlled and used by state bureaucracy, be it local government or police. Their effectiveness cannot be properly measured and it is likely that they are being used for purposes other than those which their uses purport viz revenue raising. Under a private road network such behaviour would not be sustainable. You're right that it's too much detail to go into road pricing but the practical issues are quite feasible using modern technology such as GPRS, mobile phones and so on: we can get a spacecraft into orbit so we can quite easily devise a road pricing scheme! Of course, no politician would have the courage, but still, it's quite possible.
This INDEPENDENT report commissioned by the RAC Foundation concludes that speed cameras save around 800 lives per year: www.racfoundation.org/research/safety/effectiveness-of-speed-cameras
HJ does himself or herself no good by slinging mud instead of dealing with the facts. Similarly he or she said that the cameras can have no effect where there are none - overlooking the obvious, namely that because the driver does not know where the fixed sites are, let alone the mobile ones, behaviour will indeed be greatly affected. The plain fact is that the downward rate in deaths per vehicle-km collapsed rather than accelerating as soon as this punitive regime was implemented and there is an astonishing correlation between the extra deaths and level of fines. Why that should be is of course not clear, but, in the light of the facts it is a bit rich for those who support the policy to claim a success. There are circa 6,000 camera sites. On almost any journey of any length the motorist will pass several. Hence a reasonable assumption is that the policy of fines, points, and driving bans has instilled fear into drivers so as to distract them from the business of driving and to divert attention to their speedometers and to yellow roadside furniture. It has also engendered a stupid attitude in some drivers who believe that if only they do not break the limits they will be safe. The reality is that all limits will be too high or too low according to the time of day and other conditions. The fact that insurance companies increase premiums for motorist with speeding points on their licenses does not mean they have it right. Instead it may be a gut reaction. In any event vast numbers of motorist, old, young, male and female, have been fined and many of them will never have had an accident. The one that I had was when driving jolly slowly looking for road signs. … I am surprised than no one has yet commented on the huge time costs associated with slowing us down compared with the relatively trivial value of the alleged casualty savings. Likewise, it cannot be right to set limits at a level which half the population would exceed if left to themselves. Off topic I note that whereas using a mobile phone when driving is intuitively ever so dangerous, and whereas many people continue to so offend, mobile phone use is cited as a recorded cause just 15 times among a total of over 5,000 recorded causes in fatal accidents in 2009 – illustrating how dangerous it is to jump to conclusion about what is and what is not dangerous. I hasten to add, I own no mobile.
Paul Withrington does himself no good in asserting that I have been 'slinging mud' when anybody can clearly see that I have done no such thing. As for 'dealing with facts' - he fails to present any. He just makes assumptions which he states are 'reasonable' (as if that makes them factual) whereas I regard them as absurd and unjustified. The idea that accidents happen regularly because people are driving around doing little but looking out for speed cameras is absurd. I never look out for speed cameras. I don't need to - I just observe speed limits. You know what? I think that insurance companies are more likely to understand risks than he is. It's their job. He thinks they run on 'gut instinct'. I say he knows nothing about how insurance companies run. I've demolished his arguments which dress up opinions as facts. Mind you, it was pretty easy.
HJ opened his comments with the sentence "This is laughable" he then throws an accusation that I fail to present facts. I am bemused and bound to say many people would call that mud slinging particularly when the main article is entirely factual and is backed by careful arithmetic, see http://www.transport-watch.co.uk/transport-speed-cameras.htm and the links within it. The Key facts, in case HJ missed them are: 1. If all traffic were slowed down by 5 mph - as may be effected by setting speed limits at the 50th percentile, rather than, as previously, at the 85th, then the time costs would be circa £17 bn per year. The corresponding value of accident savings is £3 billion, supposing we can believe the Traffic and Road Research Labs Reports 421 and 511, summarised here as a one mph speed reduction saving 5% of casualties. It is not my fault if the numbers come out that way. 2. Despite the cameras plus endless speed humps and traffic management schemes that cause congestion where none need exist, the previous long established downward trend in deaths per vehicle-km collapsed from 7% annually to 2.5%. Again it is not my fault that that is how it is. The key report that claims the cameras have been a success is the Four-year evaluation report also cited by Professor Allsop. In its summary the Four Year report implies the cameras have saved 100 fatalities per year, but then says that a proportion of the 100 are due to (a) the established downward trend (b) regression to the mean. Later in the text that admission is lost leaving the reader with the notion that the 100 saved per year are due to the cameras. However, that may be, the fact is that the only signal in the system-wide data is that a beneficial trend collapsed, rather than accelerating, as soon as present speed policies took hold. Hence I say it is a bit rich of people like professor Allsop to claim the cameras have been a success. I make one more factual point - and it is a point that is ignored by the Allsop report cited by HJ, namely that the ratio of the Killed and Seriously injured to the Killed has collapsed from 13.1 in the period 1984 to 1988 to 9.5 for the five years 2004 to 2008. That suggests the reporting of any but fatalities is not to be relied upon. The fact that professor’s Allsop appears not to know that casts doubt upon his report which refers to a vast reduction in personal injury accidents.
