Monday, December 16, 2013

Speeding myths again

Come the winter months, come the tired old mantra about speeding being the cause of so many accidents. Every time you see a police officer interviewed on TV, they always say the same thing: "slow down".
Ugh.
Ok folks - look - speeding is not the prime cause of accidents. Not in any weather, not by a considerable margin, not by any way of looking at the numbers that you choose. Generally speaking, in Europe, America and Australia, speeding is only the contributing factor in 7% of road accidents. Dangerous maneuvers, inattention, failure to maintain control, "pedestrian entered roadway without looking", "looked but didn't see", drunk driving, drug driving, distracted (cellphone) driving, and mechanical failure all cause more accidents than speeding. This is backed up by dozens of studies done across the globe, all of which get buried really quickly every time they're published. Why? Because it's easier to catch and prosecute someone for speeding than it is to prosecute for dangerous or distracted driving.
Automated speed cameras are designed to raise revenue with very little financial outlay. They are impartial, unbiased, have zero subjectivity, and if the local cops are a bit bent, are easy to hack to issue tickets to people driving at the speed limit (happens a lot - google it).
What do I mean by subjectivity? It's OK to cut in and out of lanes, dodging trucks and pissing off everybody else in pouring rain, with bald tyres and one headlight out, because the police generally can't catch you, and won't catch you when you're doing that. And no automated system can. But zip past a speed camera on a completely empty three-lane road at 90mph at 2:30am and cha-ching! Cash for the police, points on your licence. Which is the most dangerous? Obviously not the empty road at zero-dark-thirty.
Study upon study has found that speed cameras do not deter drivers, and in some cases actually make the roads more dangerous. Even at the most optimistic level, they don't make any road any safer, and nothing illustrates this more than getting a speeding fine in the mail. I got one last year from Switzerland. I was there in December on business in a rented car, and in February I received a fine here at home in the US, to be paid to the Swiss police. Issuing a fine through the mail does not make a road safer. All it does is raise money. The worst part in this particular case was that I wasn't even driving - I wasn't even in the country. It was a corporate rental with two names on the rental receipt - mine being at the top - but my colleague (the second-named driver) was driving it as he stayed on an extra week.
The take-away from all this is simple : better driver training, more attention behind the wheel, less distractions and steeper fines and prosecution for dangerous driving. That will cut accident rates. But those are all expensive and complicated to implement, and don't raise cold hard cash. So we have to deal with the idiotic mantra that "speed kills" (it doesn't), so for the time being, buy a radar detector and/or GPS speedtrap locator (or use Waze on your smartphone), drive as quickly and safely as the traffic allows, and be vigilant.
You can find my entire page on this topic here : Speeding facts vs fiction, including links to various reports on how dangerous speed cameras are.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Spot on, as usual, Chris. The thing I can't stand is the complete failure of the police and media to distinguish between 'cause" and 'contributing factor'. Here's a great video on the subject from Vancouver, Canada.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BKdbxX1pDw

Paul said...

Agree with you here Chris but I'd like to point out two issues I see.
1/ Personally I think, in Winter conditions, it's sensible to slow down. Snow and ice make even the speed limit dangerous. I know, drive to the conditions.
2/ You use the example of driving at 90mph at 230am. That's 132 ft/second, at night. That's being a little reckless IMO. The lights can't see well 264ft (2 second rule) in front of you. I agree with the sentiment but disagree with the example.

Luca Fuoco said...

Paul, he said the road is empty. Can you not read? In that condition you don't need any visibility, lights, nor eyes. Stupid idiot learn2read!

Paul said...

Excuse me??? You're calling me an idiot??? Wow, I didn't think morons like you really existed.
Yes I can read and did see that Chris said 230am. But what about wildlife? What about someone broken down on the side of the road? Do a search for cars in Texas hitting pigs in the early hours of the morning on interstates.
"In that condition you don't need any visibility, lights, nor eyes..." You, sir, are a complete moron. Please tell me you are nowhere near Texas as I want to be nowhere near you when you're on the roads.

Birger Delrue said...

Paul is right , drive to the conditions.

Getting hung up on fixed speed limits is dangerous just for that very reason.
This summer , i went to an accident on a local highway (I'm a volunteer fire fighter , btw). The obvious cause of the accident was idiots who kept driving at the speed limit while in dense fog. The result , a 3 car pile-up

Most of the other highway accidents I went to this year , were cars that run into the back of a traffic jam. Again , not going over the speed limit. Just not looking at where they are going.
Also I've noticed that less and less drivers use their hazard lights in traffic jams. Maybe they should make billboards about that , instead of the ussual road safety crap.

But still , when politicians talk about making our roads safer , all they do is add more speed camera's. They do NOTHING about people driving like crap , texting while driving , not to mention drunk driving.

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