Thursday, August 13, 2009

Killing Speed

This morning I attended a two and a half hour long speed awareness course, having been caught doing 37 mph in a 30 limit in Brixton at 3am one morning in early June. I will admit to being slightly sceptical of what it would entail, but I have to say I found the whole thing very useful. I wouldn't go so far as to say it was enjoyable - that would be going too far, but it held everyone's attention and people approached it with an open mind.

Twenty of us gathered in a rather odd building next to Bromley Station. We were encouraged to arrive by train due to "limited parking". That was of course a complete lie, as there was free parking right about 50 yards away. As I was buzzed through the door, six or seven others were waiting to be let through another door in an ante-room. "It feels like queuing up to be processed in a prison," I blurted out, causing a small titter from the others. "Not that I would know," I added quickly.

What surprised me was the social make-up of the twenty people present. Twelve were women and virtually everyone was over 40. There wasn't a boy racer in sight.

We all had to do a computer test to start with, which proved to be an interesting experience for the two female pensioners who thought a mouse was something to be frightened of. It included some videos where you had to click when you thought you were the right distance away from the car in front, or when you spotted a hazard which could cause an accident. Most of the questions were designed to see what kind of driver you are. It won't surprise you to know that when I got the results, I was rated as driving 'very much faster than average', even though I hadn't had a speeding ticket within the last three years and haven't had an accident either. I also drive further away from the vehicle in front than average. I have a faster than average reaction to potential hazards, which will come as a great surprise to my partner, who specialises in trying to brake even when he is a passenger in a car with me as he thinks my reactions are very slow! I have a slightly higher than average 'emotional reaction' while driving and can become easily distracted. I have an 'extreme tendency to sleepiness'. So the lesson is, if I offer you a lift home after doing a late night paper review, say no!

The main point of the course was to drive home the difference between driving at 30 mph and 40 mph, and from that point of view it was highly successful. OK, it stands to reason that the faster you drive, and you hit someone, the more likely they are to die. But when you are told that at 30 mph the person has a 90% of chance of surviving, while at 40 mph they only have a 10% chance of surviving, it does make you think. Everyone on the course had been caught doing between 30 mph and 40 mph.

We were all asked why we had been caught. In my case, I hadn't realised I was over the limit. One person said she was rushing someone to hospital. The course leader said that 15% of people who drive too fast to get someone to hospital, end up there themselves through having an accident.

Perhaps the most shocking statistic was when we were told that if you break down on the motorway and decide to sit in your car on the hard shoulder your life expectancy is reduced to 12 minutes - 12 minutes!!!

Here's something else I didn't know. We were asked what percentage of collisions occur on urban roads, rural roads and motorways. I guessed 50-30-20. The true statistics are 71%% on urban roads, 25% on rural roads and a mere 4% on motorways. In terms of deaths 40% occur on urban roads, 54% on rural roads and 6% on motorways. It's because if you have a serious crash on an urban road or motorway you are likely to be taken to hospital within an hour, whereas on a rural road it may be hours before someone even finds you.

How many speed cameras are there inside the M25, do you think? Most people thought between 2-5,000. The number is actually 651, with another 187 at traffic lights. Each one costs £40,000. The course leader was at great pains to point out that they were only erected in places where there had been four accidents causing serious injury or death. I still find this assertion difficult to believe, thinking of the location of some that I know. I questioned whether it would not be better to spend the £40k on eight of the flashing speed signs, which I have to say have a much better effect on my driving than speed cameras do.

So, in short, I am glad I attended. The course held our attention throughout, even if at times people probably felt as if they were being spoken to as if they were naughty children. But it never felt as if we were being lectured at. Perhaps the least credible part of the course was when the course leader asserted that she never, ever speeds. No one believed her. Until she told us that five years ago her 13 year old daughter had been hit by a motorist doing 37 mph in a 30 limit. She survived but is still receiving treatment for the injuries she suffered.

We all stared at our feet. As well we might.

UPDATE: A thought occurred to me. Why don't we make everyone who takes a driving test take one of these courses before they can drive on the roads? Charge them the going rate so there's no cost to the taxpayer. Wouldn't it be better to get them young, rather than wait till they have transgressed?

94 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing this Iain, fascinating

Fresh said...

Nice to see some of our money is being spent wisely.

Jonathan Levy said...

Funny you mention all this as my father attended the same course in Warrington a few months back and echoed everything you say above.

Anonymous said...

Your experience similar to mine. They don't invite the boy-racers because they don't go under 40mph and I suspect their attitude would not allow them to learn.

Like many things in life, the statistics you heard don't sit easily with common perception which is often wrong.

This is a course that all drivers should do 1 year after passing the test - ie when they are just getting confident that they know it all. (one of the most accident-prone time for pilots is when they reach a similar stage and mind-set in the air).

Standby for all the brickbats. Don't speed and don't get points but more importantly, you are so much less likely to have to live with the guilt of someone's death on your conscience.

Ed M said...

I don't believe for a moment that 12 minute life expectancy figure. It just can't be true as there are only about 8 deaths a day on all UK roads and as the later statistic quotes only a tiny fraction occur on motorways.

Additionally according to a Direct Line report in 2005 there are over a million motorway breakdowns each year and ~80% of drivers stay in the car. So that is 800,000 drivers sitting in their cars with a life expectancy of 12 minutes? I think that carnage would be on the news if it was true.

Russell said...

Fascinating to see the lengths to which people who are riding a hobbyhorse - in this case the "Speed Kills!" hobbyhorse - will go to distort and misuse statistics.

The truth is that speed doesn't kill, per se. As the safety record of motorways makes abundantly clear. It's bad driving which kills, at any speed.

Benny said...

Sounds a good experience and I agree, it should be something as compulsory (and important) as a driving test.

Maybe start a campaign?

Anonymous said...

The reason all the attendees were over 40 is that the police have discretion. I'm 29 and for being on my phone I got the ticket, points and fine. Never had a bump and through work I use roads all day every day.

