Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
40. At the side of the roads are signs to tell
you that there are speed cameras in the locale.
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes.
41. At more than three-quarters of them there
is never a camera anywhere close to them. That has been going
on for years now. What input has the police got towards these
signs being put up?
(Mr Brunstrom) A significant amount. I have to agree
with you there are far too many signs. When we were going for
the old-fashioned, blanket approach of trying to persuade people
to change their behaviour, signs were an attempt to do that. What
we are going for now is a much more focussed signing, but it will
take a long time for signing standards to change. I think there
is scope for DTLR to do more to speed up that change, such that
motorists recognise that if they see speed camera signs there
is a reason for it.
42. Chief Constable, would you confirm or otherwise
that where there is a speed limit laid down by the law the median
speed on that stretch of road is always higher?
(Mr Brunstrom) Not always, sir, but very usually,
yes. Speeding is endemic.
43. All right: in the main.
(Mr Brunstrom) If left without enforcement, yes.
44. I am coming to that, but let me be specific.
Where there are 30 mile an hour legal limits, the median speed
in that area is a percentage higher. It could be 35, 36, 37, 38
(Mr Brunstrom) That is usually the experience, yes.
45. And similarly on motorways.
(Mr Brunstrom) That is true.
46. That leads me to my next question: When
you talk about effectiveness and public support and enforcement,
which are you trying to enforce? Are you trying to enforce the
legal limit or are you trying to enforce the median limit?
(Mr Brunstrom) We in the police service have to prove
the commission of a criminal offence beyond reasonable doubt.
In order to do so, we have to show to a court that a speed limit
was exceeded. In the case of a 30 mile an hour limit, the law
allows you to drive at 30. It does not allow you to drive at 31.
In order to ensure that we secure convictions, however, we cannot
enforce at 31 miles an hour because we cannot say with certainty
that your speed was not 30.9 miles an hour. The result of that
is that we cannot start enforcement until about four miles an
hour over a limit. That is the technological situation at the
moment. We are working to try and reduce that buffer zone through
better technology and it does offer significant potential for
improvements in the future. I do not think we would ever want
to pretend, on scientific advice, that we could enforce a 30 mile
an hour limit at 30 miles an hour. It is never going to be possible
to do that to the level beyond reasonable doubt, bearing in mind
that speedometers in a care are themselves only accurate to 10
per cent, if you are lucky. On top of that
Chairman: I think we have got the general point.
47. I think I understand that. You have given,
if I may suggest, a legalistic response to my question, but I
am more concerned about public perception and confusion. Given
that median speeds in the main are higher than the legal speed
limit, I am interested in what is the attitude of the police.
Never mind the legalistic argument, which I think I accept and
understand, as a policy approach are the police seeking to enforce
what may be termed appropriate speeds or are you seeking to enforce
(Mr Brunstrom) Thank you, and I will give you a much
less legalistic interpretation on this occasion. The research
evidence shows that the greatest casualty reductions are achieved
by tackling the more serious offenders first. We have not had
a consistent policy of speed enforcement across the United Kingdom
until now and one is growing out of the speed camera project.
We have reintroduced speed enforcement guidelinesand I
have given you a copy of those in my evidence. As part of the
speed camera project, each partnership area, including the Chief
Constable, is now required to specify how they are going to migrate
their enforcement levels down to the national standards. This
will result over the next several yearsbearing in mind
we are in a 10-year long project herein police enforcement
becoming more consistent in the first instance. It will start
at the higher end and it will push enforcement limits down closer
to the set speed limit. That will not be consistent across the
UK in the immediate future, but it will develop in the medium
48. So what we have then is legal requirements
that are not enforced because it is impractical to do so for whatever
reasons, and we have the police forces taking the view that that
is the case and therefore you can only address this issue in policy
terms and in enforcement terms by recognising that reality.
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes.
49. Could I then go on to the second question
about road policing as a priority. I understand that the Home
Office is trying to abolish road policing as one of its performance
indicators. How can the public/police forces take seriously road
policing when the Home Office appears to be wanting to abolish
it from the performance indicators?
(Mr Brunstrom) Literally yesterday, I heard Mr Denham,
the Police Minister, I think change that position slightly. The
Home Office had proposed to reduce the number of performance indicators
that we are required to keep by 50 per centwe have far,
far too many performance indicatorsand at an early stage
a proposal was made, we think, to remove the road death indicator.
I think that has not progressed and as recently as yesterday I
heard Mr Denham say that they were going to keep the current number
of indicators and spend longer consulting on a reduction. So,
hot of the press, there is now an open debate to be had about
what are appropriate indicators for the police service. I come
back to my comments to Mr O'Brien, that actually there needs to
be some clarity here. If the Home Office or the Government wishes
the police to take road policing seriously, we are going to need
to have an appropriate set of indicators to demonstrate whether
we are being successful or not.
50. So there is no ambiguity about this, in
terms of the police, if there were a reduction in performance
indicators, of which you say there are too many
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes, there are.
51. - this (that is the indicator of death and
injury per thousand population) is one which you would argue strongly
should be taken.
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes, I would.
52. In the evidence provided by the Department
of Transport, it is suggested that one in three road crashes have
speed as a contributory factor, not necessarily the main factor.
Speed as a contributory factor can either be excess speed (ie,
over the speed limit) or it can be inappropriate (eg, driving
fast in fog). I do not think you are able to differentiate clearly,
from the statistics provided by the Department Transport, between
the two, though the police must be the source of these statistics.
