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12/27/2008
UK Parliament Slams Bogus Speed Camera Statistics
UK Parliamentary study criticizes government officials for relying on inaccurate speed camera accident data.

House of Commons
Over the past several years, officials with the UK Department for Transport and Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) have testified that "good progress" has been made on national goals to improve road safety. According to government statistics, the number of people killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads continues to fall substantially, a fact used to justify the continued deployment of 7000 speed cameras throughout the country. In a report issued in November, the House of Commons Transport Committee called into question the reliability of these claims.

"Up to this point we have accepted the assurances of the government that its casualty data were robust and that good progress was being made on bringing down the number of people killed or seriously injured," the committee's report stated. "Given the significant yet unexplained divergence in the trends for deaths and serious injuries, and given the growing body of evidence of changes in the reporting rates, we can no longer conclude that good progress is being made on casualty reduction. Indeed, we are worried that ministers are not challenging their officials sufficiently and that policy-makers and practitioners are being lulled into a false sense of security."

In 2006, the British Medical Journal exposed the inconsistency between the number of injuries reported by police and the number of hospital patients admitted because of injuries sustained from traffic collisions (view report). Although some have charged that officials have been deliberately skewing the data to improve the image of speed cameras, ACPO Chief Constable Steve Green strongly denied the claim.

"One thing I would say absolutely categorically is there is no organized conspiracy to under-record," Green said.

Because it is much less likely for a road fatality to go unreported or miscategorized,
the parliamentary report considered the number of motorists killed on the roads to be a more reliable measure of road safety.

"Whereas we have reservations about the accuracy of the serious injury data, there seems to be agreement that few, if any, deaths go unrecorded," the report stated. "These give a less controversial account of the government's success with reducing casualties. The reviews of 2004 and 2007 noted the disappointing progress in reducing deaths."

In the six years prior to the installation of speed cameras, the number of road fatalities dropped by an average of forty each year. In the past six years of heavy traffic camera ticketing, the average reduction remained forty. This lack of improvement came despite substantial advances in vehicle safety from antilock brakes to traction control and crumple zones. The report also pointed to a drop in fatalities in the US as a result of reduced driving because of high fuel prices.

The report recommended the creation of a British Road Safety Survey that would allow an independent body to measure the effectiveness of traffic safety programs using hospital data and not just police-generated data.

Despite the skepticism regarding official road safety data, committee members remained generally supportive of photo enforcement. Labour Member of Parliament Clive Efford, for example, wondered how much more the government might do to ticket drivers.

"Is the public ready to accept radical measures that may involve restrictions on personal freedoms that they have enjoyed up to now?" Efford asked.

A copy of the report is available in a 4.2mb PDF file at the source link below.

Source: PDF File Ending the Scandal of Complacency: Road Safety beyond 2010 (UK House of Commons Transport Committee, 10/29/2008)

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