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Communications with Tony Trent, Eric Bridgstock, other deaths with cameras as contributing factors

The Dorset authorities (Councils, police, Dorset Road Safe) do their best to just ignore concerns and carry on making the money. But very occasionally, a lone voice pops up in support of them, Tony Trent, a Poole Councillor. I have never seen such a demonstration of incompetence and ineptitude, inablilty to face facts and to reach logical conclusions. See the text below. Also see contributions from Eric Bridgstock, an independent Road Safety Researcher, who lists 2 other cases of deaths where a speed camera was a significant contributing factor. Idris Francis who has been analysing road safety for over 10 years also comments. The latest message is at the top.

 

 

 

 

Mr Trent and all other recipients

On the basis that not everyone read the attachments to my email of 16 June, please review perhaps the most important text, below, highlighting the hazards associated with speed camera deployment and the lack of any evidence or argument that any benefits from their use outweigh those disadvantages.

Like Ian Belchamber, I am shocked by the total ignorance displayed by Tony Trent and apparent refusal to accept that his judgement may be skewed by the bogus and misleading claims made by the Camera Partnership over many years, especially in the face of overwhelming counter evidence.  I have not seen a single challenge to the cases presented by Ian, Idris or me, which suggests that there is something in it.

As i said previously, there is ample evidence and argument to suspend the use of mobile speed cameras with immediate effect.  I would not want another death such as Timothy Rowsell's on my conscience pending his inquest.

Johnny Stephens and the authorities responsible for operating speed cameras in Dorset must account for their actions

and now the summary from my previous attachment....

 

From the initial reports of Mr Rowsell’s death, it was apparent that a speed camera van was nearby at the time, and reports also stated that no other vehicle was thought to be involved.  Further, a suggestion that the Independent Police Complaints Commission might be asked to investigate the role of the camera van was deemed unnecessary by the Dorset Police.  There is a widely held view (promoted by, among others, the Police) that speed cameras improve road safety.  This letter offers evidence and argument to suggest that the opposite is the case, and Mr Rowsell may have been a victim of the many unwanted side effects of speed camera deployment.

I have been engaged in self-funded research into road safety, speed enforcement and the effects of speed cameras for well over three years, and have corresponded and/or met with many involved in their use.  Contacts in the Dorset area include the Dorset Speed Camera Partnership, Councillor Mark Anderson of Bournemouth, and Assistant Chief Constable Adrian Whiting (I met with him in April 2010). 

What has become clear is that there are several hazards associated with speed camera deployment and operation.  These are rarely appreciated by the public and are often ignored by the authorities.  The following points provide examples:

  • Speed cameras have been cited as contributory factors in deaths - Graham Davies and Myra Nevett (see endnotes below).  I believe the circumstances of Mr Rowsell’s death may be similar to those of Mr Davies.
  • TRL and the RAC Federation have independently acknowledged to me that speed cameras can contribute to collisions/casualties.  Both say “speed cameras can have unintended consequences and have given rise to some collisions and casualties that would not have occurred if the cameras had not been deployed”.  However, neither can offer any evidence that there are benefits from speed cameras (in terms of reduced collisions or casualties) that outweigh those negative and unwanted effects.
  • A report by the Highways Agency “Safety Camera Technology at Roadworks – Final Report, March 2008”  conceded that several hazards (sudden braking, distraction, reduced headway (time between vehicles), and lane changing) are created by the deployment of average speed cameras.  The report also acknowledges that there are no proven safety benefits (collision/casualty reduction) and that driver education campaigns may become increasingly important to encourage “correct behaviour” in the presence of speed cameras.  In other words, speed cameras increase risk to road users and drivers need to learn how to cope with the hazards caused by the cameras (the report claimed that average speed cameras were better than fixed/mobile cameras in this respect, suggesting that fixed and mobile cameras are even more hazardous than average speed cameras).  As a safety professional this is a wholly misguided argument – the first aim of any safety analysis is to remove the source of the hazard, and training users to adapt to hazardous consequences of introducing something is a very poor approach that will never be as effective as removing the hazard.
  • The negative effects of speed cameras on drivers, described above, can be seen near any speed camera site – sudden braking, sometimes heavy braking, even by vehicles that were not exceeding the speed limit.  A BBC report, broadcast in April 2008,  available on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rvLrkIPqTZo or search YouTube for UK speed camera crash) shows drivers losing control as they respond by braking sharply to the presence of cameras in Norfolk.  Note that it is not just those exceeding the speed limit who brake suddenly, it is an instinctive reaction to avoid a possible fine, even though the driver is not necessarily braking the law.  The reports suggested that Mr Rowsell may have reacted in this way.

