THE CONSEQUENCES OF REPORTING BY
THE NATIONAL MEDIA
128. The portrayal of cars in the media plays a part
in the public's view that speeding is a trivial offence. Its campaigns
against safety cameras and traffic calming are in danger of undermining
key planks of the Government's safety policy. A few organisations
argued that such campaigns did nothing more than reflect public
opinion. The RAC Foundation stated:
"e-mails, letters and telephone calls to the
RAC Foundation suggests that there is a growing level of cynicism
among motorists of all groups that central and local Government
road safety strategy and police enforcement activity has become
disproportionately concentrated on excess speed. ...There is a
widespread and growing perception among motorists and sections
of the media ... that speed camera deployment is as, or more,
motivated by their revenue raising capacity as by considerations
of road user safety".
The RAC Foundation, however, added that this view
might not be correct.
129. In contrast, the majority of the evidence which
we received argued the opposite case - that campaigns against
safety measures did not represent public opinion. The Association
of Chief Police Officers memo notes "There is a wealth of
information to show that the public do in fact support the use
of safety cameras in this way".
However, there is concern that the campaigns will have an effect
on public opinion and are already affecting Government policy:
"The tabloid press and some individual motoring
correspondents have waged a vigorous campaign to reduce speed
enforcement on the grounds that compliance with the law constitutes
an unacceptable constraint on motorists" freedom ...tabloid
press coverage has created a climate in which it is more difficult
for the Government to reduce speed limits and in some cases has
constrained the ability of local authorities to introduce calming
...we do not believe that the pro speed views expressed by tabloid
newspapers are representative of the views of society as a whole.
We are concerned that their repetition may make them widespread.
We believe that the often one-sided coverage of this issue is
highly irresponsible and we do not believe Ministers should be
swayed by it".
The Association of Chief Police Officers believes
that the Government may now be affected by the relentless media
campaign: it is concerned that "some in Government seemed
more worried by the ill informed and erroneous position taken
by a very small but vociferous section of the national press than
by public opinion or even by the facts".
130. The failure to take road safety in general
and speed in particular seriously has important effects. We would
have expected campaigns to be mounted to reduce so tragic and
avoidable form of death and serious injury. There are many opportunities
for all parts of the media to do this; unfortunately, some elements
in the press do the reverse: they rail against the very measures
designed to reduce speed and save lives. The evidence to this
inquiry shows that there are serious concerns about the link between
motor industry advertising and journalism. We are also concerned
that the BBC has done so little to promote road safety in pursuance
of its general public service obligation.
131. However, during this inquiry we have had
no opportunity to put the criticisms we have received to representatives
of the media or the motor industry. These issues need to be considered
in more detail. We hope that the new Transport Committee will