Road Safety News
 

Police 'experts' should set speed limits, says ABD

Friday 1st July 2011

The Association of British Drivers (ABD) has urged the Government to transfer speed setting powers from local councils to police 'experts'.

The ABD says that the Conservatives' localism agenda has transferred virtually all powers to local authorities and the advice of expert police is being ignored.

Brian Gregory, ABD chairman, said: "Speed limits are a vital road safety tool. Setting them incorrectly, ignoring expert advice and established scientific principles (the 85th percentile) is a dangerous game. Any objections to limits these days, even by police traffic officers, are simply overruled in a rubber stamping exercise.

“The Tories have let the motorist and road safety down badly, creating further disrespect for all limits and criminalising even more safe drivers with artificially low limits."

Brian McDowell, ADB representative, added: "I recently attended a council transport committee meeting in Kent where police advice – based on sound scientific methodology – was completely ignored by vocal residents and councillors determined to reduce limits.

“Police advice stated that too low a reduction leads to non compliance with limits. In Warwickshire the police submitted over 40 objections to the speed limit review and the 'consultation' resulted in three to one against the proposals; but they went ahead regardless.

“The problem is that councillors see limit reductions as vote winners and their knowledge of accident causation factors is extremely lacking. They badly need educating or having their powers transferred to a body of experts with no political connections. Having amateurs set speed limits is akin to giving a small child your car keys: It's dangerous."

Click here for more information or contact ABD on 0870 4442535.

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A consequence of the police not being listened to in Oxford is their reluctance to enforce the new 20mph zones - until other means of ensuring compliance have been exhausted (Oxford Mail article). Rather than this undermining democracy as another contributor suggests, this is more a case of the police targeting finite resources at things that their public wants - like tackling burglars.
Julian, Essex

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Malcolm Whitmore - setting a speed limit below the '85th percentile targets' the majority of safe drivers for enforcement, rather than just the '15%.' Remember that the '15%' includes slower drivers as well as faster ones. Also rather than make slurs against the ABD, I suggest commenters 'go for the ball rather than the man.'

It cannot be right that unqualified locals, councillors and council officers are allowed to overrule police experts on speed limit setting.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

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Surely democracy involves listening to and taking into account the views of all who use the road in question, not just those entitled to vote for the elected representatives making the decisions? Roads are not just used by locals. Those using them do not get a chance to 'reject elected members at the ballot box'. Localism taken to it's extreme would mean we all get to dictate the limit on our road and tough for anybody travelling through. The country would grind to a halt. A balance needs to be struck. The police perhaps shouldn't 'make' the decision but we must remember that traffic officers have a deeper understanding of road safety and accident causation than virtually anybody. Their views should indeed take the highest priority. There is a very real risk that councils will override them for political ends which may be detrimental to safety. For example a limit extended way out of a village may appeal to ill informed locals when starting it at the edge of the village might result in lower speeds as drivers percieve the limit to be justified. Remember: More ill justified limits = less adherence and increased danger.
Michael Kaminski

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The Police have powers to close roads and divert traffic, and I can't see anything wrong with them adjudicating on a speed limit that is enforceable.

Having speed limits that are ignored because they are unnecessarily low to a reasonable majority of drivers can't be good for maintaining respect for the law in the wider sense.

Rightly or wrongly, several people perceive that speed limits have been set to an artificially low figure so as to generate a stream of fine revenue, which used to be retained locally.

Essex CC sited a number of cameras where there had been no history of accidents.

Local authority decision makers need to regain the confidence of the public, especially as there is the prospect at referendums being called on any future local decision.
Julian, Essex

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Highways engineering practices are carried out within the national policies and requirements laid down by our democratically elected government. Therefore they reflect the decisions of parliament but are, necessarily, medium to long term so reflect parliaments decisions anything from 1 to 10 years after those decisions were made. This is particularly true for large scale engineering that takes years to develop, consult and build. This is why, I think, engineering practice sometimes seems to be out of step with current thinking. However, engineers and planners try hard to anticipate what changes may be required and to build them into their plans and designs. Many of the current innovations of 20 mph limits and zones, play streets, shared space and so on have been developed by or in partnership with engineers and planners. The "car rules" thinking went out years ago now and we take a very different view.

