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Dorset Road Unsafe not acting in the public interest

(From Eric Bridgstock)

To Dorset "RoadSafe" and, more importantly, all those in a position to influence their operations and existence
 
Further to my email of Monday 28 Nov, which was triggered by DRS declaring my email of 7 Sept "vexatious" under the terms of the FOI Act, I make the following observations.
 
 
Vexatious
I have checked [again] the definition of vexatious and yielded "troublesome, annoying". 
My message was factual and probing, seeking the truth about the disturbing incident involving Timothy Rowsell's death.  It was written from the point of view of a safety engineer with a strong interest in road safety.  It contained no emotion, and was not aggressive or accusative.  The complete 7 Sept text is reproduced below for the record.
It's relevant to note that MPs must have found the Daily Telegraph's probing into their expenses troubling and would have considered it vexatious, but that's not to say it was inappropriate or unnecessary - and that was because they were being found out and it was going to cost them money, reputation and possibly their jobs.  The same applies to Dorset Road Unsafe.
 
 
Unanswered correspondence
Looking back on our correspondence, I note that I never received any response to my email of 16 June 2011, and its attachments. 
Why was that? 
It was on the same subject and adopted a similar approach. 
I await a formal, comprehensive and honest reply.  FOI does not apply - that corresponde is seeking safety arguments.
 
 
Inappropriate behaviour from DRS - not acting in the public interest
Ian Belchamber's message of 22 Nov 2011 made the following observations concerning the behaviour of DRS...

1. Refuses to talk to the public.

2. Does its best to conceal financial details such as how the claimed £813,000 for courses is spent.

3. Although it processes "law breakers" it persists with operations not actually likely to:

    -reduce the trivial/harmless lawbreaking it so keenly targets

    -target the serious problems (of which there are many) on the roads most likely to result in serious accidents

4. Vigorously denies negative effects of speed cameras despite all the vast amounts of evidence including a motorcyclist killed on the A338 panic breaking for a speed camera, and shockingly, EVEN GOES AS FAR as refusing to talk to camera operators about this, thereby proving that it is not qualified to make decisions on road safety.

5. Demonstrates remarkable naivety/optimism in commenting on its "successes" 

6. Causes widespread cost, worry, anger, inconvenience and distress to large numbers of good, safe motorists at the most ridiculous speed limits (for example Holes Bay Road) with the resulting contempt for the police and the law by the public it so badly needs support from IN THE INTEREST OF ROAD SAFETY. 

7. Is continuing to waste money on badly chosen installations/operations, inappropriate speed limit reductions, etc.

8. Does not appear to be a "partnership" at all but a collection of self interested departments ticking their own boxes totally remote from the realities or the end effects.

9. Seems not concerned in the slightest if its operations are actually increasing, rather than decreasing deaths and serious injuries, which all the evidence suggests.

10. Tries to obscure the obvious financial motivations by only mentioning "fine revenue" which goes to the government (as if that would be a good thing).

11. Completely fails to deny any suggestions of any of the above

12. Promotes its own success by taking money from people by not prosecuting them and using this money for its own purposes including almost certainly to protect jobs, and uses its own authority to decide on which activities it undertakes and seems to much prefer the activities which make the most money, not save the most lives, thereby costing further lives. 

As a safety professional, if only a couple of those accusations were fired at my team/organisation I would be subject to independent audits and scrutiny and called to account.  That Ian found a dozen deeply disturbing points should be ringing alarm bells in Dorset - especially among those who have the power to intervene.  Who are you?  How do you sleep at night while a supposedly safety organisation is responsible for death on your roads?
 
 
Conflict of Interests
Finally, as I commented to ACC Mike Glanville in an [unanswered] email on 15 Nov 2011, one root cause of some of these problems is that Pat Garrett's job title is Head of Safety, Education and Enforcement Services.  When enforcement reduces safety (and it clearly does - Timothy Rowsell is an extreme example) that causes a conflict of interest and an impossible job - especially as, based on my correspondence with him and reading quotes from him in the press) Pat Garrett clearly has no understanding about road safety.  How can such an individual get to such a position.  I understand that Johnny Stephens has been removed - Mr Garrett must go to.
To add credence to my claims, my job is Head of Safety and that role includes safety of weapons (storage, transport, assembly, carriage and release).  Imagine the conflict of interest if my role were extended to include weapon performance.  I need to have a sole aim of ensuring safety of those that use the weapon;  that would not be compatible with maximising its effectiveness, and a compromise has to be found between me and the Chief Engineer - no-one could do both and Pat Garrett's role is equally impossible.
 
