Road Safety News

New website features bereaved mum and convicted young driver

Tuesday 30th September 2014

A new website designed to reduce casualties among young drivers was launched last week by Leicestershire Fire and Rescue Service (FRS).

The ‘Fatal Four: Cause and Effect’ website was launched at the National Emergency Services Show at the NEC in Birmingham (24-25 Sept).

The website offers a range of free resources such as fact sheets and “hard-hitting” videos, including conversations between a bereaved mother and a convicted young driver who was at the wheel when her son died.

Leicestershire FRS says the resources have been designed to offer educators “the best and most influential road safety material when teaching students between the ages of 15 and 19 years”.

The website tells the story of Michael York, who crashed his vehicle while returning home from a night out in Leicester. He was driving at excessive speed and under the influence of both alcohol and drugs.

Alongside him in the car were his three best friends (including two brothers), two of whom died in the crash. Michael York was given a five-year jail term, and in a remarkable act of forgiveness, Mandie Brown, the mother of Matthew Brown who died in the crash, hugged him in court.

The website contains video clips of an event at John Cleveland College, Hinckley at which Mandie Brown and Michael York talked together about their experiences in front of 280 students.



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Pursuing those who commit the fatal four (and other offences) does have one advantage - the perpetrators can potentially get taken off the road - which is pretty well immediate and guaranteed for the drink-driver and for others if repeated and removes the threat - for a while anyway.

As for your rather draconian and hard-hitting suggestion that the authorities should "get to grips with the problems", I think that's what they're actually doing.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (2)

The answer to Hugh's question depends on whether you are a behaviourist or not. If you are a behaviourist then any undesirable (and illegal) activities can only be eliminated by using either punishment or reward (which only works if the punishment or reward is immediate and guaranteed). In the case of the fatal four the behaviourists can guarantee nothing of the sort so far as punishment goes and so the targets continue happily doing what they are doing in the full and certain knowledge that they will probably get away with it. The behaviourists know that because the phone call, text or facebook update is a reward in itself then that activity has a 100% reward guarantee as against a .001% guarantee for punishment. The drivers have also worked this out for themselves and are simply playing the odds.

Using Deming's system of profound knowledge on the other hand looks at the problem from an entirely different viewpoint and looks instead at how the system itself (of which the driver is also a part) might be employed to reduce the incidence of the fatal four (if indeed they have any influence on the fatality rate). This opens up a rich seam of opportunity for those of us that employ this system as it has been well proven that this method solves far more problems, far more quickly than is possible by using behaviourism alone.

My plan for the Authorities therefore is to abandon behaviourism, adopt Deming's system of profound knowledge and really start to get to grips with the problems.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

If I could drag you back to the question I put to Idris and your subsequent posts, as the news item relates to direct action against certain undesirable (and illegal) driver behaviour on the road, what's your alternative plan of action for the authorities?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

There is no functional difference between a system that makes a percentage of scrap parts (manufacturing) and a system that makes a percentage of scrap people (road transport). The methods that manufacturing used to drastically reduce the amount of scrap and increase the quality of the product can therefore be directly transferable to the road transport industry. An understanding of variation as I mentioned is critical to the successful implementation of these methods.

Is this a wind up? Certainly not as it seems obvious that the systems and methods that built such high quality cars and bikes should not be abandoned once they leave the factory.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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Are you winding us up Duncan?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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I can help Hugh with his question although I'm sure Idris will also come up with some ideas.

What is most important to measure is the variation of all the elements that have an effect on the process. In the profound knowledge system we need to have an appreciation of a system, an understanding of variation, an understanding of psychology and a theory of knowledge. The understanding of variation is critically important so we can determine whether the variation is due to common causes or special causes. Knowing the effect of common causes on the accident rate rising and falling such as in line with the economic cycle, the weather, the time of year etc helps to identify those special causes that are unique to any particular event or events.

Knowing the difference between common and special causes helps to avoid those situations where a fall in the accident rate is falsely attributed to some special measure rather than being part of a wider cycle of variation.

