Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Top Cop Attacks Speeding Middle-Classes

In an interview with the Telegraph, Julie Spence, the outgoing Cambridgeshire police, claims that "driving without care or consideration for other road users is probably among the worst kind of anti-social behaviour" but that "drivers consider speeding as acceptable". To be fair to the poor old middle-classes, I don't think this is a middle-class problem. People from right acrosss the social spectrum are just as guilty.

The report claims that "Exceeding the speed limit or going too fast for conditions was reported as a factor in 4,187 deaths and serious injuries in 2009, according to the Department for Transport." The key word here is 'reported'.
What happens at the scene of a crash is the police officer(s) attending compiles a STATS19 report listing the factors that contributed to an accident. However, this list is only the factors that are known about.
From STATS20 (the guidelines for completing the STATS19 form):

"5.3 The Contributory Factors reflect the Reporting Officer's opinion at the time of reporting and are not necessarily the result of extensive investigation. Furthermore, it is recognised that subsequent
enquiries could lead to the reporting officer changing his opinion. This is not a problem.
5.4 Factors should be identified on the basis of evidence rather than guesses about what may have
happened. This evidence can come from various sources such as witness statements, vehicle and
site inspections. It can be of variable quality, which is the reason for recording the assessment of the
reliability of the Contributory Factors."

Oftentimes, the speed of the vehicles involved isn't known. The 'delta' speed at impact (the speed two vehicles were travelling relative to each other) can be estimated by the damage to each vehicle, but that does not tell you what happened immediately before the crash. If a vehicle was travelling at 80MPH, it may have braked without leaving any skidmarks. In a rear-end collision, the 'delta' may have been 30MPH, but it may be difficult to establish whether the two vehicles were travelling at 40 MPH and 60 MPH respectively, or at 60 MPH and 80 MPH respectively. Motorists will often lie about their speed if they were speeding, and their may be no witnesses to contradict their account. Even where there are witnesses, they may have had a very short time to assess the speeds, and may not be able to do so with any accuracy.
In very serious accidents forensic methods may be used, but quite often the priority is to clear the road and get traffic moving again. According to RoadPeace, "The Department for Transport
estimates that the current resources allocated to a fatal road crash investigation amount to
£1600, and £220 for a serious injury road crash." Clearly, there's not much evidence that can be gathered for £220.
So although excessive or illegal speed is reported as a factor in a bit over 10% of crashes, the number of crashes in which excessive speed was a factor is likely to be far higher.

Speed is actually a factor in 100% of crashes. At lower speeds, you have more time to react, and your speed at impact is lower so the severity of damage and injuries is massively reduced. It really is delusional to pretend that speed doesn't kill, or that speeding is not reckless endangerment.

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