I opened my comments by saying that the piece was laughable because it clearly is. Paul Withrington presents absolutely no evidence of linkages between a slow down in the casualty reduction rate and the introduction of speed cameras - yet he goes on to produce a whole lot of 'careful arithmetic' based on this assumption. We also don't know what the effect of reducing speed limits would be. Traffic spends quite a lot of time below limits anyway due to the presence of other traffic and because of junctions, etc.. We also know that traffic flows better and road capacity is increased when the speed differences between vehicles are reduced. What the overall effect would be I can't say. But neither can Paul Withrington. It really is impossible to have a sensible discussion with a zealot like Paul Withrington. He has his view and will interpret any piece of data only in a way that supports his case - even by making ludicrous leaps of logic. Any data that suggests that he isn't correct is simply ignored. I don't pretend to know exactly what speed limits should be or exactly what the effects of various safety measures are. However, I know a seriously biased laughably argued case when I see one. I saw one above.
HJ again resorts to name calling whilst missing the point and presents no data. For the third or fourth time: I showed that the delay cost of slowing us down would be far greater than the value of the casualties saved, a fact that falls out of the DfT values for time and casualties and the Traffic and Road Research reports 421 and 511 which attempt to relate casualty saving to changes in speed. No assumptions other than those made by the DfT and the TRL were involved. I also produced a graph that shows the long established downward trend in deaths per vehicle kilometre collapsed at the time the present policies came on line. That too falls out of national data and depends on no assumptions. The collapse may not be due to the cameras, although it is natural to put two and two to together. Whatever the case the facts hardly support the idea that the cameras saved lives. They may have done so at the camera sites but the system-wide data shows no such signal. HJ's comment about smoothing traffic flow has nothing to do with the points I make and only applies to some motorway situations. In an attempt to move the discussion on, I note that there was a staggering acceleration in the downward trend in deaths per vehicle-km in 2006/7, just before the start of the financial crisis that is still with us. There have been no changes in road safety policy beyond the very recent switch-off of some cameras. Hence perhaps that acceleration is hinting at some greater truth i.e. that road safety policy has nothing to do with it, instead it may be the economy stupid – Perhaps in a down-turn the young and poor are driven off the road and the rest of us take on a more cautious behaviour pattern only to revert to the previous when cheered up by an up-turn, but, before HJ leaps in, that is of course pure speculation.
Yes, I can confirm that Paul Withrington feels that it is natural to put two and two together and to make five. We all know that he has produced a graph. So what? Correlation (or otherwise) does not imply causation. But then I'm a scientist by training and he isn't. Anybody who does a bit of research about Paul Withrington and his mysteriously-funded one-man-band "Transport Watch" organisation (which has little or no credibility with any serious organisation in the field) will know he has an agenda and really isn't interested in evidence unless he can distort it, and makes huge leaps of logic to support his case. I'm quite prepared to believe that not all road safety activities are cost effective and that there could be many improvements. The problem is that we're hardly going find rational answers and improvements by listening to Paul Withrington, because he is not prepared to engage in a reasoned debate - he only wants to push his predetermined view, as is clearly apparent from his posts here. Fortunately, nobody actually does listen to Paul Withrington.
