Thursday, 19 April 2007

Speed cameras and the problem of public truth

(Ed: What have speed cameras got to do with Jesus? Answer: this article reveals all sorts of questions about truth in the public realm. It might be a good discussion starter!)

[...] The official statistics lump together deaths and serious injuries on the roads. These have shown a significant fall since speed cameras were introduced, leading to the inevitable conclusion - speed cameras save lives.

But the dramatic fall in serious injuries in road crashes puzzled some academics, who didn't think it reflected what was going on in hospitals. So they compared the hospital statistics for road injuries to the police figures, which the government uses.

"What we found was no substantial decline at all," says Michael Goldacre, a professor in Public Health from Oxford University, and part of the research team.

There's an even bigger problem with road deaths. In the decade before speed cameras came in, the number of road deaths fell by over a quarter. In the decade after they were introduced, deaths went down by just 8%, despite the improvement in new cars and the advances in emergency medical care.

The end of decades of rapid improvement is worrying experts like Jeremy Broughton, of the Transport Research Laboratory, who has written a report for the government examining what's happening to the road death figures.

He believes the problem is a minority of dangerous drivers who are not being deterred by speed cameras and need to be dealt with by more traditional forms of policing.

"When you drive home this evening, the likelihood of seeing a traffic cop is actually quite low and it's certainly much lower than it was 10 years ago," he says.

The other problem with speed cameras is they rely on drivers to be honest enough to register their cars properly. We've uncovered evidence that drivers are deliberately registering their cars at other addresses to make it difficult for the authorities. Read more

No comments: