Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Ninth Report

Changing attitudes

104. People's attitude to speed is confused. As one submission put it:

"Road safety is a concern to the public, but speeding is not despite being a major cause of collisions".[179]

We hate the effects of speed, especially when they have a major impact in the vicinity of our homes, but we do not consider speeding a serious offence.

105. We were left in no doubt that reducing speeds would be popular. A survey by MORI in Hertfordshire found that 79% of people regarded dangerous driving and speeding as a problem in their neighbourhood. In Shropshire 87% of parishes had sought action from the county council or police.[180] We were informed that:

"When local people were asked about road safety in these areas it was rated as an issue of concern to rank alongside burglaries and muggings";[181] and

" A North Yorkshire survey asked people whether their neighbourhood was a safe place for children. Of the 6,747 people who answered the question, 41 per cent said no and of these 81 per cent stated that this was due to speeding or other road safety reasons."

106. On the other hand, as the Government notes, there is a cultural attitude which regards speed as trivial.[182] We were informed:

"Society does not seem to be very critical of the conduct of drivers and so when an accident occurs unless the behaviour of the driver is atypical and extreme, it is the typical and often childlike behaviour of the young pedestrian where blame is directed."[183]

107. Almost every witness said that there had to be a change in attitudes to speed: many said that the Government should aim to make speeding as socially unacceptable as drink driving.[184] TRL found that:

"Many drivers have difficulty in recognising the added risk from increased speed. Misperceptions abound. In many respects attitudes and beliefs are similar to those on drinking and driving some 40 years ago".[185]

108. The success in changing attitudes to drink-driving was, as Leeds City Council informed us, based on publicity and enforcement over a long period.[186] Mr Brunstrom of ACPO told us that these significant changes had been brought about by:

"Over 25 years of consistent policy from several governments and police service, with consistent educational messages, with a consistent enforcement policy".[187]

According to ACPO, the National Safety Camera Scheme should make a huge improvement to enforcement. This should play a major part in making "speeding socially unacceptable within a decade ...".[188] There will also need to be improvements in publicity. While the DTLR, and road safety organisations run national and local publicity campaigns, such as Speed Kills, they have not been very successful.

109. However, education and publicity campaigns can be effective.[189] Several witnesses suggested improvements. We were informed that:

"Drivers see speed as a principal source of danger..Thus the climate of opinion may well be favourable...but more effort is needed to raise awareness of the risks and impacts, and change behaviour"

TRL argued that there was now a lot of evidence about the link between speed and accident risk, which should be used as the trigger to change attitudes: "the measures need to be coherent and to generate clear perceptual understanding by the driver of the risk inherent in the speed they adopt for a particular circumstance".[190]

110. Among the views put forward for improving publicity were that:

- general publicity should take the form of "year-round publicity campaigns on speed through TV, radio, cinema, bill-boards and leaflets";[191] Susan Beck of Safety Camera Partnerships argued that there should be a national television campaign co-ordinated with the National Safety Camera Scheme;[192]

- the Government should encourage positive media coverage, and should refute "information based on misquoted research"; PACTS called for a "rapid rebuttal unit in the Department to do this;[193]

- campaigns should be targeted at specific groups of drivers, in particular those prone to crashes, for example, young drivers, high mileage drivers. Fleet managers should be encouraged to develop "a company culture which prioritises safety and does not pressure drivers to speed"; many good companies do.

111. In addition to publicity, the training and re-training of drivers provides opportunities to improve attitudes to speed. In some of the safety camera partnerships, for example in Northamptonshire, "speed diversionary workshops" have been established as an alternative to fixed penalty notices and penalty points. These workshops encourage drivers to re-examine their driving habits, but it is too early to assess their effectiveness. The national driver improvement scheme, which is similar, and under which drivers are referred for training after committing serious offences, have been successful.[194] Driving tests are to be improved by incorporating hazard perception tests; Mr Silcock argued that these should include speed-related hazards.[195]

112. Better publicity and education must play a part in reducing speeds together with more effective enforcement and engineering. We recommend that the Government:

- establish a comprehensive, all-the-year-round publicity campaign, using the television and other media, and co-ordinated with the National Safety Camera Scheme;

- establish campaigns targeted at specific groups;

- ensure that local partnerships support enforcement and traffic calming measures with education campaigns;

- ensure that schemes like the 'speed diversionary workshops' in Northamptonshire be copied through out the country if they prove to be successful;

- make speed-related hazards a part of the hazard perception tests to be introduced in the driving test.

113. While these measures could in conjunction with more effective enforcement and engineering make a significant improvement, making speeding socially unacceptable will be difficult. As Gloucestershire County Council noted "..drivers are constantly receiving a subliminal message that it is acceptable to speed. All drivers know that it is illegal to break the speed limit yet they also know that "they" (ie the police, local authorities and Government) do not stop drivers from speeding".[196]

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents informed us:

"Unfortunately road safety education and publicity are often undermined in the mass media. Motor manufacturers and their advertising companies continue to emphasise the speed and power of their vehicles. Television motoring programmes continue to promote the thrill of speed, placing undue emphasis on performance at speed, often showing cars being raced (albeit not on the public highway). Television dramas often show characters driving at speed when speed is not essential to the plot or the characterisation".[197]

179   Street Management, TFL (RTS 24). Back

180   RTS 8; the evidence presented to us about the Hertfordshire survey did not separately distinguish views on dangerous driving and speeding. Back

181   ACPO, Annex 3 (RTS 137). Back

182   Tomorrows roads, p. 78. Back

183   RTS 47. Back

184   Eg see Nottingham City Council (RTS 9); ACPO noted that "speeding is still socially acceptable in the way that drink-driving used to be a generation ago, but now is not." (RTS 137); an exception was the ABD which argued that most only speeded where it was rational and safe hto do so (RTS 11). Back

185   RTS 27. Back

186   RTS 17. Back

187   Q3. Back

188   RTS 137. Back

189   RTS43. Back

190   RTS 27. Back

191   Brake,RTS50. Back

192   RTS 43; Susan Beck is the National Communications Lead for the National Safety Camera Scheme, representing all the existing and new partnerships throughout the country. Ie the rts43. Back

193   RTS 14. Back

194   RTS 12. Back

195   RTS 12 Back

196   RTS 25. Back

197   RTS 16. Back

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2002
Prepared 19 June 2002