This is a brief interim comment because of other urgent matters. 1/ Please refer to my web site www.fightbackwithfacts,com for a very great deal of detailed analysis and data, based on many thousands of hours studty over many years. Not yet complete, but getting there. 2/ HJ's lack of knowledge of the facts makes his attacks inappropriate and inadvisable. 3/ There are close to 40 known adverse effects of cameras on driver behaviour, many of which apply across the country on most roads not just on the 1% of rual and 3% of urban road length that have cameras. Many deaths have been caused directly by cameras, and others indirectlly. 4/ With less than 6% of all accidents involving speed above the limits even as a minor causal factor, and even that figure includes "possible" as well as "very likely" and with the above minute camera coverage, the maximum possible benefit of cameras is well below 1% ot national totals and well below the random noise of the figures. 5/ The DfT and Transcom lied when they claimed that cameras are most effective - the fully documented story of how they lied and how I forced them to admit that vehicles activated signs are massively more cosrt effective than cameeras is on www.fightbackwithfacts.com. 6/ Simple artithmetic from undeniable facts shows that slowing down all traffic across the country by 1mph costs between £2bn and £5bn pa. The NHS share of that GDP through taxation would save far more lives than speed cameras ever could. 7/ Hospitals kill more than 60,000 patients a yeer - 180 a day - by infection, incorrect prescriptions, medical and surgery errors and lack of hygiene and, as we learned recently, starvation through neglect. 6 die each day on the roads. 8/ The speed camera era has shown by far the worst fataltity/veh km trend since WW2 and the black-out. 9/ I have the data on 6m injury accidents from 1985 to 2009, severity, location to within 10m, date etc and am making good progress analysing it. What is very clear is that the sort of accident reductions claimed for cameras (a far higher proportion than ever invokve speeding) have always happened, due to regression to the mean, which I am now able to separate out from other factors. In summary, Paul Withrington is right, HJ is blundering around ina fog of his own making More later
Idris Francis - yet another anti speed camera obsessed zealot who runs their own web site consisting of largely concocted 'facts'. At least I don't make up 'facts' and I have an ability to critique what zealots present as facts. Haven't you anything better to do with your time? Probably not, I'd imagine. I assume you've lost your driving licence through being caught by speed cameras too often (and you have been caught by speed cameras and tried unsuccessfully to wriggle out of it by legal means, haven't you?). Surprise, surprise - you don't like the law under which you were convicted. I note that you've never posted here before - did Paul Withrington contact you to do so?
HJ is at it again. He says without evidence, “I can confirm that Paul Withrington feels that it is natural to put two and two together and to make five. We all know that he has produced a graph. So what? Correlation (or otherwise) does not imply causation. But then I'm a scientist by training and he isn't”. That comment confirms HJ’s reputation as an evidence free zone, good at mud slinging but incapable of following a line of argument. For the record I have a BSc (honours) in Civil Engineering, an MSc in Transport Planning, and am a Charted Engineer of over 40 years standing. If HJ wishes to overturn the arithmetic we present let him set the detail out, as any would any scientist worthy of the name. Likewise let him state which of our assumptions he wishes to challenge. We have of course implied causation between the cameras and the collapse of the downward trend previously apparent. Perhaps that is wrong, but doubtless if there had been an acceleration in the downward trend the safety camera people would be claiming a success, i.e. causation. Likewise the incredible correlation between extra deaths and fines would, if reversed be cause for a similar shout of triumph. The fact that the trends are the reverse of the expected is an inconvenient truth that is not my fault. Meanwhile perhaps HJ would be kind enough to tell us his real name along with his actual qualifications and experience, rather than hiding behind anonymity, and vague claims to be a “Scientist”. (If any person wishes to check my details I will provide the documentation, hopefully HJ would do the same if challenged).
On 28th Sept Wigg wrote “I find some of the figures used above (and, therefore, on both sides of the debate) rather spurious - how on earth is the time value of an average vehicle arrived at? It's this sort of aggregation which makes a mockery of centrally-planned attempts at transport”. I comment, the time values and the costs associated with casualties are those used by the Department for Transport when evaluating transport proposals. There is, I dare say, a mass of research in support. To that extent it is reasonable to assume that the values are the best estimates we have and that they accord with how people behave when faced with some small risk. That said, many people do criticise the values and the notion that many small, and therefore useless time savings, enjoyed by thousands of people can be aggregated, but that is another matter. Wigg goes on to canvass for road pricing. Given the technology at a reasonable price, pricing would indeed be an ideal way of allocating scarce road space. However, if the prices paid were to reflect the external costs of time and casualties then values would have to be associated with those items, unless drivers themselves could hit buttons so as to price others off the road.
Appolgies to Whig, I referred to him as "Wigg" in my last - unless the editor has corrected that.
