Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 295-299)




  295. Can I welcome you to the third session this morning. Can I ask you to identify yourselves for the record, please?
  (Mr Mathew) Don Mathew, Vice-Chairman, Slower Speeds Initiative.
  (Dr Davis) Adrian Davis, author of "Killing Speed", a good practice guidebook submitted to the inquiry.
  (Ms Mitchell) Paige Mitchell, co-ordinator of the Slower Speeds Initiative.

  296. Do you want to say anything by way of introduction or are you happy to go straight to questions?

  (Mr Mathew) I will say a few words, good morning to you and your members. The Initiative, as is outlined in first paragraph of our evidence, is a coalition of environmental, pedestrian, cyclists and community groups. On that I am the representative of Sustrans as we have an interest in those matters. Sustrans also has an interest in the Ten Year Plan and you have kindly called us to give evidence on that. The Initiative was formed to put speed on the policy agenda but our mission has, to some extent, been sidetracked by the extraordinary amount of requests we have had for help from individuals and communities throughout the land. I understand that some of these people and communities have also written to this Committee. I do commend their testimony, I think it is powerful and eloquent testimony of the general public and conditions on the ground. Briefly, I think these responses and the responses that we have had fall into three, firstly that peoples' lives are blighted and threatened by speeding traffic. Secondly, disappointingly, with some exceptions, the powers that be, such as the police and the highway authorities, the Home Office and to some extent the DTLR often seem uninterested or not particularly helpful. Third, most worrying of all, little or no action seems to happen until members of the community are actually killed or seriously injured. The Initiative believes this is a deplorable state of affairs. We believe, firstly, the DTLR should make much more resources available for safety schemes. Two, the DTLR should introduce a wide range of pilot projects to hasten innovation. Three, this country should move to a default speed of 20 mph in urban areas. Four, we should develop a speed assessment framework derived from the European Master Project and incorporating a road danger reduction approach. Fifthly, and lastly, the Home Office must be do more, much more, to link road safety with other key government objectives, including the welfare of children, social inclusion, urban regeneration, better health and, of course, integrated transport.

  Chairman: Thank you very much.

Dr Pugh

  297. Can I start by playing Devil's advocate, you are claiming in your submission that huge reductions can be achieved by concentrating on speed and only about one third of accidents have speed nominated as a contributory factor. How do you respond to that?
  (Mr Mathew) I will ask our co-ordinator to respond in a moment. In our view much of this is a mis-reading of the TRL Report 323, where we see that in virtually every instance of contributory factors speed is involved, even if it is not "the major factor" it is certainly a contributory factor. When we also consider that driver error contributes to about 90 per cent of casualty incidents we feel that the one third figure is an underestimate.
  (Ms Mitchell) The first thing to say is that we need proper empirical studies. We have very good evidence from TRL on a statistical basis that speed is very closely correlated with crashes and clearly as speed goes up the severity of crashes goes up and they have borne out that for every mile an hour reduction in speed you get between two per cent and seven per cent reduction in crashes.


  298. Can you speak up a little?
  (Ms Mitchell) However, if we look at areas where we have introduced speed reduction measures, whether those are cameras or physical measures, traffic calming, and got speeds to the enforceable limit casualties tend to go down much more, and you heard some of that evidence this morning, with figures of 50 per cent and over. We think that the figures could be much higher and what we need to have is properly controlled trials of properly enforced current speed limits and reduced speed limits to see by how much we do reduce casualties

Dr Pugh

  299. I think it is accepted that the faster a vehicle goes the more damage is done, if vehicles did not go fast at all there would be no damage done. The concept is quite clear. In Gloucestershire they found that 60 per cent of pedestrian accidents were caused by misjudgment, pedestrians entering the carriageway without due care and 23 per cent of pedestrians were completely blameless. That is what their research found. I would like you to respond to that?
  (Dr Davis) If I may respond to that. Ultimately the Initiative takes the view that pedestrians should not have to bear the brunt of, maybe, misjudgments in their own behaviour.

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