Do you have any breakdown of how many accidents are caused by
inappropriate speed (ie, under the speed limit) and how many are
caused by excess speed (ie, over the speed limit)?
(Mr Brunstrom) No, I am afraid we do not. You have
put your finger on really quite an important sore point, I think.
I cannot develop that any further, I am afraid. I wish that I
could. You are quite right to distinguish between inappropriate
and illegal speed.
53. It is quite fundamental to what you are
trying to do, because clearly if, say, 60 per cent of the accidents
caused were caused by inappropriate driving within the speed limit,
then the main thrust for the police should be on educating drivers
as well as enforcing speed limits.
(Mr Brunstrom) You are quite right and we are always
careful to include both categories of speeding in any conversations
we have: inappropriate and excessive (which is what we mean by
illegal speeding). We are on to the education aspects on bothand
of course they are, as you point out, different. What we do not
have is accurate statistics yet on which is which, and there is
research planned over the next several years to try and develop
that. Our data capture from collisions, which, as you correctly
point out, comes from the police, is not sufficiently sophisticated
yet to make that distinction. I would have to agree with you that
it should do. It is high time that it did.
54. It is not a good idea to formulate a policy
without proper statistics.
(Mr Brunstrom) Could I challenge that, however. We
have lots and lots of evidence that excessive speed/illegal speed
is causing significant numbers of casualties. What we cannot do
is separate the inappropriate speed from the excessive speed.
We are utterly confident that breaking the speed limit is killing
55. Just following on from what the Chief Constable
said about consistent policy enforcement, in some areas you see
speed cameras and in other areas on similar roads you do not.
Would you personally favour a sort of standard approach or a standard
set of criteria to be met for speed cameras to be installed?
(Mr Brunstrom) Yes. That is a fundamental part of
the safety camera scheme that the Government is progressing. You
will see greater consistency and more police force areas join
56. Repeater signs in 30 miles an hour limits.
Can you give me your perspective on whether they are desirable?
(Mr Brunstrom) There is a significant demand from
the public for them, no doubt at all. The public are confused;
they do not any longer understand how 30 mile an hour limits are
shown to you. The road engineers hate the concept like the plague
because you would have to have 30 mile limits on every lamppost
in every place in the country. So it is a very difficult issue.
We clearly need to find better ways of showing the public what
the limit is on a road. The current system, which I think was
designed in the 1920s, is life-expired.
57. Would it work to have a scheme which allows
local authorities the freedom to do it as opposed to making it
compulsory to have them?
(Mr Brunstrom) Broadly speaking, that already exists,
but the consequences of doing it are significant. Why do you have
a 30 mile an hour repeater sign on this road and not that one?
You will increasingly see roundels painted on the road surface,
for instance. There is a whole range of things that can be done.
The Government, I thinkand, in my view, quite rightlyis
trying to avoid 30 mile an hour limit repeater signs in every
30 mile an hour limit in the country. We have already got too
much street furniture and this will not assist, but there is a
problem that needs to be resolved.
58. Chief Constable, do you agree that one of
the main reasons perhaps why the public do not find speeding as
offensive as they do drink-driving is because many of our existing
speed limits are inconsistent and illogical? I said earlier to
the Chairman, on my journey between Chester and Crewe one village
has a 30 mile an hour limit and the next village, really for no
good reason, has no limit there. That is the first question. The
second question is: You said earlier that you would not like to
see the limit on motorways higher than it is. Bearing in mind
that, statistically, single carriage A roads are more dangerous,
would you therefore, by implication, prefer to see lower limits
on A roads, many of those which go through these villages where
there is speed inconsistency at the moment?
(Mr Brunstrom) Chairman, I fully and totally agree
with the Member. There is no logic to our speed limit systems
across the whole of the United Kingdom at the moment and there
ought to be. There is no doubt at all that it causes confusion
and discontent amongst motorists and it causes people to break
the lawbecause if you cannot see, as one of your colleagues
was asking, a reason why this limit applies then you are less
likely to voluntarily comply with it. OK, that is a problem. Resolving
it is a big issue and would be expensive and time-consuming but
probably, in the longer term, absolutely necessary. There ought
to be more consistency in speed limits. There is a safety case
to be made, in answer to the second part of your questionand
I am aware of the Chairman's caution previouslyfor lower
limits on single carriageway rural roads. Whether that is a good
idea for society is another matter. It might be that more targeted
speed limits, rather than a general reduction, would be a better
solution. You can show, because higher speed limits kill more
people, that lower speed limits kill fewer people, and you are
quite right there is a significant casualty problem on single
carriageway rural roads, partially caused by the fact that one
can travel on them at speeds that are dangerous. So we would not
reject a lower national limit, but it needs a great deal of careful
thought, and we have been very pleased to engage in that debate.
Helen Jackson: Do you have regular dialogue
with local authorities? Have you made the point that, as they
are the ones in the main who get lobbied by the local people,
by the local councillorsquite rightlythat they need
to be consistent in what they are doing?
59. There you are, Chief Constable: Are you
going to demand consistency from councillors?
(Mr Brunstrom) The answer to the question, Chairman,
is that we have an excellent dialogue with local authorities at
national level and at local level. The safety camera scheme, let
me repeat, is a wonderful example of joined-up governmentand
I include local government in that. You will see more consistency
being applied to this. Local authorities are entitled to net off
revenue from offenders to tackle those sorts of issues and you
will see a significant change in the next couple of years. Part
of what you are referring to at the moment is a legacy of prior
to the safety camera scheme, the netting-off system, which did
not work as well as the new.