@paul "However, if the prices paid were to reflect the external costs of time and casualties then values would have to be associated with those items, unless drivers themselves could hit buttons so as to price others off the road." This is not true. Though competition will not work completely effectively with regard to roads (though they are no less a natural monopoly than many other services) people can choose between different modes of transport with different costs and prices attached (and time savings involved) and this will lead to the market at least moving towards a position that reflects preferences. Preferences are revealed in a market economy, they do not have to be calculated beforehand. @HJ - it seems to me that Paul has provided evidence that speed cameras have not achieved what their proponents suggest they achieve and also evidence that there is a case for investigating whether they have the reverse of their intended effects. I agreed with you at first - the claims in the original post were too strong. But, what is your reasoned response in this debate? How else is the data explained? It is not enough to assert that because Paul has not proved causality there cannot be causality. It is not enough to say that just because Paul would like railways to be turned into roads it is obvious that he has preconceived ideas about speed cameras. It is not enough to say that because Idris Francis was caught out by speed cameras and you are a scientist then the evidence does not say what IF and Paul suggest. I have never met Idris Francis or Paul, I travel by train daily, I have never had so much as a parking fine, and I am quite prepared to accept that speed cameras would be used on private roads as that would (if they were effective) raise the value of the roads to all users. I therefore have no idealogical interest in the matter whatsover. I am genuinely curious and your responses, so far, are not satisfying my curiosity. So, what is your evidence that speed cameras reduce accidents and what might the other causes be of the trends that Paul finds? If your answer: "I don't know, but I am simply unconvinced by Paul's numbers and his claims are too strong" then let's leave it there.
If Paul Withrington thinks that I am going to provide my details so that he can bombard me with his zealotry, he has another think coming. He seems to think that you have to present counter-facts in order to examine or criticise so-call 'facts' provided by others. Any scientist could tell him that this is untrue (I'm a physicist by training). Scientists are quite used to examining the methodology used by others - and his is flawed. His arguments are obviously full of holes because he has an agenda that he will pursue come what may - as will his friend Idris Francis - convicted speeder.
HJ's comment on Idris Francis piece confirms, supposing confirmation were needed, that HJ is nothing more than a mud slinger. For the record, yes I did alert Idris Francis and others to this blog. Whether, it is worth any of them wasting the time of day responding to HJ is another matter.
Unlike HJ, whoever he is, I do not hide behind a pseudodym or initials - I stand behind every word I write and every fact I provide, from many thousands of hours study over 10 yearsa. No, I have never lost my driving license, yes I have driven 1m miles or more without hurting anyone, in a very wide range of cars from a 1/5 share of a 1935 Austiin 10 to 1939 Alvis 4.3 litre to 1962 Bentley Continental to 1999 Daimler V8 4 litre. I see no facts ior evidence in what HJ writes - only ill-informed or un-informed prejudice, bias and guesswork. For your information HJ, I proved Ladyman wrong by a factor of 9 which he admitted and by factor of 50, (confirmed by an independent acccuntant) before he was fired or he resigned too soon for me to force him to admit the rest. I proved that Dunwoody, a self confessed bear of little brain, not only had no idea what she was doing, but also that she was prepared to ignore the evidence that she was wildly wrong to sustain her mad ideas, all the time putting road users at unecessary risk All of that evidence is on my web site - if you can find anything wrong with it, let me know. Until then, I suggest you start thinking and understanding instead of critising those who do And I did indeed take a "right to silence" case to the ECHR,, supporred by Liberty and every lawyer I knew, all of who believe I was right. However as HJ does not understand even simple arithmetic what chance is there that he would understand vital democratic principles like the right to silence (in the USA the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution) or Magna Carta, jury trial, freedom from double jeopardy and many other fundamental freedoms that Britain gave the world but is now losing the the EU Incidentally HJ, I feel quite sure that you thought the euro was a good idea and looked forward to travelling without changing your currency. And indeed man-made Global Warming, Tulip Mania, the Ground-Nuts Scheme and many other scams. More later when time permits
