Exmination of Witnesses (Questions 76-79)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
76. Good morning, gentlemen. May I ask you,
first of all, to identify yourselves for the record?
(Mr Dawson) I am the AA's policy director and managing
director for the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research, and chairman
of the European Road Assessment Programme which may be relevant
this morning. On my left is Andrew Howard, the AA's head of Road
(Mr King) I am executive director of the RAC Foundation.
(Mr Delaney) I am the Traffic and Road Safety Manager
for the RAC Foundation.
77. Do any of you have anything you would like
to say before we begin the questioning?
(Mr Dawson) If I might just make a couple of remarks,
we have not brought out this morning yet that the wrong speed
on the wrong road contributes about a thousand deaths a year.
We do have to manage it better and that is something that motorists,
I think, are beginning to understand. We have to have a research-evidence
based approach to this, and the AA Foundation's research into
why drivers speed and how they understand our speed limit system
was, I think, instrumental in putting speed firmly on the mainstream
national agenda a couple of years ago. From that we have concluded
that we need to develop our system and communicate it, so that
people really understand it and buy into it because they know
it is there to reduce real risk of death and serious injury. Our
policy theme, if you like, is managing speed with public support.
The other remark I would like to make because a lot of the discussion
tends to take place about urban areas is that there are two huge
road safety challenges that face us: the first is in urban areas
where the majority of deaths and serious injuries take place where
slowing down is vital, but most people on our roads die on roads
outside built-up areas, and there is a huge area of neglect, particularly
on our single carriage-way roads.
(Mr King) Briefly, the RAC Foundation's approach to
this is we would like to see a more flexible approach to speed
limits and we take some of our examples from other European countries.
For example, in France there is a higher speed limit on motorways
in good weather conditions and a lower one in bad. We believe
that kind of flexibility is sensible. Likewise in America there
is much more enforcement outside schools when children are going
in and out of schools with flashing orange lights, but not at
three o'clock in the morning when there is not so much of a safety
element, and we believe that kind of flexibility will win the
support of the motoring public. I must say I do have some concern
about some of the comments about making speeding as socially unacceptable
as drink driving, and the reason I raise that is that 55 per cent
of motorists on motorways regularly break the speed limit and
I do not think they go out with an intention to kill, as perhaps
a drink driver does, so, therefore, I think we should address
these speed limits. Either the police should enforce the 70 mph
limit or we should have a sensible debate about it to see if it
is not better to have an 80 mph limit in good weather, reduce
it in bad weather, but have the police enforce it. Why do people
do 80 mph on the M4 motorway? Because they know they can get away
with it, so it is not a credible limit. I think if we have credible
limits on the motorways it might make motorists respect limits
in urban areas where 74 per cent of injury accidents occur.
78. But in your memorandum, Mr King, you quote
a West Midlands study showing speed was the cause of only 2 per
cent of the accidents, and then you say that the figure of 30
per cent is not acceptable to you. Do you really say that the
evidence that speed is a contributory factor in 30 per cent of
the accidents is wrong?
(Mr Delaney) Perhaps I can deal with that, Madam Chairman.
I have here a copy of "Road Accidents, Great Britain",
a Department of Transport document, containing statistics relating
to road accidents. There is not one single statistic in this book
relating speed to collisionsnot oneor casualties
or anything else. There are details about casualties and collisions
in areas with different speed limits but not one statistic in
this book or published nationally anywhere, to the best of my
knowledge and belief, actually relates excess or inappropriate
speed to levels of collisions. That is not to say that excess
or inappropriate speed is acceptable: clearly no one but a fool
would suggest that. What I am suggesting is that the mantra that
is often put forward by the Department of Transport, by the Association
of Chief Police Officers and others, that speed is a factor in
30 per cent of fatal and serious accidents is not borne out by
the details in this book. The point has been made already but
it is worth repeating: that what we need here is some hard statistical
evidence to ensure that the careful targeting that Mr Brunstrom
spoke about is based on some real statistics.
79. That is an interesting attitude. Can I ask
the AA about their memo which says they agree with the finding
of other experts and disagree with the RAC. Why?
(Mr Dawson) What it says is that from our own work
we do support the analysis of 30 per cent of accidents having
speed as a contributory cause. However, the memorandum says very
clearly, which is not massively inconsistent with the emphasis
that I would think that Mr Delaney has put on it, that the research
is not good. We talk very carefully in our memorandum about the
rather difficult research methodologies that are involved in this.