Examination of Witnesses (Questions 107-119)|
WEDNESDAY 30 JANUARY 2002
107. Gentlemen, I am very grateful to you for
coming. Would you introduce yourselves?
(Professor Allsop) I am Professor of Transport Studies
at University College London.
(Dr Carsten) I am director of research at the Institute
for Transport Studies, University of Leeds.
(Dr Kimber) I am science and engineering director
at the Transport Research Laboratory, and technical director of
the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research. On my left I have
Mr David Lynam, who is technical manager of the Safety Group in
TRL and Ms Marie Taylor, group manager of that Safety Group.
108. Thank you. Dr Kimber, did you have something
you wanted to say to begin with?
(Dr Kimber) By way of introduction it is worth our
remembering that there is now a large body of evidence that shows
that, in given circumstances, higher speeds lead to more accidents
and that injuries are more severe the higher the speed is. That
dependance on speed is very strong: that means, therefore, that
reductions in speed have the potential to reduce accidents very
significantly. There is a substantial scientific evidence base
for that and previous witnesses have touched on parts of it, but
I would like to name three main strands, if I may, to start off.
Firstly, observations of the speeds adopted by individual drivers
and comparisons with their accident records show that, the faster
the driver drives, habitually, the more accidents they will have.
Secondly, observations of traffic on roads of different types
show that the higher the average speed and the higher the spread
of speeds on a road of a given type, the more accidents there
are. Thirdly, before and after studies of speeds and accidents
when speed-reducing measures were installedtraffic calming,
20 mph zones and so onshow both reductions in speed and
reductions in accidents, and the two are very closely associated.
In addition to that, studies of the injuries caused by accidents
show a very rapid dependance on speed. The higher the impact speed,
the more severe the injury. That body of evidence, I believe,
Chairman, provides us with a very sound scientific base for concerted
(Dr Carsten) I would like to add that in intelligence
speed adaptation, which is the system that brings the speed limit
into the vehicle, we have the potential to prevent speeding from
occurring in the first place and that makes it the most powerful,
single, road safety system that we can currently think of, and
it is practical now. I would invite all members of the Committee
to come and drive the intelligent speed adaptation car which has
been produced for the intelligent speed adaptation research project
funded by DTLR to see that this system can operate now, with current
109. I would like to start on the psychology
of speeding. Dr Kimber, what research could you tell us about
showing what does work and what does not work in persuading drivers
to cut their speed? For instance, the current DTLR slogan says
"Speed kills". How do you assess that? Is it the best
(Dr Kimber) It is very difficult to assess slogans
in isolation. Past experience shows that what works best in road
safety is a variety of measures that are mutually reinforcing.
Thus, if you look at drink driving, over the years the accident
rate for fatalities fell during a period when a number of measures
were introducedlegislation, tighter enforcement and so
onand that was reinforced by very good publicity and attempts
to change attitudes. That, together, was very successful. I think
the same would very much apply with speed management: that is
to say slogans, publicity, attempted attitude change, need to
mutually reinforce other measures which we need to bring in. If
those other measures are effective then the reinforcement would
be strong, so it needs to be seen as part of a whole.
110. What role do you see the media playing
in attempting to shift attitudes?
(Dr Kimber) I think there is a point of principle
here, first of all. What we would like to convey to the public
in general is, if you like, a true appreciation of the risk of
particular activities. Thus, it would be far better if people
understood the risk they ran by driving at a certain speed and
by speeding. Unfortunately there are minority groups who argue
against the general message, which tends to produce some confusion.
I think that the media, in putting out a coherent and clear message
which is based on sound evidence and a message that will, therefore,
get over to people just what risks they do run
111. You are not even getting over to the motoring
organisations, are you? You must have heard the evidence they
have just given.
(Dr Kimber) Indeed, there are differences, Chairman,
112. I think they fly in the face of sense.
(Dr Kimber) Quite so.
113. So what do we do about that, Dr Kimber?
How do we educate the uneducated?
(Dr Kimber) Without drawing any direct inference from
114. I will make the inferences, Dr Kimber.
(Dr Kimber)it is the case that the evidence
has built up over the past few years very rapidly and very substantially.
That evidence is now clear and we understand it and it is possible
to begin to put it over in a clear way, in the same way that the
successes with drinking and driving were really kick-started,
I think, back in the 1960s by the Grand Rapids study which showed
how risk depended on blood alcohol. Now we have the same sort
of information from the last few years and we need to plug away
115. On the statistics and what you have given,
what investigations or evidence have you taken on road rage? There
are a lot of serious incidents and there are more and more of
them. What research have you done into people who do create road
rage on our motorways?
(Dr Kimber) For our own part we have no direct research
and it is rather a difficult subject to research, partly because
any deconstruction of an accident or road rage incident depends
very much on how to get hold of the evidence and that is difficult
to build up
Chairman: So you do not intend to block the
psychiatrically disturbed from driving.
116. Can I take you to a couple of issues: one
is related to speed cameras and siting, and the others is repeater
signs? We will start with repeater signs. What is the view of
you and your colleagues about the desirability of repeater signs
at 30 mph speed limits, and the current situation regarding restricted
roads and the signing of speed limits on them?
(Dr Kimber) Evidence collected by the AA Foundation
for road safety research showed that motorists' understanding
of speed limits was generally poor and it was particularly poor
for speed limits other than the 30 mph limits and 70 mph motorway
and dual carriageway limit, so I think the value of flagging up
30 mph limits is not quite so straightforward as all that. There
has been resistance in the past to using repeater signs, mainly
because of the fear that it would cause confusion. In other words,
it would be very difficult to throw a switch and have repeater
signs everywhere in the country where there was a 30 mph limit
and, therefore, where they were not present, there would be legal
ambiguities. So there is a resistance to that and I do not think
they would be particularly helpful in these circumstances.
117. So how would you deal with that issue of
(Dr Kimber) The recognition of speed limits and the
use of speed limits needs very close attention. I think there
is a lot of evidence now that we should really be looking very
hard at, so as to define roads and speed limits by function of
the road, so that the road itself is "self-explaining"
and it is clear to a motorist what sort of speed limit is applying
and what sort of speed should be adopted.
118. Wherever they join the road?
(Dr Kimber) Yes.
119. But there are a number of roads where the
very nature of that road is highly ambiguous. There are effectively
`B' roads that run through residential areas which could be classified
either as through significant roads or as residential, so it is
going to be very hard to define a road clearly and what you are
talking about, to me, makes it likely to confuse the motorist
(Dr Kimber) I do not think that necessarily follows.
Waiting for the best could be the enemy of the good. We really
have a lot of ground to make up in terms of understanding, and
I think it is perfectly possible to move into more rational systems
and there are ways of doing it, but there will always be exceptions