Road Safety News

Partnership starts work on speed controlled zone

Monday 22nd October 2012

South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership is creating a new speed controlled zone, using a series of average speed cameras, to control vehicle speeds on a notorious stretch of road which runs through parts of Sheffield and Barnsley.

The 5.5km section of the A61 to be covered by the cameras includes a series of bends and a number of major road junctions where there have been collisions in the past. 
On this section of the A61, running between Grenoside, Sheffield and the A616 (T) roundabout in Barnsley, six people have been killed and 19 seriously injured in traffic collisions over the last five years. A further 93 have suffered slight injuries.

Based on data in the DfT report ‘A Valuation of Road Accidents and Casualties in GB in 2010’, the South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership calculates the current average costs to society as a result of these collisions to be in excess of £2.8m per year.

Chief inspector Stuart Walne said: “Inappropriate speed is a common factor in collisions which have previously happened on this stretch of the A61. Traditional speed enforcement is not straightforward along this route and we have had to look at ways of using current technology to its best effect.

“The cameras are being installed as a road safety measure. If they don’t record anyone breaking the speed limit on the road that will be great. It’s not about catching people, it is simply about reducing collisions and saving injuries and life.

"By encouraging drivers to travel at an appropriate speed we estimate that we will see a 40% reduction in the number of collisions.”

For more information visit the South Yorkshire Safety Camera Partnership website or contact Steve Betts at the 
South Yorkshire Safer Roads Partnership.


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Rebecca has asked two questions which deserve answers. Mine would be:

1. Regardless of how a decision has been reached that speed cameras should be deployed, their use should be rejected in favour of more civilised forms of top speed control, if that is, indeed, necessary, following the detailed study required of any accident situation.

2. I don't know why so many people, etc. unless, perhaps, it's because they are seeing cameras being used in situations where they seem designed only to irritate drivers - or as a subtitute for an urgently need road works.

Bear in mind that, in Scotland, the proliferation of cameras is associated with a sharp decline in the rate of reduction of fatalities.
Andrew Fraser

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It is perfectly reasonable, and essential in any safety discussion, to challenge assertions and false logic.

You say "If the casualty rate has shown an unacceptable trend and excessive or inappropriate speed has been found to be a factor ..." and then state that "speed cameras to improve safety and reduce death and injury". To underpin your hypothesis, I suggest you need to find an example of a collision that would not have occurred had speed cameras previously been installed.

If you cannot find such an example, and I am confident that you will not, there is no reason to believe that any future collision will be prevented by the cameras. On the contrary, my view is supported by the Highways Agency report mentioned at my #2 posting below, where they found ASCs increase hazards and risk and had no proven safety benefit.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

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I find some of the comments on here pretty disheartening because at the end of the day, each one of these collisions represent untold human suffering.

I'm also concerned that there seems to be a basic presumption that the people from South Yorkshire are not highly experienced and have not undertaken detailed analysed of the casualty data. Some of those commenting seem to presume that the road safety professionals in South Yorkshire are just sitting around guessing at the type of intervention that might work and plucking ideas from a hat.

Readers and those commenting on this newsfeed should remember that stories are only 'soundbites' and not the full in depth studies and reports complete with dataset.

If the casualty rate has shown an unacceptable trend and excessive or inappropriate speed has been found to be a factor in a high enough proportion of the collisions, why should we be criticising the use of speed cameras to improve safety and reduce death and injury?

Why are so many people so keen to assume that road safety professionals are not highly educated and experienced people who can be trusted to interrogate data and come up with reasoned (and cost effective) solutions to identified problems?
Rebecca, Leeds

Agree (14) | Disagree (2)

The point is that a few hundred collisions out of, say, 15 million vehicle movements does not make a road 'dangerous'. If it was 'dangerous' you'd be seeing crashes everyday. There must be a level of incidents/collisions/accidents on any road where the law of diminishing returns applies and it becomes impossible to reduce them any further because the authorities can't stop drivers making mistakes - only drivers themselves can.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Hugh, it's not the media who define 'dangerous roads'. Local Authority stats teams analyse casualty data and identify trends over a given period (3 or 5 years typically) and those routes which have a high rate (which allows for volume of traffic etc) are identified as sites/routes for concern. If speed is the main contributing factor cameras or other engineering solutions maybe considered.

Accidents are random, most collisions are not accidents in that they are foreseeable and often preventable.
Dave, Leeds

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Yes Steve you are quite right, the road could have a problem (or a series of problems over 5.5Km) but that's not necessarily true as it could just be an unusually high collision rate due to random variation. The issue is that, when a KSI reduction does occur, we will have no idea what caused the reduction because there's nothing to compare the road with.

The best evidence we have are the 2 most prominent speed camera reports in Britain (the four year evaluation and The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras, RAC Foundation) which both estimate that the majority of KSI reductions would have occurred anyway (without intervention) and my report ( which showed that the entire reduction in fatal or injury collisions at all speed camera sites in Thames Valley actually did occur anyway (without intervention) a full year before speed enforcement started.

I am not saying “do nothing”, I am saying “only use speed cameras within scientific trials”.
Dave Finney - Slough

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Another way of looking at this ‘notorious’ stretch of road, or any other media-defined ‘dangerous road’ is that typically, 99.9% of vehicles travel these routes without incident. The ratio of accidents to the amount of traffic over the 5 year period is practically a drop in the ocean and yet the authorities are still pressured to ‘do something’.