 

ENDNOTES

 

Graham Davies in 2009

http://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/2009/02/08/speed-cam-panic-may-have-killed-motorist-78057-21106048/

A DRIVER may have been killed because he braked suddenly after spotting a speed camera.

Police say Graham Davies, 45, is unlikely to have even been speeding when he lost control of his car.

The businessman died instantly when his Skoda Fabia hit a lamp-post near an accident blackspot on the A9. Traffic policeman George Fergus claimed braking was a natural reaction for any driver unaware of their exact speed.

He told an inquiry: "Witnesses said that, for no apparent reason, the victim's vehicle braked heavily, there was a lot of smoke and the car veered left and collided with the lamp-post."

Graham, of Stockton-on-Tees, crashed near Auchterarder, Perthshire.

Fergus added: "There is no reason to believe Mr Davies was speeding.

"However, we find many drivers - when approaching a camera - see the camera or road markings and it is a natural reaction to brake hard then check their speed and accelerate again.

"I believe that is what has happened here.

"He has braked hard then lost control."

During extensive contact with the brother of Graham Davies in January 2010, he provided me with details of the tragedy, including photographs and sketches from the accident site and his correspondence with the Coroner. 

 

Myra Nevett in 2004

At the inquest into the death of Mrs Nevett, the Coroner considered that a speed camera contributed to the tragedy.  Quoting from the BBC website:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/manchester/3721018.stm

John Pollard, the Stockport Coroner, partly blamed the death of Myra Nevett, 69, in a road traffic accident in Disley, Greater Manchester, last year on the presence of a camera. The coroner said roadside yellow cameras can distract drivers “even momentarily” who glance upwards and at their speed rather than the road.

Arthur Hadfield, the motorist involved in the accident, has been charged with driving without due care and attention and will appear before Stockport magistrates next year.

The inquest was told that Mrs Nevett, a retired school bursar, was fatally injured on December 16 as she crossed the A6 on her way home. She died in Stepping Hill Hospital, Stockport.

Mr Pollard told the hearing that the speed camera could have caught the attention of the driver at just the wrong moment.

His view was endorsed by PC Michael Jeffrey, the accident investigator at the scene.  He said: “They do tend to divert drivers’ attention away from other areas and they concentrate solely on their speed.”

 

========

 

I look forward to your responses.

 

Eric Bridgstock

Independent Road Safety Research

 

 


----- Original Message -----
Sent: Tuesday, June 21, 2011 8:39 AM
Subject: Re: RE:

I'd be all up for a proper debate, but these people (councilors, Dorset Road Safe, police, etc) have no interest and no belief, you can't even get an email out of them without an FOI request, apart from Tony, who has demonstrated (for the third or fourth time) a level of capability to digest information and reach logical conclusions probably lower than I would have dreamed possible of anyone and certainly not sufficient for constructive debate.
 
We almost had a debate once until Pat Garrett refused to discuss the points I wanted to and then refused to have members of the press and the public present (having told us he had nothing to hide).
 
Communication has consistently been one of the biggest problems with the Dorset authorities, and the reason is obvious, communication will result in progress, and the only progress that is possible can only reveal years of waste, dishonesty, greed, incompetence, and higher ksi counts than there should have been.
 
Actually the situation has deteriorated further with Johnny Stephens now refusing to answer my question as asked about the negative effects of speed cameras. Would these people come to a debate? No chance. Correct me if I'm wrong, ANYONE receiving this email. 
 
