Brake ‘horrified’ by funding threats to road safety

13.05 | 23 July 2010 | | 16 comments

Brake has reacted with horror at the news that road safety programmes are being disbanded by some local authorities following cuts to the road safety grant by central government.
The charity says that the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership is ‘ceasing operations in Oxfordshire as a result of funding cuts, meaning safety cameras will be switched off and other road safety work discontinued’.
Julie Townsend, Brake deputy chief executive, said: “We are horrified that vital road safety work is grinding to a halt as a result of draconian funding cuts made by the Government.

"We have made a huge amount of progress in reducing tragic, needless and costly road deaths and injuries in recent years – progress that is at great risk of being undone.
“Road safety partnerships around the UK are delivering highly successful and economic work – particularly through the use of speed cameras. We have a vast amount of evidence showing that cameras are extremely effective in cutting casualties and slowing traffic.

"Turning cameras off, and pulling the plug on other important road safety work, is a disastrous blow for those communities relying on cameras to protect them, and an insult to those crying out for measures to cut speeds in their neighbourhoods and those families so traumatically bereaved by speed.
“We are urging local authorities around the country to spread these funding cuts across departments – to at least ensure that existing measures that are proven to prevent deaths and injuries are not withdrawn.”
Brake has also written to all local authority chief executives urging them to ensure that life-saving road safety programmes are continued.

For more information contact Ellen Booth at Brake.


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    Mr Bridgstock, your work is “conjecture” as defined, a guess, without basis.

    You are confusing the work of speed in the outcome of a collision with its influence on the likelihood of a collision.

    Your work shows that you are ignorant of the facts and misrepresent them; that sir is not conjecture.

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    last week our class held a similar discussion about this topic and you illustrate something we haven’t covered yet, appreciate that.

    – Laura

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    Mark of Wiltshire

    A puerile and failed attempt to counter the Conjecture.

    I will pick out your attempts to discredit the Conjecture.

    I am a Maths, Computing and Stats graduate (from 1977) and explain the usage of the term “conjecture” within the paper – “something that appears correct and has not been disproved”. Other definitions are available, but this one best suits this situation.

    “Excessive speed is hazardous at the wrong time and place”. Depends what you mean by “excessive speed”. If you mean above the speed limit, where the speed limit is well below the 85%ile speed, then you are labouring under a misapprehension. Speed cameras are always installed where the prosecution threshold is below the 85%ile speed. Please define “excessive speed”.

    “Therefore safety cameras do contribute to mitigating the hazardous condition”. That may be so, but the likelihood of that preventing a collision or casualty is diminishingly small – incredible (Scenario 2 deals with this situation).

    “I don’t recall ever hearing of a chevron suddenly jumping up off the road surface and physically separating two vehicles about to collide, or force its way between two vehicles about to get too close to each other”.
    A desperate comment. A chevron is a clear indication to all drivers that the bend ahead is sharper than it may appear or sharper than most other bends. As a result, drivers will adjust their speed and concentration in order to navigate it safely. The chevron is probably there because vehicles had previously failed to get round the bend. A clear link to accidents prevented.

    “’speed is rarely a contributing factor to the cause of a collision’. A quick look at table 4b: Contributory factors: Accidents by severity:……” You reference is not for “contributing factor to the CAUSE” but contributory factors to the OUTCOME. Quite different. If the cause of the high speed was, say, drugs, then no speed camera will influence the outcome (but speed would have been ticked on the STATS19 sheet.
    The reference to “highly trained police officers after they have assessed the scene” is wishful thinking. STATS19 data, and particularly the assessment of the contribution of speed, is notoriously difficult to assess and has been recognised by the DfT and most road safety professionals as being inadequate and unreliable.

    “The author also writes that cameras present a safety risk because they cause distraction and sudden braking. Distraction and sudden braking at the sight of a safety camera is the result of poor driving/riding skills. I have seen drivers/riders brake suddenly when they see a marked police vehicle, also the result of poor driving/riding skills.”
    Agreed. But when there is no proof that the presence of the camera has improved road safety in any way (and if there was you’d be singing it from the rooftops and we’d all agree with you) then introducing hazards and risks is a breach of a Duty of Care.
    For the record, I have no issue with police patrols as their presence enables them to pick up drunks, drugs, mobile phones, aggressive driving and other dangerous habits clearly improving road safety.

    The Bridgstock Conjecture remains valid as the most rigorous assessment of the safety effectiveness of speed cameras (and other speed management techniques) to date.

    Driving involves positioning your vehicle relative to the road layout and other road users, proceeding at an appropriate speed, in the appropriate gear, and monitoring and adjusting those using the steering wheel, pedals and other controls, in response to hazards. It also involves observing, and signalling intent to other road users. Good drivers develop the ability to do all of these instinctively and even poor drivers manage to do most of them fairly well most of the time. Speed management, and speed cameras in particular, focuses a disproportionate amount of attention on just one aspect of driving – speed – reducing the time and attention available for the others. When most collisions involve misjudgement, poor observation or a lack of concentration, it is inevitable that such interventions will increase risk to all road users and contribute to more accidents than they could ever prevent.