This is not to diminish the tragedy of the individual accidents and the consequences for those involved, but accidents are nevertheless still random and not necessarily a product of the roads themselves, but a product of those individuals who, by their road behaviour, makes them high risk and accident prone and who happen to be on a particular road when they make one of their many mistakes, but ran out of luck. The benefits of enforcement extend widely and will not necessarily be reflected in the accident stats for just one road.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Thank you for your clarification Dave.

However, please excuse my ignorance, wouldn't this assume that there isn't a problem? Merely that it's a glitch?

If there is a particular problem - I would assume it is speed choice on that road due to the intervention chosen - then I don't see how a regression to the mean would happen without any intervention. Can you please explain further?
Steve, Merseyside

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Of course, Dave, you are quite correct and this is perhaps where safety engineering clashes with politics (and human nature).

The authorities have stumbled across a method where “site-selection effects” (aka regression to the mean) are almost guaranteed to produce a huge KSI reduction irrespective of the actual effect of the intervention and therefore, not only can they “do something”, but they can always claim success, no matter how ineffective (or damaging) the intervention is.

Suppose scientific trials were run and it was discovered that the speed cameras had no benefit (or even caused more crashes) what might be the consequences of that? In the short term, how can “something be done” without the fear of failure being proved?
Dave Finney - Slough

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The problem with a local authority doing nothing about a route identified as having unusually high levels of casualties is that the family of the next person to be killed or seriously injured on that route will want to know why nothing was done. This will lead to inquestes, enquiries and someone being to blame...

Very few people on the death of a family member will accept 'we're just waiting for casualty numbers to regress to the mean' as a reasonable answer. As with potholes and othe road defects once an LA is aware of the problem they have a duty to do something about it.
Dave, Leeds

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Yes Steve, I would expect "casualty figures to 'regress to the mean' without any intervention" and it's not just me. The largest government report on speed cameras (the 4 year evaluation) estimated that 81% of the KSI reduction would have occurred anyway (without intervention).

The very fact that SYSCP picked out this particular road as having unusually high deaths and serious injuries almost certainly means that they will reduce dramatically "without intervention".

Let's assume that total casualties were occurring at their “mean” rate but the severities then return to the national distribution over the following years. There would then be a 44% reduction in KSI and an 83% reduction in deaths without any intervention.

Whatever the effects of speed cameras, we can be very confident they will be significantly lower than other factors and therefore, without scientific trials, we will never know if their effect was positive or negative.
Dave Finney - Slough

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In passing, I don't see any reference to the detailed accident study which concluded that a punitive approach was the correct one. But then, I've never yet seen such a study where automatic detection and prosecution is involved and, as far as I know, neither has any one else. Can this really be the "way forward"?
Andrew Fraser STIRLING

Agree (4) | Disagree (1)

Dave Finney - do you mean to say that you would expect the casualty figures to 'regress to the mean' without any intervention? Or that you would expect a 'regression to the mean' due to the economy? Despite casualty figures nationwide increasing during this recession?
Steve, Merseyside

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I am very sorry to read that a more intelligent approach to the problem of speed has not been adopted. Whereas automatic detection and prosecution "works", it also carries with it certain dangers. Unfortunately, the proponents of this approach have been at great pains to deny that there is anything wrong with it. Anyone else who has questioned the approach will know what I mean.

I suggest that everyone reads Helen Wells' recent publication, ISBN: 978-1-4094-3089-6 or 978-1-4094-3090-2, which uses the camera enforcement "debate" to show us what is going wrong in our society. Ideally, we could then discuss how to go about solving the problem in a more socially acceptable manner.
Andrew Fraser STIRLING

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What would occur if nothing were done on this road?

The road was clearly selected due to an unusually high number of deaths and serious injuries and we would therefore expect a very large reduction (particularly of deaths) as the casualty figures “regressed to the mean”. Furthermore, the recession would almost certainly have reduced the probability of KSI collisions occurring therefore, if the economy does not pick up again, a large reduction would also be expected due to that.

And, since the effects of regression to the mean and trends are likely to be significantly larger than the effects of the speed cameras (as estimated in the government's 4 year evaluation), it will never be known whether the speed cameras increased, reduced or made no difference to the deaths or serious injuries.

Surely it's time to insist on scientific trials so that road safety interventions can be accurately assessed?
Dave Finney - Slough

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There is more evidence that collisions will increase as a result of deploying average speed cameras (ASC). In 2008, the Highways Agency published a report showing that that ASCs in roadworks create hazards in the form of distraction (looking at speedo and cameras), sudden braking, bunching and sudden lane changing. The report acknowledges that there are no proven safety benefits (collision/casualty reduction) from the use of any speed cameras and that driver education campaigns are of increasing importance to encourage “correct behaviour” in the presence of cameras. In other words, cameras increase risk and drivers need to be educated to reduce that risk (with no guarantee that you will ever get it to a level better than it was without cameras). The A61 project described is not roadworks but the same hazards and risks apply.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

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I wish them well. Hope that they get the results that they want. We will see in next few years if this form of traffic enforcement works.

My question would be: Are we seeing accidents as a result of exceeding the speed limits for those roads, which by all accounts statistically only represents a small number of such incidents, or are we seeing accidents as a result of innapropriate speeds for the road or other circumstances that may occur?
bob craven Lancs

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