The police raise revenue these days, not catch criminals.

prj45 said...

Wouldn't it be nice if people obeyed the law in the first place, then we wouldn't have to waste this money.

Anonymous said...

"Wouldn't it be better to get them young, rather than wait till they have transgressed?"

That thought is pure, unadulterated New Labour at its finest. I'm surprised at you.

Will you therefore be advocating speed awareness courses for toddlers in pedal cars, to impress on their little minds the unacceptability, nay, the gross moral turpitude of daring to contravene the wisdom of Authority?

Montague Burton said...

If only you'd had this distraction...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQqicxreHHY&eurl=http%3A%2F%2Fthe-universality-of-cheese.blogspot.com%2F&feature=player_embedded

Alison S said...

@ Fresh and prj45

I had to pay about £80 to attend a speed awareness course so I doubt the courses are costing you anything.

Cheaper than paying the fine and having my insurance premiums raised for the next 5 years.

Quietzapple said...

My diminutive younger daughter, 15, was hit by a car at 28 or so in a 30 zone where most people speed.

Her knee still plays up sometimes; the front end of the car was badly damaged.

The driver and his passenger had nightmares for some time.

Whole the UK has relatively few accidents I believe these might be cut down further, particularly if younger drivers attended such courses.

My son was 'sentenced' to one after he bumped a car at low speed while really tired and found it a useful experience.

Nick Thornsby said...

Perhaps one of your finest blog posts I've ever read. And your final idea is a very good one indeed.

Anonymous said...

Russell said...
"The truth is that speed doesn't kill, per se. As the safety record of motorways makes abundantly clear. It's bad driving which kills , at any speed."

I suppose that's like in the USA where guns don't kill, per se - it's just the owners. So that's ok then!

A weak but convenient argument.

Pam Nash said...

The boy next door to me (really nice lad) is 19. He passed his test and 18 months later got caught by a mobile speed trap, doing 52 in 30 zone, at 8am Sunday morning; he's a joiner and was on his way to do a private job.

He had a clean licence, but got 6 points - he also had his licence revoked under the New Driver's Act, which automatically revokes the licences of drivers who run up six penalty points in their first two years on the road, meaning they have to retake their driving test, theory and practical.

He's now back on the road, but only after re-passing his test at the 3rd attempt. Then there was all the expense involved, of course. It's been a HUGE learning curve for him, but even he recognises that it's been a good thing and has calmed his driving down.

Maybe the New Driver's Act could be extended? I stopped at an accident once - the child had been knocked down on a side street with parked cars on both sides. I never exceed the limit in towns - I couldn't live with myself if I injured someone by my actions in a car. Admittedly, I do exceed the motorway limit, I think 85mph is more realistic for motorways.

Thatsnews said...

The course leader was at great pains to point out that they were only erected in places where there had been four accidents causing serious injury or death. I still find this assertion difficult to believe

The course leader is a bloody liar.

In the small market town where I live there are three speed cameras. All on pieces of road where there were no recorded accidents of ANY kind in the past 20 years. Oddly enough there is one road which would, according to the course leader, be ideally suited to having a speed camera. Guess what? They have refused to put a speed camera there, even though there have been several serious accidents there. But very few people speed there, unlike on the other pieces of road which do have speed cameras.

Roger said...

Those statistics look pretty dodgy to me. Especially the 12 minutes, half the people I see broken down on the motorway should be dead according to that. You sound like you've been indoctrinated by all their propaganda. Try and watch a few Top Gear repeats to set yourself back on the straight and narrow.

Faustus said...

What I want to know is whether you will stick to the 30mph limit at 3am in the morning?

My own behaviour is to do 40mph when no one is about and there are no cameras whether its 3am or 3pm, and to reduce to 20mph or slower if there are people or bicycles about, especially at 3am if I see one drunk.

I'm sure I'd have been kicked out of your course.

Tony

Anonymous said...

A particularly interesting blog, I hope other people will reflect on it as I have done. Speed truly does kill, since if we were to be admittedly impractical and drive at under 30 mph there would be very few deaths on the roads. During the Falklands War, except for 2 days, more Britons were killed on our roads than in the South Atlantic, and you can say something similar about Afghanistan. I live by one of those biker roads, and I've scraped 2 dead bodies off it, in separate accidents. The pain and grief their families suffer is beyond my ability to express in writing (and transcends whatever I feel about bikers). We owe it to our families, friends and society to constantly reassess how well we drive. Thank you Iain.

Martin said...

Jesus Iain. What next? You listened to a Gordon Brown speech and have fallen in love with him?

These courses are utter utter rubbish. Years ago I went on a Drive and survive course where ex Policemen with nothing batter to do with their lives slag off your driving.

Considering the bad driving of most Police officers I see I hardly felt like being lectured by one of them.

You don't hit people at 40mph. Even if you don't stop in time the vehicle will be travelling well below 40mph when you hit someone.

And how about blaming pedestrians and cyclists a bit more? Cyclists who can't be arsed to have lights on their bikes and pedestrians who just jump out into the road with their hoodie up and an ipod plugged in.

Just out of interest if you did run someone down in Brixton at 3am they'd probably be a drug dealer or a tea leaf, so you should get a medal.

Cull the bastards I say.

Anonymous said...

Iain, I attended one of these a couple of months ago (also 37 in a 30, in London). I agree with you - I found it much better that 3 points and a fine.

Anonymous said...

it might be worth asking a few other questions iain.

1. what's safe about accidents on the hard shoulder which cause rubbernecking which cause more accidents. couldn't our police carry screens to put around incidents to stop this distraction.

2. I suppose they didn't mention keeping left when not overtaking either. Middle lane driving is the bane of motoring. Scared of manouvring? more like lazy bastards.

3. i suspect there were no foreign drivers at the course as they can do what they like.

For a society that wants to save lives, we certainly pick and choose where the risks are. The government for years have been backward in educating people about motorway driving and safety.

