Safe Speed

Safe Speed

thumbnail|right|Safe_Speedroundel with the group's initials.]

Safe Speed is a British pressure group. Safe Speed primarily campaigns against speed cameras, arguing that abiding by a speed limit does not guarantee safe driving, and that motoring laws can be more appropriately and proportionately enforced without the use of these devices. It is often cited in mainstream media such as the BBC in order to represent another view on road safety issues. Safe Speed claims that it does not oppose speed enforcement against those who drive dangerously.

Safe Speed

Safe Speed is a non-profit organisation which receives notable media attention.cite web
title = Safe Speed Needs YOU!
publisher = Safe Speed
url =
] The name "Safe Speed" originates from one of its core beliefs, namely, "Always ensure that you can stop comfortably, on your own side of the road, within the distance that you know to be clear.".cite web
title = Safe Speed Background Page
publisher = Safe Speed
url =
] One prominent supporter is academic Dr Alan Buckingham, a specialist in family life and relationships at Bath Spa University College and a contributor to The Centre for Independent Studies.cite web
title = Dr Alan Buckingham
publisher = Safe Speed
url =
] [cite web
title = Personal Profile For Dr Alan Buckingham
publisher = Bath Spa University
url =

Paul Smith

Safe Speed was founded by Paul Smith (1955-2007), who described himself as a former computer electronics engineer.cite press release | url = | title = "Safe Speed founder gives up life for road safety" | publisher = Safe Speed | date = 31 December 2007] and an "advanced motorist and road safety enthusiast". [cite web | url = | title = "Press release index and media information" | publisher = Safe Speed ] Since founding the organisation in 2001, Smith ran the project as a hobby from his home in Scotland for some time but in 2003, following a heart attack, he wound down his computer engineering business and ran Safe Speed full time, at some significant personal cost. He continued to run it until his death on 13 December 2007, aged 52.cite web | url = | title = "Safe Speed founder Paul Smith dies" | publisher = Motor Cycle News ] The campaign has been taken over by his partner of 22 years, Claire Armstrong.

Smith was also a member of the motorists' lobby group Association of British Drivers (ABD).

Smith has posthumously received a surge in fame after a video clip of him being interviewed on Sky News about the main risks of fumbling, losing or not correctly filling in the notice that UK drivers receive after being caught by a speed camera appeared on YouTube. [cite web | url = | title = "Bloke On Sky News Who Acts Like David Brent" | publisher = ] In particular, many members of the public found that Smith's mannerisms and style of delivery closely matched those of the fictional character David Brent, created by British comedian Ricky Gervais for his hit TV show The Office (UK). This popularity led to the creation of many tributes to the original video, including several imitations [cite web | url = | title = "Re: Bloke On Sky News Who Acts Like David Brent" | publisher = ] [cite web | url = | title = "Sky News bloke **new" | publisher = ] , a song [cite web | url = | title = "Bloke On Sky News Who Acts Like David Brent - The Song!" | publisher = ] (all of which were posted on YouTube's website) and even an Appreciation Society [cite web | url = | title = "Bloke On Sky News Who Acts Like David Brent Appreciation Society" | publisher = Facebook ] on Facebook.

Safe Speed's claims

Several motorists’ groups claim that there is no observable correlation between camera use and speeding fines, and improvements in road safety.Fact|date=December 2007 Safe Speed claims that use of cameras actively reduces safety. A number of their claims are listed below:

* "Speed kills, kills": That the prevailing safety message “speed kills” is misplaced, and that setting a safe speed for the conditions is more important.

* "One third of fatalities are now caused by speed cameras": By extrapolating the change in number of fatalities between two selected years to predict the fatality figure had that year-on-year trend continued, Safe Speed reach this figure based on the advent of speed cameras in the early 1990s.

* Distraction: That drivers, fearing a speeding conviction, may be distracted from driving, overshadowing any benefits from speed enforcement. Safe Speed claims that a one second distraction could increase the speed of any impact by about 10 mph.

* Judging a safe speed: To apply an appropriate speed for the road conditions, at all times. To select a speed at which the driver can safely stop in the distance seen to be clear ahead. That the use of speed limits may reduce a drivers' ability to judge an appropriate speed.

* Regression to the mean: That government claims of reduced casualties at crash sites are inevitable and do not represent real improvement. That is, the number of accidents prior to placement of the camera was abnormal, so the subsequent drop is statistically expected.

