Thursday, September 5, 2013

Speed Does Not Cause Accidents

This is the bombshell headline reported by the BBC in its report on  this debate on the Today progamme between Prof. Stephen Glaister of the RAC Foundation, a respected transport research organization, and Claire Armstrong, who does not represent a respected transport research organization - at least, not if your definition of "respected transport research organization" includes the willingness to subject your research to peer review by others in the field or get it published by relevant academic journals. She represents "Safe Speed", who are, it appears, an organization  representing people who simply don't want to believe that speed causes road collisions, makes them more likely and makes the consequences of them worse. According to George Monbiot, it is a "a lobby group claiming to stand for one thing [road safety], but in reality standing for its opposite [the removal of both speed limits and their means of enforcement]"

Such people, it seems, are prepared to indulge in all manner of cherry-picking of evidence and bad science to "prove" that "speed does not cause accidents", when there is a positive tsunami of evidence not just from this country but from all around the world that the opposite is the case. In the debate, Armstrong parroted "regression to the mean" as if this alone means that 2+2 actually equals 3. Glaister pointed out that the RAC's report does take account of regression to the mean (as you'd expect from any statistical analysis worth its salt).

Armstrong also suggested that speed was a factor in only 6% of accidents. The Transport Research Laboratory dispute this, according to this source:

"The factors involved [in collisions] include, as TRL have pointed out to ABD and others on numerous occasions, more than one causation which would relate to speed. For example, Loss of control of vehicle, Failed to avoid vehicle/object in carriageway, the top two 'precipitating factors', will both be strongly influenced by speed."

I deconstructed Safe Speed's website a couple of years ago in a series of posts:

If anyone at the BBC is reading this I suggest you take a look before you invite these people onto your programmes and give them equal billing with someone who has any more credibility on the subject of road safety than Donald Duck. How much is the license fee again?


  1. Safespeed was set up by one Paul Smith, a man who recommended dodging speeding fines by taking the names of recently deceased people from the newspaper so the grieving family get the speeding tickets.

  2. According to Health And Safety Training Peterborough, it is not just speed that cause the accidents but it is the lack of focus and precaution.

    Arnold Brame