THINK! speed campaign ‘exaggerated risks’

09.39 | 17 September 2010 | | 8 comments

The DfT has admitted that figures used in a THINK! anti-speed campaign overestimated the chances of a pedestrian being killed when hit by a car at moderate speeds, according to a report in the Telegraph.

The Think! campaign told drivers that a pedestrian hit by a car travelling at 30mph had a 20% chance of being killed, while at 40mph there was an 80% chance of death.

The Telegraph article says the figures used during the campaign were based on 1970s data, since when car design has changed radically and emergency medical care improved dramatically. It says that the latest research shows that the probability of death is now 7% at 30mph and 31% at 40mph.

Mike Penning, the road safety minister, said: “Road safety is a priority for the government but misleading statistics only serve to undermine our case, not help it. This government will be absolutely straight with the public. That’s why we have published this data as soon as we were made aware of it.

“However, the fact remains that the risk of death is still approximately four times higher when a pedestrian is hit at 40mph than at 30mph. So no one should be in any doubt that 30mph limits protect pedestrians, and that to speed through residential areas puts lives at risk.”

Robert Gifford, executive director of PACTS, welcomed the publication of the updated figures.

He said: "This research puts together three sets of data and provides us with a picture of what happens to real people in the world in today’s environment. It is an important contribution to our knowledge about how speed can affect the chances of survival as both a pedestrian and a car driver in a crash.

"The key point is that the confirmation that injury risk rises substantially once cars are travelling at over 30mph in urban areas.”

Click here to read the full Telegraph news report.


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    Let’s get this in perspective. The campaign in question was launched in 2004. The figures used were based on a 1992 paper, (Pasanen), which analysed data from 1979, (Ashton and Mackay). My understanding is that this was still a well regarded piece of research in 2004.

    Obviously this latest research which looks at the risk of a pedestrian dying when they are hit by a car travelling at different speeds wasn’t around in 2004 – it was only published on Friday 17th September 2010.

    I notice the THINK! team have rightly removed all reference to the old figures since the launch of this research. We as road safety professionals should now use the latest data in our work and amend any presentation slides or references we make to the old research.

    The new research is also useful for it confirms that the risk of a pedestrian dying when hit by a car rises sharply above 30mph. Indeed, as has already been said it shows the risk of death is still approximately four times higher when a pedestrian is hit at 40mph than at 30mph.

    James Gibson Press & PR Officer RSGB
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    When this particular campaign was being run by the DfT, I was never comfortable with the information imparted especially when it came to the TV ads. It suggested that it was OK to hit a child at a speed less than 40 mph but didn’t actually say it was unacceptable to hit someone with a car at all! As Vince Morley suggests,does this mean we can’t trust any of the stats provided by the DfT? There are lies, damn lies and road safety statistics!

    Joe – Sefton
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    The bottom line is still this: the faster you’re going the more damage you’ll cause. Can anyone seriously disagree with that? A 31% chance of death at a collision at 40mph should be enough to slow anyone down.

    John Billington Sandwell
    Agree (1) | Disagree (1)

    Let’s hope it becomes a ‘green light’ for those campaigning to seek the truth, and not rely on outdated statistics.

    Derek Reynolds, St Albans.
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This is very encouraging.

    There is so much spin and deception in road safety that it is refreshing to hear a little honesty for once. Let’s hope this is a start towards a policy of honesty.

    For instance, if we look at the reasons that pedestrians are killed or seriously injured, we find that up to 2% may have involved a vehicle exceeding a speed limit.

    Therefore it’s all very well telling us how dangerous it is to hit a pedestrian at a speed above the limit, but 98% of all pedestrian KSIs do not involve a speeding vehicle.

    Therefore the entire national campaign, backed up by prosecuting millions of citizens, cannot make any noticable improvement to road safety for pedestrians.

    And that’s assuming the campaign does not have negative side effects resulting in more pedestrian KSIs.

    Dave Finney – Slough
    Agree (1) | Disagree (0)

    Is the DfT willing to fund the replacement of road safety partners marketing materials which were produced in good faith and which had been based upon their statistics – to ensure they are now accurate?

    Jan Deans Dynamic Group
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

    This is very worrying indeed.

    I have used this campaign, and the figures quoted, on numerous occasions. We now find the statistics are out of date which effectively undermines all the work I’ve put in on this. Yes, it still proves that the higher the speed the greater the consequences (but didn’t we know that anyway), but the general public can be forgivien if they now take the attitude of ‘I don’t believe what I’m being told’ and therefore fail, or refuse, to modify their behaviour. I have always, perhaps naively, trusted the stats from the Think! campaign – it is disappointing to discover the innacuracies in this particular instance. How many more cases are there? Will I now have to research all the other statistics for all the other campaigns just to check they are accurate?

    Added to the recent report by Dr McKenna (which I am still ploughing through) questioning the benefits of road safety ETP as a means to reducing casualties, it appears a case is being made to undermine the position of all RSO’s across the country.

    Will this be the green light for us all to be made redundant?

    Vince Morley MK
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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