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UK Road Sense, Dorset Way / A3049 50 limit






Now we can see why we have such stupid speed limits….

We’ve had a couple of road deaths in and around Dorset recently, one where a 20 year old crashed off the road resulting in the death of his passenger, no other vehicles involved, and one where a 16 year old on a scooter was involved in a collision with a car that left the scene before police arrived and has not yet been traced.

These are terrible tragedies that I’m sure everyone would have done anything possible to prevent, and the varied and difficult factors in both demonstrate the complications and therefore why road safety decisions have to be based on the utmost professionalism and full understanding of a wide range of factors and solutions.  

However In both cases and before even the full facts have become known, Councillors have announced demands and petitions to have the speed limit reduced:

http://www.bournemouthecho.co.uk/news/10273517.40mph_speed_limit_plea_after_death_of_teen_Mikey_Maguire/?ref=rss

http://www.dailyecho.co.uk/news/10269853.Residents_demand_action_over_road/

Would these councillors make decisions about what engineering features buildings should have to help with fire escape? Or what type of boats the RNLI should use? Or what equipment hospitals should have in A&E? Should they advising on policies for air traffic control? I certainly don’t think so. Should I hire a trained, qualified, competent electrician to wire my house or should I ask a councillor to do it? Then why on earth do they get involved in decisions on how critical and limited resources should be used to minimise road deaths in the highly complicated business of road safety?

It should be pointed out that in Dorset over just the last 3 years we have had a very high profile zero-tolerance “road safety” campaign which has resulted in a significant proportion of Dorset drivers being “educated” about speed, combined with a large number of absurd speed limit reductions, and what has happened to road casualties? From being in steep decline when “no excuse” started, they have levelled off and now, seem to have even reversed, starting to increase: http://www.dorsetforyou.com/media.jsp?mediaid=172589&filetype=pdf  Although many things influence road casualties this does not look encouraging  and is hardly surprising mostly as operations are purely designed to make money, those same “experts” making road safety decisions also critically dependent on course fees to protect their jobs. Any interfering with traffic has its risks, and when it is done at the (otherwise) safest locations, the negative effects are bound to outweigh any positive there could be. Here is further evidence that the money fuelled obsession with speed has only interfered with road safety, it has not helped: http://www.dorsetspeed.org.uk/news/sog124.aspx

It is of course true that without speed neither of these deaths would have occurred. But until we discover a way to change position in a reasonable amount of time without speed, we are stuck with it and road deaths will occur. The fact that someone dies at a location does not mean that something has to change at that location, certainly not before the facts are known. Many people drive badly, many distractions occur, control is lost, objects are hit, but it is only when a number of factors combine in a unique and unusual way that death results. It’s not just where it happened and it’s not just the speed. It easy to imagine any number of scenarios where the 2 deaths above could have happened somewhere else or would have happened anyway if there had been lower speed limits.

It is clear that there are a number of dangers when unqualified (and certainly, in the case of Poole, Kent and a number of other councils) arrogant, incompetent and dishonest people are let loose with something they have not the slightest idea about or care about much less than the amount of money they are making. Here are some things I’m sure have not occurred to these councillors:

-          Road safety decisions based on the emotional aftermath of deaths and made by unqualified people are highly likely to be the wrong ones. Those based on evidence, logic, understanding, analysis, experience, made by those who know how complex systems work, as a part of road safety review and planning, are likely to be the right ones. The right decisions will reduce deaths much more than the wrong ones. The wrongs ones therefore COST LIVES

-          If you idiot proof one location, even if accidents reduce there, you might just have relocated them to somewhere else

-          If you think a change has made an improvement, you won’t look for the right solution

-          When limits get too low, you reduce respect of speed limits everywhere, even where they are right

-          An unrealistically low limit will be ignored by the most dangerous drivers, criminals, drunk / drugged drivers, racers, road ragers, determined excessive speeders who can easily avoid detection, the ones that cause the most accidents.

-          If you provide a location where the limit is so low that it cannot be taken seriously, you will find that location attracts police resources to make money so they are not available where they could have some benefit (for example the Dorset / Canford Way 50 limit http://www.ukroadsense.co.uk/ ) Incidentally, I’ve noticed Dorset Police are so desperate to exploit this latest opportunity that they are even setting up on the Fleetbridge flyover, on a brow and a bend, they seem to have a short memory about the death that resulted from a similar operation a short while ago. I really hope they don’t trigger another one but this is a real possibility here.

-          If you do force driving far below the natural safe speed for the road you increase driver fatigue, frustration and aggression, which will cause greater danger elsewhere.

-          There are a whole number of new, alternative and far more effective things we could be doing. While the standard response is “someone got hurt, reduce the speed limit” we are missing making proper progress with road safety and efficiency.

There are plenty more. We really can do very much better. These councillors may think they are responding to public demand. But they send out petitions asking for support. If they sent out petitions to leave the limit as it is as well we’d see the real balance. And perhaps those that ask for speed limit reductions and speed cameras have been fooled by the speed camera industry, which has for years been feeding us with the “speed kills” message, and absurd misinformation about speed camera effectiveness – of course it would, cigarette companies would advertise cigarettes if they were still allowed to.

And the Dft, despite having been informed of these problems repeatedly over a long period from many different people, have demonstrated further incompetence, arrogance, and danger, by taking little interest in road safety whatsoever and giving more responsibility to the failing local authorities.

What is clearly needed is a new competent centre of road safety motivated only by road efficiency and safety, which acts as those of us that work in the real world have to – if we do not do the job as well as it can be done, someone else will and we will be out of business – and the primary characteristic of this is that you listen to your customers.