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Friday, 12 February 2010

Lord Faulkner dangerously wrong.

I wrote to tell Lord Faulkner, a roads minister, that he had seriously misled the House in his responses to Lords Trimble and Filkin during the speed camera debate on the 28th January 10.

Basically I pointed out that 'speed kills' is an untrue simplistic sound bite because, since man took to the horse, the railway, road transport, faster ships, planes and of course the production line, so life expectancy went up and not down. But of course speed is much nearer to our hearts than that isn't it? Speed being motion, then without it no heartbeat and.....................? So 'speed kills' is not just a sound bite but a very false one too. I put it to Lord Faulkner that road safety should not be reduced to false spin and soundbite.

He also said 'speeding is dangerous'. Yet by now my followers will already know that physics would not support the notion that to simply exceed a number on a pole will result in anything any more than not to won't. Of course you may recall a couple of years ago, the then Chief Constable of Lincolnshire, agreed with me in writing.

So Lord Faulkner had either knowingly or being misled himself, misled their Lordships too on two major points in a life and death issue. He has now replied to me. Has he admitted that he misled the House? Well yes in a way. He just simply ignored my points and changed the subject entirely. I claim that as an admission.

Anyway you may be interested in my reply to him (copied to Lords Trimble and Filkin) as follows:

Thank you for your kind response of the 11th February, but I must persist on this life and death matter of road safety.

Your letter has not addressed my specific concern about the term ‘speed kills’ when science and history show that we cannot live without it. So it is reducing a serious matter to untrue soundbite. The other, that ‘speeding is dangerous’, to The House, when in fact physics would not support that statement, since going above an arbitrary and unscientific number will not actually cause or affect anything, was also untrue.

As you have not addressed either of those points I take it that you agree then that I am correct.

Instead you have now, with all respect, turned to a simplistic logic of the effects of speed after impact. I would prefer to focus on preventing the accidents before impact. Or else let’s just stop all road traffic and get 100% success. We will kill many thousands from the economic impact of doing so though. And that is the point. Slowing traffic unnecessarily kills people on an economic linear scale of in excess of £2 billion pounds direct cost per 1 MPH we slow it. How many lives could we save with that kind of money in addition to the other costs of the Industry on the community? It is a mistake to imagine that the Road Safety Industry is costless and that slowing transport is costless too; far from it.

The ‘probability of collision’ is not affected by speed limits, as you suggest, but actual speed. So speed related collisions are often below a speed limit and limits have nothing to do with it.

The camera success that is claimed, is based on the at ‘our sites’ regression to the mean trick where a balloon on a stick has proved to have had the same success without criminalising people, putting them out of work and on to the State (another cost) and probably breaking homes too. I have had a balloon hanging on my gate now for some two years and there have been no accidents within a mile of it. In fact it has now gone flat and still works; that is regression to the mean. I have figures that actually show overall increases in death figures since 1993 and after camera introduction. The last two years show a massive drop but because of the high fuel costs and less mileage being driven, a point that the Road Safety Industry is not mentioning when boasting about ‘their success’. How dishonest is that?

I am absolutely sure that you are not deliberately being misleading about this serious issue but rather being misled and thus The House.

Please do not hesitate to contact me for a voluntary and expert perspective on this very important issue.


  1. Faulkner was also wrong in saying that vehicle activated signs (flashing or speed indicating) were ineffective after a short period. TRRL research shows them to be at least as good at reducing vehicle speeds over the short and the long term. They are also safer when used in roadworks producing less accidents than fixed pseed cameras (TRRL again !).

  2. Thank you for that info PhilT