First may I say that I write without anonymity and indeed my full profile and CV can be found on my sites. Basically, ex traffic cop, class 1 advanced police driver & motorcyclist, have dealt with accidents and prosecutions from them, compiled and sadly provided the flawed stats from which much flawed road safety policy is based and before that a time served motor engineer. I am also a road safety volunteer and after about 55 years of motorcycling and driving, have never had one single point or prosecution for it. I am content that my CV does enable me to comment on this matter. We have no idea who or what HJ is, his qualification in driving & road safety, or indeed his vested interest if any. All that I will say in this long debate is this. 'Speeding' ,that is the simple act of exceeding an arbitrary and unscientific number on a pole, cannot cause anything. Not one single accident. The problem with the police stats 19 form is that we rely on reporting officers most of whom are not specialists in road safety or indeed driving. There are options there that should not be there and accident causes that should be there and are not. Any figures from these that indicate that 'speeding' causes accidents merely shows that X% of unqualified officers ticked a box that should not be there at all. Does HJ ever bother to survey and study speed limit orders? I do voluntarily and am appalled at the paucity of the reasons given for them. Very often no than at the behest of some local parochial Councillor who wishes to increase his vote base. Please see on my site www.youdrive.org.uk 'Why coppers Can't trust speed limits'. HJ is assuming that the speed limits are appropriate and correct. Most are not and are not even set by the police who are then willing to, unquestioningly, point their cameras. See 'Police point cameras but don't know why'. Of course speed is a factor in road accidents since, without it, nothing would move at all but the overall ensuing and immediate economic crash of nothing moving would result in 100s of thousands of deaths very rapidly. It follows that there must be a linear cost to slowing road transport which is given as about £3 billion per annum for every 1 MPH too slow nationally. (About £30 billion annually) How many lives could we save with this kind of money in the NHS, A&E and Emergency Services? The Road Safety Industry, in which I count camera manufacturers, suppliers and maintenance firms, is not at all altruistic in their piety. This Industry costs the nation many £billions more and most of which doesn't actually stop one single accident. The speed camera firms, see Prince Michael, charge about £40,000 per camera and make a handsome profit at it. So back to the Cameras. Since 'speeding' cannot cause an accident, these cameras cannot and do not detect one single accident cause. They cannot see 'too fast' which does cause accidents and occurs at all speeds above & below the limits. Indeed most accidents are below the speed limits. Like the speedo they only measure a speed. Like the speedo they know not if you are drunk, drugged, driving carelessly or dangerously. They see not one accident cause. Apart from the unspoken pious profit, the published logic is sixth form. Slow everything down and there will be less accidents. But it is not in the interests of The Road Safety Industry to produce cost benefit analysis so it doesn't but someone should. What is the cost benefit from this if we are actually killing more or saving less in the community as a whole? Let me say this. When one camera can clock 10s of thousands of speeders, it indicates to me that the limit is too low or there should have been an equal number of crashes to go with them. If a road layout induced a similar number of accidents would the police just photograph them or query what was wrong there and fix it? That they don't is evidence in its own right that this isn't really about slowing drivers or indeed stopping accidents; it is tantamount to entrapment and clearly about the money. Finally: It is a fact that from DfT figures since 1976 to the middle nineties accident rates were falling drastically before speed cameras. After speed cameras that fall bottomed out noticeably. Hardly an endorsement for speed cameras surely? Keith Peat.
Cost of slowing traffic average occupancy 1.6 per vehicle average speed 40 mph average miles per annum 12,000 Average hours worked per year 2,500 GDP £1,500 bn from those figures it is easy to estimate the value in terms of GDP of working hours gained by speeding up all traffic by an average of 1mph - of course making a reasonable adjustment for hours that would not translate into extra working time.
That would be Keith Peat of the "Drivers's Protest Union" would it? Goodness me, you nutters do like to gang up, don't you. And it's interesting to hear Idris Francis accuse me of supporting a whole lot of things that I don't (and have never supported). Still, I think that we can all see his cavalier approach to 'facts'. For the record, I have never said that all speed limits are correct, that speed cameras are the most cost-effective approach to road safety or many other things of which these nutters accuse me. I merely questioned - indeed destroyed -the arguments put and the provenance and interpretation of 'facts' which they like to present. They are incapable of taking part in a reasoned debate, as is immediately obvious to anyone.
HJ, if there are too few speed cameras for them to possibly affect the rate of casualty reduction then how can they affect ANY change in the casualty figures, downwards or upwards? You also make a remarkable leap in logic in your suggestion that lower speed limits cannot increase journey times. Since when are peak conditions on the M25 representative of the state of the entire road network? Lastly, in answer to your question about why insurance companies charge higher premiums, it's simply because they CAN!. When have you known insurance companies to pass up on the slightest excuse to increase their earnings?