That said, the reality is that most people still make most of their journeys by car and we cannot ignore them either. Also, if we design our roads, speed limits etc around the 15% who wilfully ignore speed limits etc, 85% of road users are being further constrained in order to control the 15% of rule breakers.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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I completely disagree. The experts have done a poor job in delivering a safe and civilised road traffic system for us. The concept of allowing the car to have full priority on the roads we live next to so that our children are forbidden from walking or cycling to their friends is a calamity for a civilised society.

For example,the concept of a speed limit set at the 85% level is a complete fallacy that can only be justified by a desire to accommodate the motor lobby. The big danger to life comes from the 15% who ignore the limit and with no enforcement measures this sector continues to make life a close companion to terror for many of our citizens.

We need to reduce speeds to levels that bring risks of death and injury down to levels currently acceptable for rail and air transport. This requires a fundamental change in policy way from the Jeremy Clarkson approach to viewing roads as an escapist adventure in the waiting.

The major investments needed can be funded by the savings we would see from accident costs that currently run at around 20 times the investments currently budgeted for improved road safety.
Malcolm Whitmore, Loughborough

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Yes let Traffic Police Police traffic
Ray Spalding, Humberside

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Dave, what I said was that the experts are the engineers, who should also listen to the police and the local community and that the elected representatives of the community make the decisions.

Which is the system we already have in place.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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Agree with Dave. Disagree that professionals like the police cannot have a view with regard to road safety. A police officer is answerable to the Crown for the protection of life and property and that means on the road and means the prevention of accidents. So many times when I was a police officer did I have to inform other authorities that something was amiss and even to this day I am informing so called highwaway engineers [no doubt members of the IHE] that their road humps or cushions or rumble strips and many other matters apertaining to safety on our roads are wrong or not in compliance with regulations. The government also listens to many organisations, voluntary or otherwise, in order to reach some conclusion and then dictates to local authorities what will happen.

Further to that the arguement re 20mph speed limits is an erronious one as within the next couple of years all roads in built up areas will be subject to a speed limit of 20mph. This government has stated so and it is in line with their endevours, as with the rest of the EEC that road accidents and subsequent injuries and deaths will be reduced by the 2020 deadline.

So it doesnt matter if the ABD is against it, they have the democratic right to argue and hold an opinion. This is still a democracy and not a totalitarian state run by bureaucrats like Brussels. Not yet anyway.
Bob Craven

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Quite a range of views by readers:

Peter Roffey says limits should be set by politicians.

Honor Byford disagrees suggesting they should be set by "safety engineers".

Sue believes no-one should promote education unless they have "qualifications",

And Brian thinks that ministers are already strongly influenced by ABD, having apparently failed to notice that ministers are not proposing what ABD suggest.

So, if ABDs suggestion is to be disregarded out of hand, who should set limits?

It does seem that at present limits are set for political reasons. When I asked about hundreds of speed limit reductions in Bucks, the council were unable to provide any evidence of any safety reasons for any of their reductions. That seems to be a very unprofessional approach and further erodes respect not just for speed limits, but for all our authorities as a whole.
Dave Finney - Slough

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It has, for the last twelve months, been a source of bewilderment to me that the ABD - which is held in contempt by most of those involved professionally in Road Safety - has so obviously gained the ears of Ministers.
Brian

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Never under estimate the power of ill informed people in small numbers...since when did the ABD represent anybody let alone drivers? I met an ABD rep once (few years back!) he had the 'nerve' to sit opposite me spouting the virtures of road safety education and publicity like he was qualified and then after the event he drove off without wearing a seatbelt! Candid camera and all that....wish I had taken that photo....the camera never lies.....boo hah!
Sue, Midlands

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Well said, Peter. The experts in setting speed limits are the trained and qualified highways and road safety engineers, who act with due reference to the views of the police as the enforcement agency and to the local community. All of which must operate within the national regulations and guidelines to ensure that there is a reasonable level of continuity of speed limits on our roads throughout the country. Any report to members will include assessments and recommendations from those engineers and also includes the views of the police on enforcement aspects and the views of the local community. This enables members to make an informed decision for which they are accountable to the community who elected them.
Honor Byford, North Yorkshire

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The setting of speed limits by the appropriate local authority is an inherent part of the democratic process of local government which through the ballot box holds elected member to account. The ABD proposal undermines democracy and reflects a lack of understanding of the Police role in society. The Police are there to uphold the law NOT to make it!
Peter Roffey, Leicestershire

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