You see if we were more considerate and aware of the highway code, there would beless congestion, and then more of us would use the roads, and we cant have that in our environmental utopia can we?

My bug bear i apologise. I am spent.

Anonymous said...

The statistics they gave you on the course are clearly very suspect.

'15% of people who drive too fast to get someone to hospital, end up there themselves' That figure is impossible to measure, and hence certainly false.

I suspect what they mean is 15 % of people that we caught who gave the hospital excuse had had been in an accident. 85% were caught by a camera or a traffic patrol. An unknown (but probably much larger number) were neither caught or in an accident. This would make the 15% figure a massive overestimate.

The 12 minutes life expectancy figure is so obviously false I am suprised they could say it with a straight face.

The figures for collisions on different road types are probably correct as they are easy to measure. They make a good case for increasing the speed limit on motoraways though.

One thing that they will never point out on these courses is that drivers who are attentive and adjust their speed for the conditions tend to be much safer than people that slavishly follow the speed limit.

Stephen

prj45 said...

Alison S said... I had to pay about £80 to attend a speed awareness course so I doubt the courses are costing you anything.


And you don't think that's a waste of your money?

Don't you think the people that run these things could be more gainfully employed rather than telling dimwit drivers who either can't control their vehicle or purposfully disobey the law what they should already know?

Anonymous said...

"Until she told us that five years ago her 13 year old daughter had been hit by a motorist doing 37 mph in a 30 limit. She survived but is still receiving treatment for the injuries she suffered.

We all stared at our feet. As well we might."

Except, in your case at least, for one tiny little detail:

If she let her 13 year old out alone at 3am - shame on her.

Anonymous said...

"There will be 0% growth in public spending"

Of course, this is the only deceptive statement the ever lovely nulab state has ever made.



By the way, is there any (non-hearsay) verification of :

"at 30 mph the person has a 90% of chance of surviving, while at 40 mph they only have a 10% chance of surviving"

"15% of people who drive too fast to get someone to hospital, end up there themselves through having an accident."

"break down on the motorway and decide to sit in your car on the hard shoulder your life expectancy is reduced to 12 minutes"

"percentage of collisions occur on urban roads, rural roads and motorways. .... The true statistics are 71%% on urban roads, 25% on rural roads and a mere 4% on motorways. In terms of deaths 40% occur on urban roads, 54% on rural roads and 6% on motorways."

"how many speed cameras are there inside the M25, ....The number is actually 651, with another 187 at traffic lights."

"that five years ago her 13 year old daughter had been hit by a motorist doing 37 mph in a 30 limit."

"limited parking is available for the course." so you are "encouraged to arrive by train"


Of course, we already have an eyewitness report on the last point.- "That was of course a complete lie, as there was free parking right about 50 yards away."

Surely the other "facts" can't be demonstrably false too?

DespairingLiberal said...

A very interesting and thoughtful piece.

I find it hard to stay on 30 in a 30 zone. Many drivers apply pressure from behind, or dangerously overtake if you do. Where I live there seems to be the usual "belief" that 30 means 40 and 40 means 50, etc.

They use those camera vans a lot in our city and those are slowly having an effect on driver behaviour though.

Many drivers do seem to have bizarre misunderstandings about where to go fast and slow. The classic is the large supermarket car park, where quite a few drivers of both sexes and all ages seem to think the correct speed is around 45mph, despite the presence of running children, elderly people with trollies, etc. Frequently I have followed one of those "car park maniacs" out onto a big duel carriageway in a rural area, where they proceed to slow right down and crawl along erratically at 35-40 in a 60 zone.

Strange.

Pat said...

Given the number of hours- yes I do mean hours enough to add up to a day or two- I've spent on the hard shoulder of motorways, either broken down or in the old days hitch hiking, and given the number of similar people I know either the twelve minute figure is a blatant lie- or Me and a lot of people I know have won the lottery weekly for years.
I haven't got round to checking the research that claims 90% of pedestrians survive a 30mph impact, except to find that it was carried out in 1969, 34 years after the 30mph limit was introduced. I really must check it out- I wonder how many were killed in the experiment. Anyway its a damn good thing that drivers brake when they see a pedestrian in the way- otherwise impact speeds would actually be at the speed limit- me,I think being able to stop before hitting someone is better than hitting them at the speed limit.
You've caught them out lying about parking- so you know they lie. Therefor check out everything they say- don't ignore it, check it out.

fyoc said...

I don't mean to be flippant, but, if people actually LOOKED properly when they crossed the road, whether a driver is doing 30mph or 40mph is irrelevant, as if they are not standing in the road, they will not get hit.

I cycle practically every day in Central London, the City and Docklands. I hold a full clean driving licence also. I am not an aggressive cyclist (like some) and I obey the traffic regulations (unlike some). You would have to see it with your own eyes to believe it but many, many people step out into the road without looking. Are they totally nuts? Should they perhaps go on a course entitled "Why its a good idea not to step into the road without looking both ways first".

I deliberately cycle slower when there are pedestrians around because practically on every journey, at least one person will step out in front of me without looking. They are often either on their phone, ipod or chatting to a friend. Yes, its a great idea for motorists to be alert and keep their speed down but pedestrians need to use their brain too.

I have often noticed that a significant percentage of these wayward pedestrians are drunk. I believe that there is a statistic that says a large number of pedestrians who are injured have alcohol in their blood. Sometimes one's sympathy does begin to dwindle.....

Roads = traffic. If any vehicle hits you at whatever speed, it will hurt - kapiche?

Sixtus Beckmesser said...

You should come here to not so sunny Bavaria. I like nothing better than tooling down to the Munich Opera at about 100 MPH(not in a hurry). Have a bottle of wine split before and during the two intervals, though over a period of about 7 hours (yes Wagner). Then get on the A9 and set the cruse control to 130 MPH. This makes you very aware of speed. It enables me to indulge my three passions of binge opera, binge drinking and binge speeding.

