Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
140. But what if you are killing 3,000 people?
If you kill 3,000 people with dysentery, can you imagine what
the headlines would be, yet we cheerfully seem to accept a figure
of 3,000 deaths on the roads.
(Dr Kimber) I believe that there is scope for reducing
that number very significantly by the application of speed management
141. But are you saying to us that the Home
Office said that they were going to review penalties and suggested
a higher penalty for drivers exceeding the speed limits, but they
have not made a final decision? Mrs Ellman's question is a very
good one. Who is not taking responsibility? Is the Home Office
not taking the lead in the way that they should? It is quite clear
the motoring organisations are not, because they do not even believe
the evidence of you or anybody else.
(Professor Allsop) We would like to see these things
142. Do not let Dr Kimber off the hook, Professor.
I shall come back to you in a minute. Come on, Dr Kimber.
(Dr Kimber) I cannot comment on the rate at which
the Home Office move forward on these issues. All I can say is
143. You just want more speed, is that right?
(Dr Kimber) It would be nice to go faster in all of
144. Do not rise to that!
(Dr Kimber) There is a strong imperative in that,
as you say, Chairman, the figures remain high, and despite the
gains of recent years there are still nearly 3,500 people a year
145. And children. Look at the number of children
(Dr Kimber) We need to move forward as fast as we
146. And the Home Office have not taken a decision.
Dr Carsten, do you want to take this?
(Dr Carsten) Yes, I do have concerns here. It is my
belief that there is a danger that the current Government will
not move as fast as the previous Administration promised in the
147. Why do you think that is so?
(Dr Carsten) There are some signs of hesitation, and
I think they are to be deplored.
148. Professor Allsop, you wanted to say something.
(Professor Allsop) Oliver has said part of it. This
is a personal view, it is not scientific, but my perception is
that when it comes to measures that would bear a little bit noticeably
on the very large number of drivers who have votes, there is a
reluctance to do something.
149. You are saying that populist responses
are more important than saving lives?
(Professor Allsop) I am not saying that. I am saying
that they may be seen as more important on the part of the Government.
Chairman: I sit corrected.
150. Would you say that the motoring organisations
exert a disparate proportionate influence and in fact are impeding
progress in this area?
(Dr Carsten) I think there is solid public support
for dealing with this problem. I think the Government is actually
often mis-perceiving what the great British public thinks here.
As Richard has already said, most residents want traffic-calming
on their streets; they fundamentally understand that fast traffic
and their children playing on the street are incompatible. People
understand that and people will learn over time that they can
be taught to reduce their speed. Enforcement and other measures
will help that. I do not think there is a real danger that we
will lose solid public support for this.
151. If the Government is getting this wrong
and is not fully understanding the general public's concerns,
whom is the Government listening to too much?
(Dr Carsten) I think certain newspapers often carry
undue influence. There is a lot of worry. Press officers in Government
sometimes have undue influence. I know from my personal experience
with research that sometimes there is interference by press officers
who do not want research published, and things like that.
152. Which government departments are these
press officers in? Can you name any?
(Dr Carsten) I do not think I would like to comment
(Professor Allsop) I think those who want to use their
cars most freely shout louder than people who want to be spared
the effect of that happening. The people who are wanting lower
speeds around their homes, I agree, in some areas are organised,
they are asking for things and there is action, but I am pretty
sureand there is technical support for thisthat
there are silent majorities that we do not hear of, quieter majorities
that we do not hear about. When I say that there is technical
support, in the MASTER research programme, which is referred to
in my memorandum, both drivers and pedestrians and cyclists were
asked, and both groups recognised speed as adversely affecting
their quality of life and their use of the road system. There
is a Europe-wide programme called SARTRE which is now in the second
round of asking people in a range of EU countries about their
attitudes to these kinds of road safety related questions. As
Oliver has said, many of the answers show that the scientifically
sound cross-section of opinion is much more favourable to quite
tough road safety policies than we have the feeling that our politicians
are sometimes aiming for.
153. Dr Carsten, following up the last comment
you made, has any government department, official or press officer
ever attempted to suppress any work that you have done or that
your colleagues have done?
(Dr Carsten) I think that if I gave the honest answer
to that, in terms of "attempted", the answer would be
yes. What I heard is
154. They did not succeed, did they?
(Dr Carsten) No. There have been attempts at stopping
research that was currently under way, because of concerns about
the publicity that might arise from that research.
155. Were those attempts successful?
(Dr Carsten) No. So in the end I think they thought
better of it and they realised probably that we would make an
incredible fuss if we did that and that would perhaps rebound
to their discredit.
156. Yellow cameras for checking speed: are
they a good idea?
(Mr Lynam) Perhaps I could answer that initially.
I said before that there were two purposes for cameras. If your
purpose is to identify very clearly a high-risk site, in much
the same way as many years ago there used to be signs saying "High-risk
site", then there is not necessarily a problem in having
a very conspicuous camera. Where it has in fact the wrong message
and a negative effect is in the situation where you are trying
much more broadly to influence people's attitudes and not trying
to identify it and simply say, "Slow down at this particular
site and drive fast everywhere else."
157. So you can have empty cameras that are
yellow and functioning ones that are covert?
(Mr Lynam) I would advocate having no cameras that
were empty, but it is a matter of cost, as I think the chief constables
(Professor Allsop) We need both kinds of cameras.
The law-abiding motorist should have nothing to fear from inconspicuous
158. Dr Carsten, with regard to this system
for controlling cars, is it a myth that I can accelerate out of
trouble on the road?
(Dr Carsten) The research evidence is that it is a
myth. Research studies on what we call conflictsnear accidentsindicated
that the vast majority of them, something like 95 per cent of
them, are avoided by a combination of braking, or braking and
swerving or swerving on its own, but primarily braking, particularly
in urban areas where the incidents are longitudinal.
159. So the system could actually be 100 per
cent effective if it could stop people breaking the speed limit?
(Dr Carsten) The system could completely stop people
from breaking the speed limit, and if we wanted to we could be
absolutely precise on that, we could cut them off at 31 mph or
even 30.1 mph in an urban area, because we can use digital speed