Ian Belchamber
  

Sent: Monday, June 20, 2011 7:40 PM
Subject: RE: RE:

Dear Mr. Trent,

Sorry, no, it is very clear that you are not exercising judgement but indulging in wishful thinking in ignorance of the facts and the evidence. What makes it worse is that you have pointedly refused to engage with the facts I and others have copied you. For example;

1/ You stated that casualties would have been worse but for speed cameras. I copied you detailed information based on official records of casualties showing that far from this being the case, fatality trends in the camera era have been by far the worse at least since WW2, and that excess deaths over and above prior benign trends very closely match the numbers of speed camera fines, which of course in turn closely match the number of speed cameras in use.

Your response? To ignore that evidence completely and  claim to be exercising  judgement!

2/ I have copied you irrefutible evidence, including Stephen Ladyman's admission of serious error, that compared on a like to like basis, vehicle activated signs are some 50 times more cost effective than speed cameras. In other words, whatever benefits cameras appear to provide in terms of reducing casualties (and ignoring the casualties you admit they can cause) could be 50 times greater for the same money.

What sort of "judgement" is it that seeks to justify 50 times less benefit for the same expenditure, Mr. Trent - and how can you sleep at night?

3/ You seek to justify your views on the basis of the views of the public at large - but very few indeed of those members of the public have any knowledge whatever of the facts, and what they do know is in general only official propaganda that, as I have demonstrated is often seriously mistaken

To exercise judgement Mr. Trent, as those of us whose  jobs  and careers and  businesses depend on  judgement - know full well - it is first necessary to get to grip with the facts, the evidence, the data, the trends, the comparisons and everything else - as I have done for 11 years. In hand you that information on a plate and all you do is to turn your face away like child from a spoon of cod-liver oil, because you are simply not prepared to have facts intrude into your complacent comfort-zone and upset what I would certainly accept are your beliefs - but to claim that they are based on "judgement" of any kind is a step to far.

Once again - are you prepared to put your views to the test in public? Ian - a hall for a public debate need not cost very much, how about organising it and inviting those who disagree with us?

Sincerely

Idris Francis



At 10:37 20/06/2011, Tony Trent wrote:
I just trust my judgement more than those who just hate getting caught!
 

From: Ian Belchamber (gmail) [ mailto:ianbelchamber@gmail.com]
Sent: 19 June 2011 11:18
Subject: Re: RE:
  
You should be apologising for more than that. How about answering the points? Oh, I forgot, your normal style in these "debates" is to just give up when beaten, then just come back with the same old nonsense yet again at some time in the future.
 
 
From: Tony Trent
Sent: Saturday, June 18, 2011 11:59 PM
Subject: RE: RE:
 
I apologise for not removing this sensationalist heading from my previous reply.
 

From: Ian Belchamber (gmail) [ mailto:ianbelchamber@gmail.com]
Sent: 18 June 2011 09:12
Subject: Re: RE: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera
 
"I still regard these so called studies as an attempt to discredit something that is inconvenient to motorists."
Tony, please, just for once read the words and operate brain. What could possibly be less inconvenient to deliberate speeders, boy racers, thugs, criminals, drunks, incompetent, careless etc drivers than a few bright yellow boxes and an occasional stripy van at predictable locations, covering about 0.01% of road space?
 
"There are just as many reports and organisations that support them." Of course there are, serious money and careers depend on them. It would be so easy for (for example) the Dorset Authorities to show that it's not all about jobs and money, by sensible selection of enforcements, course costs same as cost of provision, open balanced communication, answering criticism, etc.etc. If this was the case their statements about the benefits of what they do would have a bit more credibility.
 
"I will continue to support requests for traffic calming and speed cameras if they make sense in the situation. The residents I represent often ask for these measures and appreciate those we have had, though there are always those that complain of damage to cars." Probably best not to widen the debate on to "calming", although it was interesting that when I put evidence in front of you showing that they can make roads more dangerous, you just called me "Jeremy Clarkson", which demonstrates yet again your inability to objectively consider reality and your unsuitability to comment on these issues. Also, in reality, there are not likely to be more speed cameras in the near future, I suggest you open your mind and try to think of something else.
 