Peter H, Oh dear. I didn't say that there are too few speed cameras to possibly affect the rate of casualty reduction. I suggest that you read what I actually wrote. Neither did I say that lower speed limits cannot increase journey times (I said "We also don't know what the effect of reducing speed limits would be"). It is not reasonable to extrapolate, without evidence, that a lowering of the speed limit by a certain percentage (in some cases) leads to the same percentage increase in journey times. Insurance companies operate in a highly competitive market. There is no evidence of a cartel. If some charged unjustified (by the risks) higher premiums to drivers convicted of speeding, then those drivers would go elsewhere for their insurance and another company would spot a market opportunity to make a profit by correctly pricing the premiums. Insurance companies are very good at assessing risks - this is what their whole business is based around. They think that convicted drivers present higher risks. They're likely to be correct.
I posted as follows (now slightly changed) some hours back but it has not come up. Did it arrive? Philip, you cited one of mine as follows "However, if the prices paid were to reflect the external costs of time and casualties then values would have to be associated with those items, unless drivers themselves could hit buttons so as to price others off the road.". You followed that with the comment, “This is not true”. You may be right but I make this point. In principle the price could be arranged to force traffic down to any desired level. However, what would that level be? In a pure world it would be set at level that would maximise society’s benefits. That would, I dare say, depend on the value of time and accidents saved along with vehicle operating costs and environmental costs etc. Hence, am I right in thinking that any particular price would have embedded within it assumed values for those items? If so perhaps householders and pedestrians would also need buttons to press so as to force the cost up and cut out are pollution etc. (Of course pressing the buttons would cost money, hence the market, an exciting bidding war between road users and non-users). Comment gratefully received.
I challenge HJ or indeed anyone else to find any error of fact on my web site or what I write here. If anyone does I will correct it and apologise - that offer has been given on the home page of my site for months and as yet no one has done so. I agree completely with Keith Peat, spot on. A very important point in the context of cost/benefit of speed is that the DfT's valuations of casualties avoided are wildly - and I mean bizarrely - over-stated. I have allocated http://www.fightbackwithfacts.com/bogus-dft-values/ to the subject but have not yet had time to put there all the data and analysis I have to hand. For now I will take fatalities as my example - much the same applies to slight and serious injuries. In round numbers the DfT assess the averate value to society of a fatality prevented at approx £1.5m (obviously with estimates and changing econmic circumstances it is a moving target) Cash costs - ambulances, damagem police time etc £20,000 Lost output of the dead worker £500,000 Pain and Suffering £1,000,000 The first and very obvious point is that whatever figure academics might wish to allocate to pain and suffering of those involved, avoiding that death does not and cannot contribute £1m to the State coffers, in pain and suffering terms, as is too often assumed it does by those who do not look at the detail. I have no objection of course to anyone saying "It is worth spending £1m to save a life" - though if that is the objective there must be - and there are -far far better ways of saving lives, with fewer adverse effects, than cutting speeds. What I do object to, vehemently, as does the ONS, is the way the DfT, RAC Foundation, Camera Partnerships and Police forces and Acpo take that gross figure and use it to justify what they are doing as if it were real money. As indeed every annual speed camera report has done. I turn now to the nonsense of £500,000 "lost output" due to the average lost working time for the rest of their lives of people killed in road accidents. GARBAGE - for two reasons: 1/ What matters in any country is not GDP in total but GDP per head - otherwise China would be massively better off than Switzerland. So even if the output that a fatality would have provided had he lived were in fact lost, the loss would be cancelled out by the closely matched loss of his consumption. (For those who do not follow economics even in these exceptional times, consumption closely matches output, usually within the odd few %, the difference being the deficit or positive balance) 2/ Even if demand did not fall as a result of the fatality - and this also applies to non-fatal injuries when that demand clearly does not fall- output rises naturally and inevitably to meet demand - because, as above, the two are always closely matched. 3/ What this means in practice is that if a business manager gets a telephone call to say "Sorry to tell you, but Fred has been killed in a road accident" the manager does not say to himself "Oh dear - that's 2% or 5% or 10% of our output gone for good, in perpetuity" - as the DfT would have us believe - but "I must contact Personall or the Job Centre to replace him". Or other members of staff take up the slack with longer hours, of if that comnpany fails to continue to meet demand, its competitors will step in and do it for them. Repeat after me "Output automatically meets demand". That the DfT have been publicising such nonsense for more than 20 years might astonish many - but it does not astonish me any longer because I recognise it as only one more example of an organisation that for the most part has not the slightest idea what it is doing. And incidentally - when I pointed this out to the DfT in the spring they stated that "I seem to have a point" and that they would re-evaluate their figures. In their own time of course - nobody in the civil service is in a rush to admit a serious mistake. Find any fault in that logic HJ?