    Eric Bridgstock, St Albans
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    I’ve read ‘The BRIDGSTOCK CONJECTURE’. My first comment is – wishful thinking! The choice of the word ‘conjecture’ used in the title of the document is somewhat unfortunate. The Oxford Popular English Dictionary entry for this word is – 1.Formation of an opinion on incomplete grounds. 2. A guess.

    The author writes on the first page above the title “A-near proof that speed cameras cannot prevent collisions or casualties”. Also written is “Speed cameras of all types increase risk to all road users and hence reduce road safety”.

    I do not accept the views postulated in the document. They are easily refuted.

    The author writes ‘Speed cameras cannot prevent collisions by magic’ He is absolutely right. He states that ‘they have to contribute some intervention to the collision process’ They cannot, of course, physically intervene in the collision process. In his scenario 1, the author writes ‘All true road safety devices have a clear link to preventing collisions or injury’. He describes mitigating the hazardous condition or the triggering event. Excessive speed is hazardous at the wrong time and place. Safety cameras are sited where there excessive speed has been a causal factor or where excessive speed is seen as a potential causal factor in collisions. A camera site will only become operational after detailed assessments by trained personnel have taken place. Therefore safety cameras do contribute to mitigating the hazardous condition.

    The author, in scenario 1, writes that seatbelts, crash barriers, rear-foglights and chevrons etc., can all be easily explained by most people as to how they reduce collisions or casualties.

    These devices on occasions do contribute to reducing collisions and thus casualties. They do, of course, on occassions reduce the severity of injuries to vehicle occupents as a result of a collision. The author states that ‘no such linkage exists for speed cameras’ It will depend upon how you view the linkage. If the implication is of a physical linkage; then, of course, a safety camera cannot grow some sort of octopoid arm and physically intervene to prevent a collision. Having mentioned that, I don’t recall ever hearing of a chevron suddenly jumping up off the road surface and physically separating two vehicles about to collide, or force its way between two vehicles about to get too close to each other!

    In Scenario 2 he writes that ‘speed is rarely a contributing factor to the cause of a collission’. A quick look at table 4b: Contributory factors: Accidents by severity: GB 2007 (fatalities) will show exceeding the speed limit – 342, travelling too fast for the conditions – 417. Therefore in some 29% of fatal collisions; exceeding the speed limit (13%) and travelling too fast for the conditions (16%), were seen as contributory factors. These figures come from the reports of highly trained police officers after they have assessed the scene of a collision.

    The author also writes that cameras present a safety risk because they cause distraction and sudden braking. Distraction and sudden braking at the sight of a safety camera is the result of poor driving/riding skills. I have seen drivers/riders brake suddenly when they see a marked police vehicle, also the result of poor driving/riding skills.

    The Bridgstock Conjecture does not present a cogent argument for the removal of safety cameras.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    Mark (Wiltshire) says “I thought a number of individuals and organisations had explained that many times!. Wishful thinking.
    Many people have noted that collisions fall after a camera is installed following a cluster of collisions. But no-one has explained how the camera contributed to that. My research (the Bridgstock Conjecture) sets out the arguments and challenges to the accepted wisdom that the camera helped. It is based on sound safety engineering principles, an understanding of how collisions happen and what can/cannot prevent or mitigate them.
    It finishes by asking for an example of a crash where it could credibly be argued that a camera could have prevented it.
    If you let me have contact details, I can send it to you.
    Jessica Fox Taylor and Andy Wilson already have the Conjecture, which is well on its way to becoming a proof.
    The corollary will show why cameras are detrimental to road safety – a view underlined by the LV= report suggesting that 28,000 accidents could be attributed to speed cameras over the last decade.

    Yes, the cameras are being chopped for financial reasons but the safety argument is far more powerful.

    Eric Bridgstock, St Albans
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    Interesting. The gentlemen who doesn’t like safety cameras comments – ‘no-one has has explained why the likelihood of any speed camera preventing a collision or casualty is anything other than diminishingly small’.I thought a number of individuals and organisations had explained that many times.

    As for counties withdrawing from their partnerships and partnerships closing; all the media reports I read indicated that the reasoning leading to the decisions was related to funding issues – nothing to do with an understanding that safety cameras don’t do the job they were designed to do. That’s the trouble with rationalisations – they are not always correct.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    Just back from holiday to find a variety of comments about my work but no-one has has explained why the likelihood of any speed camera preventing a collision or casualty is anything other than diminishingly small.
    Well, thankfully, the decision makers in Oxfordshire and Wiltshire understand and have decided to shut down their camera partnerships. Others will follow.