* Travel speed vs. impact speed: Safe Speed criticise claims that reduced vehicle speed increases pedestrian survival in the event of a crash. They argue that this is misleading, as impact speed is much lower. Safe Speed has lodged at least one (so far unsuccessful) formal complaint against public information films on this theme.

* "Cameras don't catch dangerous drivers": That speed cameras cannot assess dangerous driving or catch dangerous drivers. Safe Speed also notes that cameras do not stop drivers on site, as police do.

* Excessive speed unimportant: That 15% of collisions are caused by excessive speed, citing Transport Research Laboratory report 323 published in the 1990s (see appendix H).

* Traffic policing more effective: That traffic police numbers have decreased since the 1990s, due to the introduction of speed cameras. Safe Speed argue that police speed traps are more effective and can detain offenders on site.

* Camera accuracy: That there have been "slip error" issues with the accuracy of speed cameras including LTI 20-20/21 type cameras (Lidar) and GATSO devices.

Questioning the case for speed enforcement

In a report by the Department for Transport figures from 2005 show that breaking the posted speed limit accounts for 5% of crashes. [cite web | url = | title = "DfT Road Casualty Statistics 2005" | publisher = Department for Transport ] The report shows figures for crashes involving speeding are:
* Fatal crashes 12%
* Serious crashes 7%
* Slight crashes 4%
* All crashes 5%

The British Medical Journal published a report that questioned the accuracy of the police STATS19 reporting method which is at odds with data reported by hospitals. [cite web | url = | title = "Changes in safety on England's roads" | publisher = British Medical Journal ] The BMJ in this report concluded that "The overall fall seen in police statistics for non-fatal road traffic injuries probably represents a fall in completeness of reporting of these injuries."

Opposition and criticism

There have been few formal studies evaluating the claims made by Safe Speed. Safe Speed's interpretation of research has in some cases been directly rebutted by the authors of that research, including TRL and Hans Jocksch.Fact|date=December 2007 Critics such as George Monbiot have argued that Safe Speed is much more about speed than safety, [cite web | url = | title = " Paul Smith and Safe Speed - the Self-Exposure of a Crank" | publisher = ] and is part of a "culture of speed". [cite web | url = | title = " The Anti-Social Bastards in Our Midst" | publisher = ] Reduction of traffic speeds in residential areas (including by use of home zones and so-called "Shared Space") remains a core road safety policy in the UK.Fact|date=December 2007

One third of fatalities

The "one third" claim was disputed by the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS) and the National Safety Camera Liaison (NSCL), which cite seatbelt and alcohol laws introduced prior to the 1990s, and recent increased road use and mobile phone use as better explanations for the perceived increase in casualties. The method of extrapolating from two years' data is also disputed.cite journal
journal = Which?
title = Speed Cameras
year = 2004
month = October
pages = 18
] NSCL also point out that Safe Speed's figures are based entirely on accident totals, rather than distinguishing roads with or without speed cameras.

Which? magazine reported that NSCL cite three studies which do allow for long-term trends, and which confirm the correlation between speed cameras and accident reduction.

Travel speed vs. impact speed

Hans Jocksch responded to Safe Speed's calculation of pedestrian fatality risk at low speeds stating that this formula could not be used for speeds below 40mph and asking for all references to his name to be removed. The page still exists and is still based on his formula.Fact|date=December 2007

Which Magazine

Which? magazine magazine reported that TRL dispute Safe Speed’s interpretation of TRL 323. In particular they point out that the study was dependent on subjective judgements of primary cause, and that many of the other primary causes listed also implied excessive speed - however, excessive speed is not necessarily the same as 'exceeding the posted limit'. Other TRL studies (e.g. 421 and 511) have directly examined the relationship between speed and accidents, finding a strong association. A study of over 300 roads and encompassing several hundred thousand observations demonstrated that the higher the average speed of traffic on a given type of road, the more accidents there are. The study also demonstrated that injury accidents rise as average speed increases (if all else remains constant).

Safe Speed claim that these and other studies are propaganda. [ [ TRL421 etc ] ] [ [ TRL Fudge ] ]

Further reading

*DfT's "four-year" report. See Appendix H for discussion of "Regression to the mean".cite web
year = 2005
url =
title = The national safety camera programme: Four-year evaluation report
format = PDF
publisher = PA Consulting
accessdaymonth = 26 February
accessyear = 2006
*Dr Mountain's work at the RSS:


External links

* cite web
url =
title = "Safe Speed"
publisher = Safe Speed

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