As a further thought. It would seem that MPH will be replaced by KPH. So 30 MPH will become 50 KPH, which seems closer to 35 MPH. Will the speed freaks catch fire when this happens?

Chris A said...

That 12 minute claim is a downright lie. Just think about it. The number of people who break down on the hard shoulder every day must number into the hundreds. If their life expectancy were reduced to 12 minutes then that must mean that a large proportion of those broken down cars must be smashed into every day. Just ask yourself is this credible?

Typical police lies if you ask me - they just can't help themselves.

Old Codger said...

With over 50 years driving i have not (yet) been caught.

Agree that the flashing 30 signs slow me down but they don't do that for everyone. There is one near my house and this morning a chap came out of a side road, floored the throttle, set the sign off (quite a feat in the distance) and just continued accelerating.

Anonymous said...

651 speed cameras inside the whole of the M25?!? Can we try and add these up somewhere, there are about a ddzen with 5 minutes of where I'm sitting...

DespairingLiberal said...

Sixtus - remind me not to drive in Wien when you are around.

The comments about stats being old are incorrect - TRL at Bracknell regularly update the stats and there is continuous very detailed nationwide and indeed Europe-wide analysis of all types of accidents. All of the data shows that pedestrians involved in impact with vehicles now suffer more than passengers/drivers than used to be the case, because improvements in vehicle safety have focused on those in the vehicle. The 30/40 impact casualty figures quoted on Iain's course are actually less severe than reality, since TRL's figures for lasy year showed a higher death rate for 40mph+ impacts than the percentage quoted.

I agree though that Iain's class tutor got confused about the stats for sitting in vehicles on the hard shoulder. It is dangerous though, as many of those police/camera/action type programmes illustrate, with frequent clips of police vehicles, covered in flashing lights, being impacted by numpties who can hardly drive a straight line or see a few feet in front of them.

Pogo said...

The course leader was at great pains to point out that they were only erected in places where there had been four accidents causing serious injury or death. I still find this assertion difficult to believe, thinking of the location of some that I know.


You are correct in your belief... The rules were changed in April 2007 to allow cameras to be placed anywhere based upon "safety concerns". As it was, the four KSI accidents were only required to be within a 500 metre radius of the camera site - they could easily have occurred on a completely different road.

The quoted stats about the difference between hitting a pedestrian at 30mph (10% die) v 40mph (90% die) don't hold water either... According to the DfT it's 20% v 85%. Peterborough Camera Partnership reckon it's 50% v 90%. Essex Safety Cameras claim 20% v 90% (but only 80% if the pedestrian is a child) and looking at stats quoted by various other bodies one gets the impression that although there's a reasonable correlation between speed and accident severity there is little, if any, hard science on the subject.

As for the 12 minutes on the hard shoulder... ???

alister said...

I hate the speed kills mentality. I'd like to take one or two of these out on a freezing foggy day, when the visibility is 100m or less and the surface is nice and icy on to a motorway and say do 60 mph, you're not speeding so you'll be safe! Don't worry that 60 totally inappropriate and that 30 mph is more appropriate after all only speeding kills and the limit is 70.
There are two junctions, both on bends and NSL (70&60), near where I live that are notorious for FATAL accidents and where do we get the mobile camera? At the 40 MPH town zone in the middle!

Vicky Ford said...

Iain - my experience of a speed awareness course was similar. The attendees were all well past the "boy racer" age... apart from one young man who privately admitted that he was taking the points for his dad.

I am not surprised by the high fatality statistics on rural roads - but disagree with the explanation that deaths are more likely to occur because the driver suffers in some darkened isloated ditch. That doesn't fit AT ALL with my experiences of deaths on rural roads near here.

In East Anglia we have many "rural" but major roads that are now very, very conjested and were never designed for the weight of traffic they carry. Many "A" roads have high casualty rates- these are not quiet backwaters.

Rural roads have more natural hazards than motorways - trees, signposts, on-comming cars, difficult junctions. Fatal accidents are not uncommon even though emergency services are often called pretty quickly. Whilst populations have been booming in the East our rural road infrastructure has been dreadfully underfunded and our "main" roads often can not cope.

I like your idea that drivers should be required to take part in a speed awareness course but, given that both of us found most of the class were aged 30+ , perhaps it should be targeted at the more "experienced" driver needing refreshment not the youth...

Anoneumouse said...

Seems as though they use the same softwear modle as developed by the Met office

Stronghold Barricades said...

If you think speeding is such an important topic surely it should be incorporated into every driving test

Whilst you're at it can we make sure that everyone who needs to reapply for their licence has to prove that they can still do this. Including those of a certain age.

Pat said...

Om further thought- and I'm sure I wouldn't have asked the questions- how was the 37mph quoted by the instructor for her daughter's accident verified? Was there a laser gun in operation (though these have been known to record a brick wall at 40mph) or was it someone's guess?
Also do we actually know how carefully she looked? A friend of mine got knocked over as a pedestrian and suffered amnesia (as well as needing a spell in intensive care).
In the absence of independent corroboration, your instructors account could be taken as emotional blackmail.
Oh and after thought- If anyone can get round the Burnham Bends at the speed limit (proof required) I will cheerfully buy them a drink. The speed limit is not set by a knowledge of what is possible- never mind what is safe or sensible.

Anonymous said...

That's News -
I think the article was referring to the M25 area for the 4 accidents. Not your little market town.

Weygand said...

This is utter bollocks.

Life expectancy 12 minutes, if you park on the hard shoulder!

As almost all broken down vehicles spend much longer on the hard shoulder, this would mean that the motorways would be littered with crushed vehicles, even if many were empty because the passengers had got out.

As described, this claim does not make sense.

Whilst getting out of your car is certainly the right thing to do, I doubt you would be so ready to believe these statistics if they had come from a Minister, rather than from some nice chap in a uniform (who is just parroting the line he has been given).