@Paul what I am saying really is that efficient solutions in markets do not come (primarily) by businesses making complex calculations about the value of people's time etc etc before setting prices. More that business will migrate to the owner of the mode that sets the best pricing structure and better structures will be discovered as those with the better models prosper. There will be hunches and so on but businesses don't make especially complex calculations of marginal costs and benefits as such. You segment a train, for example, and have some first class carriages and put in free wi-fi. The carriages are a bit empty because you have over-valued the time of the people who can work more efficiently there or over-valued their comfort - other companies have got it better and you copy them and reduce the price differential or take off some of the first class carriages etc. etc. There is more discovery of the best model by survival, success and failure than the pre-calculation of the "correct" price. It is a quibble rather than an argument about how information is discovered in markets rather than calculated in advance.
Does anyone know the collective noun for obsessive zealots?
@ Philip. Thank you for your response. I rejoin by pointing out that it may not be so much a competition between modes such as car, bus or train as a competition as to whether or not to travel at all or to use a bike instead of a car. That is because, except in metropolitan areas (a) public transport gets you nowhere except the town centre (b) only about 10% of passenger journeys are by public transport (c) the car has enabled a dispersed land use that is impossible, or nearly so, to serve by the bus let alone the train. Hence, if there were to be road pricing in such areas, some central control would have to make a value judgment as to what the price should be and how it should vary with traffic flow. Although there may be no formality that judgment would perhaps imply values of time, accidents, the environment and everything. For example, if we had a “Green” in charge I dare say the price of driving a car would ensure none were used since our controller would value the environment beyond measure etc. In contrast if a Civil Servant were in charge no doubt there would be a whacking sum and procedure for setting the price, pinned back to theoretical values for the parameters, speed flow relationships etc. In that circumstance the competition argument that you put forward may have a relatively small footprint.
HJ I plead very guilty to being an 'obsessive zealot' on the following issues; not in specific order. 1) The many billions of pounds taken piously by a claimed Road Safety Industry which stops not one single accident. 2) The over-slowing of UK's road transport at a cost of about £3 billion per 1 MPH per annum. 3) The failure to account for the debits of the Road Safety Industry and pretending it is benign and without massive profit and cost. 4) The unnecessary and clinical and cynical prosecution of 100s of thousands of perfectly safe drivers. 5) The refusal to look at obvious and genuine road safety options that are not profitable and very cheap to apply. 6) By the foregoing, the cause of unnecessary death and injury on our roads. 7) That having expensive elections apparently still leaves us with the same officials working our ministers. 8) The tunnel vision of the officials who will not accept the self evident repercussions of their policy and a short sightedness which undoubtedly will cause death and injury. 9) Police who point cameras and don't know why. 10) Police who fail to question why something is happening before taking out a prosecution. 11) And I could go on. Yes I am a zealot about all those things HJ and although I am very proud that you know of me and my work, please do find one single statement on my sites which is not fact and indeed answer why none of the people I target, and the Industry is mighty powerful, have sued me for it yet? And you tell us if you are content about the 10 Items I have listed. They are all accurate. The collective noun for your idea of 'obsessive zealots' is clearly......Realists!
@Paul - I was talking about a hypothetical situation of where private roads would exist and how the process of competition would work to reflect costs, benefits and preferences. I was just making the point that it does not work (primarily) by a priori calculation
@HJ For what it is worth - I searched the web just now and found that, since 23rd May 2007, points on the license for speeding have a negligible effect on insurance premiums - 9 points adding just 10%. Swinton in particular do not regard points as significant, see http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23396617-why-penalty-points-w....
Oh dear Paul. It is shattering to understand that commentators and policy makers on economics allow themselves to make naive postulation on matters they know little of. Still further concerns are that they can be convinced by disillusioned chimps with an axe to grind. You must, when commenting on road safety matters, have an understanding of the meaning of the statistics. Just as you misunderstand and misinterpret them so does Mr. Francis and Mr. Peat. Getting caught speeding and attempting to get away with what you have done by denying the law (Francis) and being a traffic cop (Peat) for years does not quify you as experts In the art; it seems in their cases it blesses you with a predetermined opinion for which you constantly seek justification to the exclusion of all opposing evidence and interpretation. If economic commentators (you) are prepared to stumble into inexpert interpretations and present it with apparent authority, it is no wonder we are being driven into an economic abyss. When economists need to make interpretation of non-economic matters they should take good expert advice such as that being given here by HJ else you will be shown up as a fool for following the self interested and delusional.