 
There is overwhelming evidence that DRS is out of control and bad for road safety. 
The silence from those in authority has been deafening.
Who will take responsibility for holding them to account, and then closing them down? 
 

sincerely

Eric Bridgstock

Independent Road Safety Research

 
 

**********************  7 Sept email  ******************

Dorset RoadSafe,

 

For about four years I have been researching a number of road safety matters and am particularly interested in the effects that speed cameras can have on safety.  

 

In April this year, a motorcyclist died in an incident involving a speed camera.

The following report (bold effect added by me, highlighting text of particular relevance) was published on the Salisbury Journal website on 24 August 2011.

http://www.salisburyjournal.co.uk/news/9213106.Bike_man__64__braked_too_hard_after_seeing_speed_van/

 

============

 

AN experienced motorcyclist lost his life after braking too hard - almost certainly because he had just spotted a speed camera van at the side of a road, an inquest heard.

Timothy Rowsell, of Burley, was travelling at a minimum of 78mph in the outside lane of the northbound A338 Bournemouth Spur Road when he crashed just after the Cooper Dean flyover.  The speed limit there is 50mph.

The only eyewitness to the crash, Janice Beck, had been setting up the camera equipment inside the van, which was parked on a verge.  Miss Beck said she saw smoke coming from the motorbike’s tyres. The machine started tilting and she saw the rider’s arm and head make contact with the barrier.  The bike continued on its side before stopping about 100 yards from the rider.

Dr Brian Moreland, who was driving on the opposite side of the dual carriageway, said he saw the motorbike wobble and hit a cone and then the crash barrier.

“I realised there was no rider.  My daughter shouted there was a body in the road,” he told the inquest in Bournemouth.

He and fellow motorist Dr Sharon Redpath tried to resuscitate 64-year-old Mr Rowsell, but he was pronounced dead at the scene.

His arm had been severed and his skull fractured.  Pathologist Dr Benita Foria said he would have died immediately.

Another car driver Jacqueline Kennett said Mr Rowsell had been riding sensibly when he passed her shortly before the accident on the morning of Saturday, April 9.

Accident investigator PC John Hayward told the inquest the four-year-old 1000cc Suzuki GSXR sports bike was not fitted with anti-lock brakes.  He concluded Mr Rowsell was near the bottom of the slope from the flyover when he braked hard, locking the wheels and losing control.  When the bike fell, Mr Rowsell hit one of the upright supports of the crash barrier.

PC Hayward added: “When the excess speed is considered, along with the presence of the road safety camera van, it’s very likely he has observed the van and tried to reduce his speed rapidly.”

Recording the verdict that Mr Rowsell’s death was due to a road accident, district coroner Sheriff Payne said: “I can only conclude he has braked in response to the presence of the safety van. No other person or vehicle was involved.”

Mr Rowsell’s widow and two adult sons were at the inquest, but did not want to comment afterwards.

 

============

 

All parties appear to agree that the speed camera contributed to this crash.

 

It is generally recognised that, for every road fatality there are about 10 serious injuries and 50 slight injuries.  Although, for obvious reasons, no formal records exist, most drivers experience far more “near misses” than actual accidents, so it is likely that for every fatality there will be a significant number of near misses. 

Accordingly I request the following information relating to the behaviour of drivers in the presence of speed cameras:

  1. Any and all documents including reports, memos, emails, minutes of meetings, records of conversations etc relating to police officers or others witnessing such accidents or near misses at or near speed cameras, and/or of any other accidents where your records show that they may have been triggered by the presence of cameras.
  2. If no such documents exist, any documents of like kind relating to whether or not to investigate and quantify such adverse effects, including detailed questioning of police officers or others who operate the equipment.
  3. Any documents of like kind which remind officers of the duty of care they owe to the public in their work, whether or not in relation to the setting up or operation of speed cameras.
  4. Details of the number(s) of operators who have declined to continue operating cameras, and their reasons for so doing .
  5. Any and all photographs or videos showing such accidents or near misses at or near speed cameras.

I would prefer correspondence via email, but would obviously accept material through the post.

An opportunity to meet with relevant personnel to discuss these matters, as part of my research, would be appreciated.

 

I look forward to hearing from you, and would appreciate acknowledgement of receipt of this FOI request.

 

with thanks and regards

Eric Bridgstock

Independent Road Safety Research

16 Evans Grove

St Albans

Herts  AL4 9PJ

****************************************

 
 
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Thursday, June 16, 2011 10:05 PM
Subject: The tragic death of Timothy Rowsell in the presence of a speed camera

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