But, of course, if that part of what they told you was untrue, what about the rest?

Please explain.

Thatsnews said...

Anon. 12:09 AM, you missed the point.

The rule covered ALL speed camera placements, rural, urban or city.

They break the rules when it suits them. Then when they are found out, they change the rules and then break the new rules, too!

AP said...

I have been on one of these courses and I found it useful. I was caught (twice by mobile camera) in the same spot which is 200 meters down a steep hill where you can only stay under 30 by braking the whole way down and watching your speedo. And that is the crucial point, whilst watching your speed (literally by looking at your instruments) you aren't watching the road.

It is difficult to be precise about your speed without reference to your speedo, you are, by definition, judging the road itself which in my opinion is the most important element of driving.

For all of those good citizens who never ever speed, how do you know if you don't constantly watch your speedo. Personally I would prefer to take my chances with a driver who was watching the road.

If you own a 3g iPhone here is an interesting experiment, download a speed tracer app, put a post-it note over the car speedo and drive around your local town or city suburbs for half an hour doing your best to keep your speed under the limit. Take a look at the speed trace and you will see just how counterproductive obsessively imposed speed limits are.

An area of concern I have is hybrid cars driving at low speed in residential streets. When they are running on battery (under 20 miles an hour) they are completely silent and an absolute menace to pedestrians as we are all taught to listen as well as look for cars.

Of course pedestrians and cyclists could help themselves by taking some responsibility for their own safety by at least looking where they are going.

Thatsnews said...

This is what vehicle recovery operators recommend:

Exit the vehicle via the left-hand doors. Climb over the barrier (if possible) and wait behind the barrier.

Jimmy said...

Excellent piece Iain. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Having passed my test 2 years ago I strongly disagree with your final suggestion. Learning how to drive already costs too much money what with lessons, tests, and courses. Any more charges and itd be cheaper to take taxis. Great post apart from that.

Anonymous said...

Of course, if the pedestrians kept to the blo**Y pavement where they are supposed to be it wouldn't be a problem.

As for the teachers moral blackmail bit at the end, without knowing the circumstances why feel guilty?

PC numpties in a nanny state, spend the money on catching and chopping the hands off of joyriding scrotes who are the real menace

Ray said...

My problem with speed cameras is "opportunity cost" - what could be done if the money was spent more wisely.

The fact is that no one wants to be a bad driver and so training (as you point out) is an excellent investment that will work.

About 15 years ago the company I was working for had a crop of accidents in company cars and decided to put all company car drivers on a one day defensive driving course with an ex-police driving instructor. As a result, the number of accidents dropped to zero in the year that followed - down from 20 the year before. Impressive! Before the course, I averaged one crunch every two years, (touch wood) I haven't had one since.

This tells me that there is a far better way of spending the money used to fund speed cameras.

Treat the public as intelligent beings and help them become the better drivers that they want to be.

The carrot is far, far mightier than the stick.

Sam said...

I don't believe for a moment that 12 minute life expectancy figure.

Quite. It would require (at least) another vehicle to collide with a car parked on the hard shoulder on average after 12 minutes. This cannot possibly be true. Whilst it does happen, I have passed many cars on the hard shoulders of motorways - some all on their lonesome, and a couple with tow trucks. None of them were hit by another car.

I also don't even slightly believe the "15% of people that speed on the way to the hospital end up there" figure. 15% of people that drive like a complete eejit swerving in and out of traffic, maybe. The number of people who have a collision on the way to the hospital is 15% of the number who are stopped by the police for speeding on the way to the hospital? Possibly. But 15% of people who do 50 in a 40 on the way? Again, can't possibly be true.

Given that two such obvious falsehoods are presented as truth, I am inclined to disbelieve everything else the course instructor said - he obviously can't be trusted.

fyoc: practically on every journey, at least one person will step out in front of me without looking.

Quite. My one and only accident as a cyclist in London occurred when a pedestrian on her mobile phone stepped backwards into the road in front of me.

Anonymous said...

Iain you are such an old woman. How could you fall for this statist crap? No wonder you were such a ninny in FCS.

I've been on one of these re-education camps and was given an actual example of a kid being killed by someone going at 40 instead of 30. But I don't buy it.

Why not? Because it is not proportionate to scleroticise the whole urban transport experience of the country (including in the middle of the night, because restrictions apply then too) just because some people are too stupid not to jump into the middle of the road. Because that is what this comes down to: not cars mounting pavements or mowing down mummies with prams at zebra crossings; but suicidal idiots throwing themselves into roads in front of cars.

Yeah, using massive and illiberal state repression, cameras, chicanes etc may succeed in slowing down transport (and the economy). But how far do we go in interfering with and spoiling everyone's life against the relatively tiny odds of someone doing something so madly suicidal that you can't avoid inadvertantly killing them in a split second as you go about your daily business?

Any other takers for the notion that it is the individual's responsibility not to rush into extremely dangerous places where they have no business to be?

Cynic said...

On a road near me through an industrial estate the speed humps made it impossible to speed. Its a huge wide straight road and I cannot remember when there was last an accident there.

Last week they were all removed and this week camera warning signs appeared. Why? The local police have got some new speed cameras

Russell said...

Most revealing to read some of the sillier comments, which reveal a touching faith in the magic 30mph speed limit. Clearly if you drive at 29mph everywhere you will be immune to the danger of inflicting injury on anyone, even the schoolboy of about 15 who unhesitatingly walked straight out into the path of my car the other day, without looking to right or left, and seemed very surprised to have a horn blown at him.

Maybe he thought that, travelling at only 2mph, he posed no risk to anyone, least of all himself.

Andy said...

"Perhaps the most shocking statistic was when we were told that if you break down on the motorway and decide to sit in your car on the hard shoulder your life expectancy is reduced to 12 minutes"

Somewhere in there is a shocking misuse of statistics! Not credible.

Anonymous said...

"Until she told us that five years ago her 13 year old daughter had been hit by a motorist doing 37 mph in a 30 limit."