Bl - I suspect that as the son of a lawyer I know more about general legal principles than you do. One age old principle is that we are all not only entitled but obliged to challenge bad law. Another is the principle of jury nullification, the last resort of the people against unjust law, a princuiple that allows juries to acquit in defiance of the facts and the law if thy believe the law to be wrong. The best known example was when a London jury repeatedly refused to convict William Penn(sylvania) of preaching Quakerism when it was illegal to do so, We all owe a great deal of our present freedoms to those who challenged bad law, and I make no apologies whatever for having done the same, despite losing on the grounds of policial expedicency not justice. I again challenge anyone here to identiy any error of fact in anything I have written here, or on my web site, or ao deny that I have proved the DfT wildlty wrong more than once
@ BL, why is it that you and HJ try to shoot the messenger instead of the message? In HJ’s original he said “This article contains no evidence and then goes on to generate spurious figures based on an unjustified assumption”. Pardon me, but the only assumptions in the article are that (a) the DfT’s values for time and accidents are correct (They are in the DfT’s celebrated WEBTAG, and are used universally in project evaluation). (b) the DfT’s data on road traffic accidents and vehicle-Km are correct (c) the number of fines obtained from Freedom of Information requests are correct. (d) The Traffic and Road Research Lab’s papers that relate average speed to accidents are correct [summarised as a one mile an hour decrease in speed saving 5% of accidents] (e) the laws of arithmetic apply. There is no other assumption or data source underlying the values and graphs in the article. So, what is BL’s and HJ’s case? Please let us know. Here I note that HJ was stupid enough to say, in his very first post, “And why does the author think that insurance companies charge higher premiums to those that are banned for continued speeding offences? It's because they know that they are at higher risk of accidents - duh!” only to find that, these days, the premiums are scarcely increased at all. The very good reason for that is that the correlation between points on license and insurance claims will be negligible. In any case that point has nothing to do with the article. HJ damages his reputation further by saying, in one of his other posts, “Idris Francis - yet another anti speed camera obsessed zealot who runs their own web site consisting of largely concocted 'facts'. At least I don't make up 'facts' and I have an ability to critique what zealots present as facts. Haven't you anything better to do with your time?” Well blow me down – clearly the man is a lord’s fool else how on earth could he say something so pointless and lacking in substance as that? BLs post and style of name are so like HJ’s that one wonders whether or not they are the same person, or perhaps twins. Whatever the case BL concludes with “When economists need to make interpretation of non-economic matters they should take good expert advice such as that being given here by HJ else you will be shown up as a fool for following the self interested and delusional.” Clearly the man is barking. After all, (a) HJ has given no advice. Instead he has made a fool of himself by making wild claims and slinging mud (b) all we have done is to find that (i) the delay costs upon slowing us down would exceed potential casualty savings by wide margins (ii) there is no signal in the national data that the safety policies of these last 15 years have reduced death rates. Instead, unless there is some unknown factor at work, those policies appear to have been a disaster, sabotaging a long established downward trend. We did not set out to find that. Instead it drops out of the data all by itself. We acknowledge that at the camera sites there has been, or, more cautiously, has probably been, a reduction in fatalities, but far less than often claimed.
The latest government figures confirm that only in 4% of ALL accidents EXCEEDING the speed limit was a contributory factor, which confirms that the relentless persecution, fining, and prosecution of car drivers is socially and financially unacceptable, and unwarranted. The money spent on this would be better spent on further training for inexperienced drivers. https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/reported-road-casualties-grea...
Wondering Dutchman is right. The following is from Facts Sheet 13 of the Transport-Watch web site. The data relates to 2011. It is extracted from the DfT data. From it it is clear that both speeding and mobile phone use are trivial recorded causes of road traffic accidents. Killed Serious Slight All injury Total number of casualties 1,752 20,396 142,198 164,346 Total causes 4,447 49,012 337,012 390,460 Speeding as % total causes 5.44% 2.81% 2.2% 2.3% Phone as % total causes 0.52% 0.15% 0.14% 0.15% Phone use is common and will probably always be discovered where there is a fatality. Hence the trivial percentage of record causes associated with this misdemeanour is particularly striking. Source data is in the web site and is from the DfT..

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