"Things are not black or white on the issue, it’s horses for courses, but modest speed and care wins out most of the time."  Modest speed and care, nice words by not really quantifiable or deliverable
 
 
From: Tony Trent
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 11:26 PM
Subject: RE: RE: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera
 
I still regard these so called studies as an attempt to discredit something that is inconvenient to motorists. There are just as many reports and organisations that support them. I will continue to support requests for traffic calming and speed cameras if they make sense in the situation. The residents I represent often ask for these measures and appreciate those we have had, though there are always those that complain of damage to cars. Things are not black or white on the issue, it’s horses for courses, but modest speed and care wins out most of the time.
 

From: Idris Francis [ mailto:idris.francis@btinternet.com]
Sent: 17 June 2011 19:45
To: Tony Trent
Subject: Fwd: RE: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera
 
Absolute nonsense, and clearly un-informed nonsense, I am afraid. I have spent several thousand hours over 11 years studying road casualty trends before and after speed cameras, and the simple truth is that the fatality trend in particular has been far far worse than it ever was before.


I would be happy to send anyone on this circulation list a copy of a CD containing all my analysis and much other data - including how I have repeatedly proved not only that the DfT make statements that are demonstrably false but also that there can be no other explanation but deliberate lying about the facts - the evidence is in the public domain, as I pointed out in my last mail, at www.safespeed.org.uk/vas.html.

It is perfectly clear that you could not have had time to read and understand that evidence before you replied - dare I suggest that you spend some time evaluating the evidence before replying again? Or are you, like so many in the speed camera industry - all aspects of it - of the mind-set "My mind is made up - please do not confuse me wityh the facts?"

For the record, I am entirely in favour of more police patrols, more sensible, professional, competent and reasonable policing of our roads and in favour of the prosecution of those who commit all forms of dangerous driving. What I am emphatically not in favour of is simplistic, naive  indeed utterly stupid - automatic and unhelpful prosecution of millions of safe drivers for marginal breaches of often arbitrary and often inappropriate speed limits that are in any case accurate only in the same sense as a stopped clock - occasionally and not for long.

I attach perhaps the most compelling graph of all - though I have many others - showing the extraordinarily precise match of camera fines and excess deaths over and above the prior better trends.

Please stop talking nonsense and get a grip. I would be happy to debate these issues in detail in any forum at any time - and use that opportunity to expose the nonsense and the lies that have led to the road safety disasgter of the past 15 years.


"And many more deaths and serious injuries that would happen without them." - Would you care to provide some evidence for this, or detail where the evidence that Eric provided was wrong?
 
"You will be seeking to ban pedestrian crossings next. I am aware of one fairly recent fatality that resulted from a vehicle stopping at a pedestrian crossing." No Tony, no one is asking for a ban on pedestrian crossings.
 
"I suggest once more that these representations have more to do with a desire of some motorists not to be prosecuted than a genuine concern about road safety." And I suggest yet again that if I wanted to break all the rules I'd be more than happy with things the way they are. I am asking for proper policing targeting all traffic laws and bad driving. Why would I be doing that if I wanted to drive recklessly?
 
"All these issues are considered on merit based on the best information available. They do not make money despite the propaganda that tries to claim otherwise – hence the reduction for example of operating speed cameras, so it is and always has been about safety." Even if there was no profit, that does not mean that it IS about safety. There are other factors, jobs, egos, saving face, empire building, etc etc. And if it was not about profit, why would the cost of a driver course be as much as they think they can get away with, rising sharply, and many times what the cost of provision could possibly be (I have an foi request on this due next week which might be interesting).
 
By all means join the debate Tony but please lets not go over old ground yet again.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

From: Tony Trent
Sent: Friday, June 17, 2011 12:44 PM
Subject: RE: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera

And many more deaths and serious injuries that would happen without them. You will be seeking to ban pedestrian crossings next. I am aware of one fairly recent fatality that resulted from a vehicle stopping at a pedestrian crossing. I suggest once more that these representations have more to do with a desire of some motorists not to be prosecuted than a genuine concern about road safety. All these issues are considered on merit based on the best information available. They do not make money despite the propaganda that tries to claim otherwise – hence the reduction for example of operating speed cameras, so it is and always has been about safety.
 