    Eric Bridgstock
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    I see the usual rehash of “cameras don’t work” is being wheeled out by ill informed, biased and ignorant motorists who wish to drive at whatever speed they think is appropriate. The FACT is that since cameras reached their peak in 2004/05 the number of people killed on the roads has reduced by around 1,000. Of course, this may or may not be co-incidence. Just like the flawed arguments for regression-to-mean spouted by those who criticise speed cameras. I’m a driver and I want more cameras. As for Eric Bridgstock’s views as expressed on the so called Safe Speed web site, I would bet my house that at some time in the past he was caught speeding. Some people just can’t let things go.

    Paul Keats, Kent
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    Many thanks for the link Alastair – I’ve studied the email. Some of the content contains rationalisations that border on mysticism! That and the addition of some non-sequiters makes it entertaining reading. There’s nothing really new in the content. The same tired views have been aired elsewhere.

    Let’s assume that some of the views present a cogent argument (humour me here!). Ok so cameras are a distraction and can cause some drivers to brake rather quickly (not all drivers only some, ‘some’ is quite a key word when used in this context ). If road users Delve in to their memory they’ll probably remember some occasions when passing a stationary police traffic patrol vehicle, and noticing – surpise, surprise – some brake lights coming on a bit quickly! Similar memories will reveal mind’s eye images of driving along a multi-lane road and several vehicles being overtaken by a well driven/ridden police traffic patrol vehicle. Guess what? Some more brake lights coming on quite quickly! Ah! Roads policing vehicles are a distraction and therefore a hazard, so let’s stop their deployment forthwith! But the posted email postulates the opinion that we need more traffic police. Hmmm! Non-sequiter territory here! Oh! by the way, is there a corollary that a crash near a police vehicle could result in a claim of distraction? Hmmm!

    The reality is that these kinds of reaction from drivers/riders are the result of poor driving and riding skills. Not all drivers and riders react in this way, but some do (there’s that key word again ‘some’).

    With some of the views expressed in the email, you could broaden the argument a little further and pose the following point; that police officers have patrolled in increased numbers in some sensitive areas, and in some of those areas this has resulted in a degree of civil unrest, which is hazardous. Therefore we should not deploy police officers in these numbers. However, the smaller number now face increased personal risk due to lack of support, therefore, perhaps we should not deploy any police officers.

    Human nature, in a lot of cases, is such that if a person does something wrong and ends up getting caught, including breaking the law, there’s a tendency to whinge and dream up a rationalisation as to why they shouldn’t have been caught the way they were. Nothing new in this either!

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    I’ve read many comments in the past about cameras and road safety partnerships, mainly from members of the public not road safety professionals, which state that what’s needed is driver education and more traffic police not just blanket speed enforcement. We know this. In an ideal world we wouldn’t need speed cameras. I have yet to hear any reasonable suggestion as to how this could be achieved however; bearing in mind that we have about 33 million motorists in the UK and any change in the training and testing system would take a generation to make a significant difference. And roads policing budgets are being cut… Perhaps these individuals with all the answers should get involved and become part of the solution. I suspect if they spent a few days in a road safety unit they may begin to think differently.

    Dave, Leeds
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    I have just read an interesting email from Mr Bridgstock posted on the Safe Speed Forum website
    I have posted the link as I thought other road safety professionals would like the opportunity to examine Mr Bridgstock’s claims in more detail.

    Alistair Houghton, Kirklees
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    Utter madness.
    Road traffic related injury is the commonest cause of major trauma in the UK. Almost 70% of survivors to hospital with severe injury are from road traffic collisions and over 80% of all pre-hospital trauma deaths are road traffic related. The burden of trauma care is so great that the Department of Health has retained trauma service improvement as the only reconfiguration project within the revised NHS Operating Framework.

    Speed enforcement devices of every kind reduce crashes – the Cochrane reviews show this very clearly.

    So while the DoH is spending money on improving trauma care, the DfT is cutting back on the very measures which reduce the largest single cause of major trauma.

    Sheer madness.

    Rod Mackenzie
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    Andy I agree. Where can we get a copy of your research Eric?

    While it is a shame that Road Safety does seem to be among the long list of areas having to take a budget cut, it has always been important to spend money based on those initiatives backed up with research and evidence that they give significant results in reducing accidents.

    Jessica Fox-Taylor, Bath and North East Somerset Council
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    Interesting stuff Eric and not an ‘allegedly’ in sight. I’d be fascinated to read a copy of your submission to BRAKE as this is a subject which is becoming more relevant by the day.

    Andy Wilson, Knowsley
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    speed cameras work in my areas, slowing traffic through small vllages, kindly take your comment crusade else where.

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    BRAKE receive significant funding from speed camera manufacturers. BRAKE also have detailed investigative research from me explaining why the likelihood of any speed camera preventing a collision or casualty is diminishingly small (the Bridgstock Conjecture). They have to continue to promote cameras to preserve their income.

    Eric Bridgstock, St Albans
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