Sunday, 17 February 2008

Speed is Safe - Fact versus Fiction

Worldwide speed and safety research shows a remarkable 'consensus' on motoways. Not only are motorways (the fastest roads) the safest (the lowest accident rates) but no matter what the speed limits Govt imposes they have little effect on accident or casualty/death rates.

Germanys autobahn network has approx. 30% of its autobahns unlimited with the remainder being limited to 82mph. You'd think unlimited speeds where people/motorists are allowed to drive at any speed they feel would lead to higher accident rates and more horrific levels of both accidents and casualties/deaths? Not so.

In fact Germany has lower accidents/casualties than all it's neighbouring countries (Austria, Czech Rep, France, Poland etc) all with lower speed limits. And Germanys record is also better than Americas with limits of 55-65mph.

Hard as may be to swallow there is no connection between speed and accidents/casulties. And even harder to understand is even on urban roads excess speed (over the limit) is only responsible for 4% of accidents.

The "Speed Kills" message from Government is not only unsubstantiated but ignores up to 99.9% of the problem regarding road safety. So why isn't speed the problem the modern myth purports?

Accident analysis points to the main reasons for accidents being bad driving (poor use of mirros, poor awareness), drink or drug driving, weather conditions, road surface, even road signage and markings).

German manufacturers and ADAC (the motorist breakdown organisation) claim the major area needing addressing is the slowest part of the autobahns and not the fast lanes. Namely it's poor lane changing manouvres near on/off ramps getting on or leaving the autobahns. And autbahn statistics also show their higher speeds don't lead to greater/worse accidents. Why?

3 issues also need understanding. Firstly all surveys show the majority of accidents come from the slowest 20% of drivers and the least accidents come from the fastest 20% of drivers. Faster drivers are more skilled, more aware and more able to avoid accidents. Secondly humans avoid accidents as we all have in-built safety limits and avoid accidents and overtly high-risk danger. Thirdly cars are built to be safe at top speeds (companies wouldn't produce unsafe vehicles) and all cars are perfectly safe at 70-90% of their limits (125-190mph+) so the technology is safe at 75mph to 160mph+ conditions (traffic density and weather) permitting.

JJ Leeming a UK accident scene and traffic engineering expert wrote a book devoted to improving road safety and improving accident rates. He wrote "I spent much of my career speeding up traffic as a way to reduce accidents".

The late, great automotive intellectual and journalist LJK Setright said "there should be no law against speeding. The only law should be dangerous driving."

Speed cameras in urban enviroments penalise speed but that addresses only 4% of accident causation. Speed cameras on motorways penalise speed but that addresses less than 1% of accident causation. And the UK's speed camera proliferation is having none of the desired outcome/objective of their implementation. In fact whilst the UK's roads are amongst the safest the accident rate is getting higher with the Govt's persistance with this flawed strategy. You can see why it's so fundamentally flawed when you look at the stats' and see they're not addressing 96-99% of the bulk of the problem!

No comments: