Transport professionals can spend too much time debating among themselves in the specialist transport press .
So RDRF Chair Dr. Robert Davis thought it time to give some support to the columnist “Hedgehog” in the mass circulation Private Eye. “Hedgehog” had been opposing proposed cuts in speed cameras and pointed out, among other things, that existing criteria for installation are far slacker than those required in safety regimes other than those of “road safety”. Unusually for a mass publication, he has also raised the central RDR issue of low cycling and walking casualty numbers often being associated with more, not less, danger on the road deterring walking and cycling. This drew the wrath from the usual quarters, so here’s the reply:
Speed freaks like Chas Bazeley (Letters, Eye 1270) invert the correct use of physics and psychology. Smeed’s Law shows that increasing traffic congestion intensity reduces casualty rates as motorists are compelled to slow down and watch out for other traffic; also lower (and therefore less destructive) kinetic energy is dispersed on impact due to lower speed when crashes do occur.
His ludicrous alternative is that motorists can only concentrate properly if they drive faster. Of course, this does point to one of the failures of speed cameras: their advertised presence and small numbers, thus allowing motorists to feel less need to watch their speed elsewhere. As with all the other areas of rule-breaking on the road, the real prospect of law enforcement and deterrent sentencing for those endangering others could work wonders for creating necessary motorists’ concentration levels. Speed is only one factor in threatening other people’s lives: that is an argument for extending controls to other areas, not cutting them for speed.
Speed fanatics will cherry pick the statistics, and they are right that some casualties will indeed be declining – but due to the (Smeed again) relationship of economic recession with road death numbers.
Most importantly, the splendid Hedgehog has shown how casualty numbers are anyway a poor indicator of danger on the road. Very often the more vulnerable (and less dangerous to others) forms of transport are restricted – such as with parents preventing children from cycling and walking – precisely because of excessive danger on the roads, whether or not casualties are recorded “
Dr. Robert Davis, Chair Road Danger Reduction Forum
Published Private Eye 17-30 September 2010 No. 1271