In other words, yet another nutter who leeches off the public to punish everyone for a personal harm she suffered. We need a government that will make these parasites get proper jobs or go on the dole where they'd be more useful. No wonder this is such a shit country to live in.

Ian said...

Sound well and good other than the made up statistics. 15% of people rushing someone else to hospital end up there? That's about 1 in 7 people - I don't believe that any more than I believe Labour has saved 500,000 jobs.

12 minutes if you sit in a car on a hard shoulder? Utter rubbish. How many people sit outside their cars waiting up to an hour without a soul even looking like bumping their car? Perhaps there's an underlying reason (e.g. you might choose to sit in your car in inclement weather, when the chances of another car coming off the road are higher) but I've no doubt those stats do not include people who wouldn't have been killed had they sat inside their car rather than outside of it.

Anonymous said...

number of cameras doesn't, on the face of it seem high. But it works out at about 10 per square mile.

Anonymous said...

"Wouldn't it be better to get them young, rather than wait till they have transgressed?"

Better yet, Iain, why not just whack 12 points on their license before they even start and therefore revoke it - no drivers left... "problem" solved. Honestly, what a completely stupid idea, the whole point of driving an appropriate speed is already drilled home through the theory test, hazard perception test and hopefully by your instructor there really is no need for any further nagging.

I also am very concerned that you've bought their lies. As someone else has pointed out: 13 yr old out at 3am? Obviously a lie to make you all feel bad, either that or she's as shocking a parent as she probably is driver.

12 Minutes life expectancy? Complete lie

15% go to hospital if you speed on your way to hospital? What a convenient fact to have in the memory bank - obviously something which is completely impossible to measure unless you catch absolutely everybody who breaks the limit on the way to hospital. How long after the trip is she talking about etc?

Sounds to me like they've given you some real facts mixed in with some complete propaganda rubbish in order to try and brainwash you into spouting crap like this post of yours to people you know.

DominicJ said...

He is right about the 4 serious injuries speed camera thing, however what counts as a serious injury and death isn't quite what you would expect.
It doesn't have to involve speeding of any sort, and can even involve suicides.

A section of road I use got a speed camera because some one tied a rope round his neck and a tree, then drove off.
It became a 30 road (from 40) because a boy racer rammed a tree at 90.

NickofTime said...

And this is yet another small example of why this country is like a load of sheep going to the slaughter. Like the Met Office computers which are biassed to predict weather on the basis of global warming so these statistics are biassed only to prove that speeding is bad, when it is not speeding per se which is lethal, it is bad driving!

We just lap up this stuff and nod in agreement without question. The triumph of state control is increasing every day and we are unthinkingly allowing it. If speed per se is so bad how come our motorways are our safest roads? And how come air travel is the safest form of transport?

These people are more interested in getting your money and a hold over you. You have walked open eyed into their trap and then behave as though they are right.

What we need is properly trained drivers, not the disgraceful joke of the once-in-a-lifetime driving test that we currently have.

Anonymous said...

Harsh though it may seem, I have to agree with Anon at 1.51am about the crude moral blackmail that was the parting shot from the lecturer, or "learing enabler" or whatever they call themselves. The spurious precision of 37mph is surely unverifiable, but the primary question always unanswered is whether the motorist indeed "hit" the girl, or whether the girl stepped into the road without looking. If the latter, although it is tragic that a moment's inattention should have such consequences, bear in mind that if a moment's inattention from a motorist results in an accident, this can lead to a prison sentence.

The most striking aspect of the steady criminalisation of motorists through ever reducing speed limits in the name of the "precautionary principle" is why this dogma is not more widely applied in the criminal justice system. It is possible that, by doing 37 rather than 30, then if someone thoughtlessly steps out in front of your car, the extra speed might, in certain circumstances result in a collison instead of an avoidance and might lead to more severe injuries. Compare this cascade of hypotheses which might lead to grater harm with the possibility that if those with long records proving their settled violent criminal intent are released from prison after their token sentences, they will commit further crimes, causing death and injury to others. The authorities do not hesitate to use all the powers of the surveillance state against people whose transgressions are confined to breaching an speed limit set by increasingly arbitrary means, yet seem to accept the catalogue of death and injury caused by those released on licence as a risk that society must accept as the price of a criminal justice system that believes in the presumption that serving a sentence rehabilitates to the point that the offender can safely rejoin normal society.

I'd rather take my chances jaywalking where Iain was driving than walking through the "territory" of certain former guests of Her Majesty.

Newmark said...

The statement about 12 minutes life expectancy on the hard shoulder is obviously nonsense. There is only about one hard shoulder death a month in England.

Some-one has got their ideas a bit muddled. I suspect that this piece of misinformation originated from a misunderstanding of the findings from a study which showed that vehicles struck whilst stationary on the hard shoulder had been there for an average of only 12 minutes. It said nothing about all the vehicles which had been stationary but had not been struck.

Anonymous said...

The course leader said that 15% of people who drive too fast to get someone to hospital, end up there themselves through having an accident.

And how would the course leader know that? The few times that I have driven above the speed limit to get to hospital without having an accident myself have never been recorded anywhere and I would think that applies across the board.

Rob Fenwick said...

Iain - re your update, I passed the test last year, and much of what you were taught is in the theory test, and even if you're not tested on it you have to learn it anyway. The problem is after a little while on the road people forget it all and settle in to a "it'll never happen to me" mindset, which is on show from some of your very confident commenters. I imagine their view would change overnight if they hit a person - child or not.

Anonymous said...

As most of the posters have pointed out, the whole road safety message is badly tainted by dishonesty on the part of police, politicians and other authorities. The statistics quoted are risible. Speed cameras are used for revenue raising and often sited with this in mind, like the 40 mph limit on dual carriageways plus lots of cameras after you come off the MII into London. More honesty would garner more respect.

Rush-is-Right said...