From: Idris Francis [ mailto:irfrancis@onetel.com]
Sent: 17 June 2011 12:23
Subject: Fwd: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera
 
I agree entirely - we all know that for every road death there are about 10 serious injuries and about slight injuries. We also know of many recorded instance of crashes caused directly by the presence of speed cameras, including deaths - details on request.
It is therefore entirely inconceivable that operators of cameras do not see from time to time many other examples of sudden braking, skidding, loss of control etc. For them to continue to do what they do when they see these things happening is not just a matter for their consciences and the consciences of those who send them out to do this job, but a matter for the law of the land under the general headings of Statutory Duty if Care, Misconduct in Public Office, Corporate Manslaughter (which applies equally to public bodies as to private companies) and perhaps other criminal offences.
There has been at least one report of official excuses suggesting that even if this particular death was due to the presence of the speed camera, it is more than compensated for by savings elsewhere. There are two obvious problems with that excuse (a) it is and will remain impossible to identify any accident that did not happen because a camera was present and (b) the statistical analysis commonly quoted as demonstrating camera benefit can be described as naive, simplistic, self-serving, incompetent, misleading, very seriously flawed nonsense of which its authors should be thoroughly ashamed. In my 50 years as an electonic enginer and businessman I never saw elsewhere such a can of worms, of lies, incompetence, flawed analysis and abject failure of personal responsibility as I have seen in 11 years fighting speed camera policy.






Idris Francis
(on the basis of many thousands of hours' study of these issues over 11 years - see also www.safespeed.org.uk/vas.html for detailed evidence of clearly deliberate misrepresentation by the DtT and others.



Subject: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera
Date: Thu, 16 Jun 2011 23:05:46 +0100
X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2900.5931

Ian Belchamber has shared with me his recent correspondence with Johnny Stephens, Head of Fixed Penalties at Dorset Police HQ, which had been prompted by the death of Timothy Rowsell on 9th April 2011.  Early reports of the incident highlighted the presence of a speed camera van and the otherwise inexplicable heavy braking that caused Mr Rowsell to lose control of his motorbike with fatal consequences.
 
I am shocked that Johnny Stephens chooses to hide behind the Freedom Of Information Act when ducking Ian Belchamber's questions.  Mr Stephens has a Duty of Care to the public and this case has raised some very serious questions that must be answered.  It is entirely unacceptable, indeed culpable and criminally negligent, to withhold information from someone who is trying to improve road safety, as is the case with Mr Belchamber.  Specifically, the camera operators have first hand experience of how vehicles react to their presence.  It is inconceivable that Mr Rowsell is the first to have braked too hard on spotting the camera, it is unlikely that he is the first to have skidded in these circumstances, and there is a reasonable chance that Dorset camera operators have witnessed total loss of control and crash (my attached letter links to videos of examples of this).
 
I am a professional safety engineer and have been investigating road safety claims for speed cameras for nearly four years and have formed the conclusion that they are far more likely to cause a crash than prevent one.  My evidence and rationale is summarised in the various attachments, which are:
  1. a letter summarising my thoughts on issues brought into focus by Mr Rowsell's death (I have already provided a similar letter to the Dorset Coroner)
  2. the Bridgstock Theory - which explains why the likelihood of any speed camera ever preventing a collision or a casualty is negligible
  3. a critique of the Four Year Evaluation Report - a 2005 document often cited as proving the effectiveness of speed cameras (item 1 above mentions Prof Allsop's recent report on speed camera effectiveness - a total fabrication based on selective evidence and wishful thinking by an author with a vested interest in the continued use of speed cameras)
  4. a report summarising 40 negative effects of speed cameras
Mr Stephens must be called to account for his behaviour long before the formal inquest into this tragic crash, and there is sufficient evidence in the public domain to suspend speed enforcement using cameras until the inquest has been held.
 
I welcome correspondence on this subject.
 
sincerely,
Eric Bridgstock
Independent Road Safety Research









Please stop talking nonsense and get a grip. I would be happy to debate these issues in detail in any forum at any time - and use that opportunity to expose the nonsense and the lies that have led to the road safety disasgter of the past 15 years.

Idris Francis