|London, 8 June 1997.
For immediate release.
Less than two months after coming to power, the New Labour Government has adopted the failed policies and tired rhetoric of the Tories in concentrating on the enforcement of inappropriate speed limits, to the exclusion of improvements to driver training, road conditions and signage.
New Labour were elected on a ticket of Education, Education and Education, yet less than two months into their term their attitude towards drivers is characterised by Ignorance, Oppression and Persecution.
The Roads and Traffic Spokesman for the Association of British Drivers, explains:
"Gavin Strang and Baroness Hayman are threatening to accelerate the last Government's policy of road safety through arbitrary speed enforcement. This policy has FAILED to have any significant impact on casualty rates. They are using the same tired rhetoric as the Tories, quoting numbers like '1200 killed by speeding' - a number which has been plucked out of the air and which has absolutely no basis in scientific fact."
The anonymous "Government Spokesman" has been quoted as saying that the Government recognises that drivers will not respect limits that are set too low and urges Local Authorities to review such limits upwards. But, at the same time, Gavin Strang announces that he "will not bow to pressure to increase the 70 mph motorway limit", which is the most inappropriate of all, motorways being the only category of roads in the UK where the AVERAGE vehicle speed is above the limit and also being the safest to travel on. If a minister cannot follow his own advice, how can he expect Local Authorities to do so? This contradictory position makes it certain that the current policies of introducing inappropriately low limits will continue - limits which a Suffolk coroner recently cited as a factor in two fatal accidents.
Meanwhile, the police are using the language of extreme prejudice in describing those who break the 30 mph speed limit as "ape-like males who cannot grasp that speed kills children". But almost all motorists break the 30 mph limit, mostly in places where the "government spokesman" has admitted the limit is wrong and should be revised upwards. Enforcement is concentrated in these areas and, justified by this kind of alarmist rhetoric, has become an end in itself and so increasingly disconnected from the very safety it is supposed to promote. Thanks to this approach, those upright citizens who request police action to curb genuine speeding on their road are most often caught out themselves in totally safe circumstances whilst the dangerous drivers get away with it. So the police are making apes of us all and monkeys of themselves.
In fact, out of 18,138 child pedestrian casualties in 1995 on "built up roads" (defined as those with limits of 40 mph or less), there were 106 fatalities - around half of one percent. When compared to the government assertion that "only" 5% of child pedestrians are killed at 20 mph, it is clear that speed is manifestly not killing children. If it was, the proportion of fatalities would be vastly higher.
The Association of British Drivers has been campaigning for years for a common-sense view on road safety which encourages higher driving standards, as Chairman Brian Gregory points out:
"It is obvious to anyone who knows about driving that almost all accidents are caused by failure to perceive a hazard and respond to it correctly. Any effective road safety policy must be geared towards improving drivers' ability in these areas, together with signage to help identify hazards on the road. Current policy involving only the setting and enforcing of bad speed limits actually undermines this process, reduces the skill levels of the driving population, and encourages a negative attitude to genuine safety measures. It is very disappointing to see the New Labour Government perpetuating and even encouraging this criminal irresponsibility."