"The course leader said that 15% of people who drive too fast to get someone to hospital, end up there themselves through having an accident."

This is self-evidently untrue.

"100% of course leaders speak bollocks much of the time."

Now that would be true.

Tim said...

Thank Iain. And I agree that we should all have to do one. I try very hard not to speed, especially in urban areas, as I know the stats. But I bet going on the course would help me. Sadly, unless I gratuitously drive at 37 in a 30 zone, I won't get the chance.

I think one of these immediately on passing, and another every 5 years would cut the number of deaths and injuries a lot.

PS The newest generation of cruise control caps your speed if you ask it to - the accelerate works normally up to your chosen speed, but will only go over it if you give it a good push. I had it is a Laguna hire car last year, and once I got the hang of it I found it great. You could drive normally, and there was no danger of slipping over the speed limit. I would like to see that on more cars.

Anonymous said...

I also am very concerned that you've bought their lies. As someone else has pointed out: 13 yr old out at 3am? Obviously a lie to make you all feel bad, either that or she's as shocking a parent as she probably is driver.

No lie. Read Iain's piece again. He doesn't say the child was out at 3am.

Anonymous said...

Iain, do you believe everything the State tells you?

Anonymous said...

It seems curious that speed safety is governed by the "just in case you hit someone" mentality, rather than general, all-round safety and good driving.

I think it's a fairly fatuous argument.

Peter Jackson said...

Iain,
I could weep. You are plainly an intelligent man and yet, like so many people, you swallow any statistic, however palpably absurd. “15% of people who drive too fast to get someone to hospital end up there themselves through having an accident’’. How can anyone possibly arrive at that? Do they ask everyone who drives someone to hospital whether they drove too fast on the way? And the 12 minute life expectancy when you stay in your car on the hard shoulder. I wonder what their sampling was like for that little gem. There are lies, damned lies and statistics and glaring whoppers told to sensationalise what would be a perfectly sound argument anyway but which is only undermined by treating the public like impressionable children.

The Lakelander said...

Iain,

I's a fact that 75% of all quoted statistics are made up.

Jimmy said...

"Do they ask everyone who drives someone to hospital whether they drove too fast on the way?"

Of course. In much the same way that the entire electorate is interviewed for opinion polls.

Peter Jackson said...

@ Jimmy
A fair point but let's unpick this a little further. Do they take a sample of say 1000 people and ask did you drive too fast on the way here? And do they seriously believe they are going to get a truthful answer or an accurate answer even if sincere? Then, presumably they must survey A&E admission car crash victims, establish how many of them were taking people to hospital at the time of their accident and then establish whether they were driving too fast, then somehow correlate the results of the two questionnaires. If they are really doing this, I would suggest we have, between us, identified a big public spending cut. If not, then it's made up bollocks isn't it.

prj45 said...

AP said... For all of those good citizens who never ever speed, how do you know if you don't constantly watch your speedo. Personally I would prefer to take my chances with a driver who was watching the road

Do you actually stare at your speedo when you drive along, or take quick looks at it every now and again?

FYI, when going downhill you shouldn't be using your brakes but your gears to maintain your speed.

How did you pass your test? You can't speed on it, or drive around staring down at your speedo.

Sounds like somebody needs to learn how to drive!

AP said...

PRJ 45

I am familiar with engine braking, which is.....a form of braking.

Your advice doesn't work for automatics, and the advice to drive around town in second gear only works if your car happens to be geared for that speed/gradient/gear ratio/gear combination. At naughty driver school they recommend you drive around town in second gear, although this conflicts with most other advice on fuel economy etc. My car happens to do 95 in second. Gravity pulls it over 30 on a light gradient I am afraid, even in first (four speed auto).

To 'glance' at your speedo takes about 0.75 seconds allowing for eye movement and change of focus. In variable road conditions and on gradients you need to be glancing at your speedo every 10 seconds or so if you want to be certain of not going over 30 for a nano second (think about how often you check your speedo if the police are behind you) which means your are spending at least 7.5% of your time not looking at the road.

Given that speed cameras are at supposed accident blackspots and the first thing EVERY driver does when they see one is check there speed what is being achieved is to get people to take there eyes OFF the road at the most dangerous point. How is that sensible?

At 30 you will have travelled about 30 foot at each glance. That could be a very unlucky 30 foot for a pedestrian.

I passed my test first time, thank you.

prj45 said...

AP said... Your advice doesn't work for automatics


An automatic I had let me select positions one, two, three or Drive. If I selected one of the first three positions the car wouldn't go above that gearing (except in extreme circumstances).

The manual suggested keeping the stick in position three when driving in hilly areas.

AP said... To 'glance' at your speedo takes about 0.75 seconds allowing for eye movement and change of focus. In variable road conditions and on gradients you need to be glancing at your speedo every 10 seconds or so if you want to be certain of not going over 30 for a nano second

This is utter rubbish.

Maybe if you practised driving at 30mph you might be able to do it more readily.

And if you're not confident of not going over 30 then travel around at 25 giving you a bigger margin for error; 30 is just the limit after all.

And just glacing at your speedo does not mean you loose sight of the road in front, unless you have tunnel vision in which case you probably shouldn't be driving.

Jimbo said...

The 12 minute stat must be a lie because there are no stats for people who stop on the hard-shoulder, so how can they count ? I suspect the stat is for those people who are hit whilst stopped on the hard shoulder, the average time before they are hit is 12 minutes ! An important distinction.

Similary, how can there be stats for the number of people speeding whilst heading to the hospital ? Possibly this if of the number of people caught speeding, 15% were involved in an accident. Again an important distinction.

Whenever these sorts of stats are given out, you should be asking how they have been measured. Are they just estimates ? Is there hard data and how was it collected ? People use stats to justify their point but unless the person giving them has training in statistical analysis, what is said is often wrong. 37% of stats are made up on the spot, including that one.

Jimmy said...

"If not, then it's made up bollocks isn't it."

I suspect it may not be the most vigorous survey ever taken but I wouldn't discount it. How often do police cause accidents during chases?

The 12 minute life expectancy sounded the most specious. Not that I doubt the figure but that if you drew up a list of everything that statistically knocked twelve minutes off, you'd never get out of bed.

james said...

Interesting reading; I like to think I'm pretty good about road speed, often annoying the driver behind by going a genuine 30 when I should...

The 12 minute figure is bollocks though, and to be honest Iain, I'm surprised you didn't realise. It would imply objects on the hard shoulder get hit on average every 12 minutes. Simply can't be true.

Faustus said...

Iain, why don't you answer all of the questions that you have been asked?

I'm wondering whether you even read these blog comments.

Tony

Joe Public said...

Good article Iain.

Only by attending such a course, do you realise how much you don't know about driving, road safety & legislation.

As you say, every driver should have to attend a session before getting a full licence.

Gallimaufry said...

If remaining in a car stopped on the hard shoulder reduces one's life expectancy to 12 minutes, why did the Highways Agency introduce driving on the hard shoulder on the M42 at peak times? Wouldn't the extra traffic reduce life expectancy to six or three minutes or nearly instantaneous death?
One interesting statistic to discover - how many policemen and women get speeding tickets and, more importantly, get them cancelled for "operational reasons"?

Kiera Hardie said...

Thank you for this very interesting article. Isn't it extraordinary how hostile people are about some of the comments you have made? You have clearly recounted what happened on the course and your feelings but a number of people have been quite unpleasant.

My own view is that all of us drivers could do with reflecting honestly about the way we drive our cars. It isn't that much of an imposition to observe the speed limit, where the limit is thirty miles an hour to stay at 25 in town, and where it's sixty, to stay at 55.

It would help a lot, though, if police officers in marked cars would observe the speed limit. So few do, and it sets a terrible example. It also adds to the self justification that many people offer for their own speeding.

While some of the points made by the trainer seem to be a bit hard to believe, the whole point is that we can reduce the risk of harming others at negligible cost to ourselves by keeping our speed below the posted limit - even if we think we're not likely to be caught. All it takes is some self discipline.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps the most shocking statistic was when we were told that if you break down on the motorway and decide to sit in your car on the hard shoulder your life expectancy is reduced to 12 minutes - 12 minutes!!!

UTTER RUBBISH. IF THIS IS AN ILLUSTRATION OF THE "FACTS" THESE ANTI CAR LEFTIES SPOUT THEN THEY ARE LUTTL MORE THEN PROPAGANDISTS.

IF THE AERAGE CAR ON THE HARD SOULDER WAS THERE 1 HOUR, THIS WOULD IMPLY 1 IN 5 ARE CRASHED INTO AND WRECKED. CLEAR NONSENSE.

Jimmy said...

I initially read that sentence as life expectancy reduced by 12 minutes rather than to 12 minutes. I assume it's typo?

Anonymous said...

Ian,

The course leader has clearly told you at least two porkies.

1)From the Highways Agency website:

"over 100 people are injured on the hard shoulder each year"

http://www.highways.gov.uk/news/pressrelease.aspx?pressreleaseid=147425

So clearly death can be expected within 12 minutes does not apply to the tens of thousands (like your course leaderI know not the actual figure) of people involved in motorway breakdowns each year. The RAC and AA would very quickly run out of patrol men if she were correct.

2) I have never been asked by any hospital if I drove too fast on my way there. They may well ask accident victims that question but that would only be gathering stats from one small select group of people.

Forlornehope said...

Iain, I had a poke at you when you first posted on your speeding. Can I say that you seem to have reacted to the course with your usual display of intelligence combined with an open mind. 2500 people die on our roads every year and ten times that number are seriously injured. Any contribution that a person of your influence can have on reducing this is very welcome.

prj45 said...

Forlornehope said... Can I say that you seem to have reacted to the course with your usual display of intelligence combined with an open mind

Well that's a bit bizzare becuase only the other day Mr Dale was railing against the government spending money trying to educate dimwits not to run rail crossings, and here it is spending money trying to educate dimwits who speed but thats OK?

Tone made me do it - he's a bad influence said...

I worked as a retained (part-time) fire-man for 5 years.

In my experience, the major course of road deaths on rural/urban roads were cars occupied by 2 or more "young" people at night. Often these cars were small, say Fiesta sized. The road weight of such cars is 1000kg.

Adding three (or even 4) more people to the total weight of the vehicle adds 210kg -21% to the average weight of a small car that the the inexperienced driver is use to.

Add peer-group pressure (from the back) on the driver to "go faster" because the car/driver is "crap".

Seat belts in the back are often not used.

Energy=mass times the velocity squared.

If the govt/Police were serious about reducing road deaths they would either
1.force car manufacturers of small cars to remove the back seats, as they do in Australia
or
2.Make it illegal for drivers under, say, 25 (but definitely 21)to carry back-seat passengers after dark or, say 8pm.

Ask any, and I do mean ANY Firemen.
- Most fatal RTA's involve
youngsters after dark.

Iain - if you do one thing when you get elected, check the above facts and stop these deaths.

FRC said...

I don't think you need to do teh course at the "just past the test" stage as this information shoudl be communicated in teh drving lessons up to the test anyway.
I think we could all do with a reminder in all forms of regular activity when it combines familiarity with danger.
I would say there are very few drives post 5-years experience that wouldn't benefit from a course; what better way to select them on a fast-come-first-served basis..I'll get me coat!

alastair harris said...

a day of unchallenged statistics with an emotional tear-jerker sting in the tail. They will get you on an anti-littering course next!

JasonLadas said...

I too have just attended a speed awareness course and was deeply suspicious of the 26 (as we were told) minute life expectancy on the hard shoulder. I did a bit of googling and found the actual statistic to be as follows. Of all people killed on the hard shoulder, on average they had been there just under 26 minutes. Talk about white lies, black lies and statistics!!