A study of the work of W. Edwards Deming will explain things more fully.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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Perhaps some guidance from Idris on what he thinks the authorities should be 'measuring' or otherwise detecting and acting upon would be useful.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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What I do share with Idris is the fact that I also was around at the time of the Vietnam conflict. The quoting of McNamara is interesting but flawed because many would say that what he considered important was far from what the Vietnam population considered important and thus led to the opera turning out very different than he expected. Those wanting a more holistic view of his "success" in Vietnam can see the his Wikipedia entry and scroll down to the Vietnam section:-
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

Another anecdote you might find instructive, as I did to good effect when I first read it many years ago. Robert McNamara, then USA Defence Secretary, sent an urgent message to the USAAF in Vietnam - "Measure what is important, NOT what is easy to measure". How right he was, it's all too easy - and common - for those who get new equipment or methods to become so involved with them that they lose track of what they should really be doing.

It was when technology made speed measurement cheap and easy, and computers the prosecution process, that the authorities started to exaggerate the significance of speeding far beyond reality. But the music has stopped and the fat lady is singing - I promise you.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)

On the contrary, I think it is fortunate that these offences are easy to observe and prosecute, otherwise how would they be detected?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Correlation doesn't prove causation but it is generally the first step towards it. It ought to be obvious that, if a behaviour is dangerous, deaths while engaging in that behaviour ought to be higher than when not engaging in that behaviour. In other words, if speeding were dangerous then there should be a correlation of outcome (fatal collisions) with behaviour (miles driven above the speed limit) compared to not speeding. With speeding (and mobile phone use) there isn't even correlation, let alone causation.

There does appear to be correction for drink and no seatbelt, and causation also. It must be concluded that the fatal four, if we must select four, would include drink and no seatbelts, but could not include speeding or mobiles as there are many other issues that pose real risk.

The four chosen by the ‘Fatal Four: Cause and Effect’ website do seem to be, though, the top enforcement road safety issues and also the major thrust in road safety publicity campaigns consistently for as long back as I can remember. This may be because those four might be the easiest to observe and prosecute.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (4) | Disagree (10)

Who needs road accident research when we've got Idris's anecdotes and observations to guide us.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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From my schooldays - "Uncle Fred never exceeds the speed limit, never had an accident. Seen thousands!"

I was stuck today at 20mph or less on a single track road, for 10 minutes - he was completely oblivious to my presence, or to polite "toots". On the other hand, I have ridden with fast drivers who inspired complete confidence despite breaking limits, but been scared by slow drivers lacking the confidence or skill needed. I very much doubt that there is any meaningful link between faster, mature, experienced and sober drivers and crash rates.
Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield

Agree (4) | Disagree (14)

"...bring back roads traffic Police". I wasn't aware they'd been away Dave, but in any event who or what do you think they should be targeting to "reduce deaths", that isn't being done now?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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So your argument for the Police not to target exceeding the speed limit as a contributory factor in 15% of fatal collisions is that most people do it?
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

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Hi Matt,
The contributory factors (they are not causation factors) are only 1 half of the equation. The other rarely mentioned half is exposure. For instance, is drink driving dangerous? We know around 7% of fatal collisions involve a drink driver and we can estimate that fewer than 1% of miles driven are driven drunk. That makes drink driving over 7 times more likely to result in death.

So is speeding dangerous? We know that around 14% of fatal collisions involve a speeding driver. We also know that roughly 50% of drivers speed in free-flow conditions (so that's a maximum) therefore, at any point in time, perhaps around 10% to 20% of drivers are speeding. That means that the rate of fatal collisions for drivers speeding is much the same as for drivers not speeding. After accounting for stolen cars and drunks, a sober driver may be less likely to cause a fatal collision while speeding than not speeding.

And the reason is actually obvious. People (that's all of us) tend to speed where the road is clear, and not speed where there are other road users. And collisions tend to occur where there are other road users. The most effective method to reduce deaths is to bring back roads traffic Police.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (11) | Disagree (12)

Drink driving does not inevitably result in an accident any more than exceding the speed limit does. A driver could technically be (fractionally) over the drink-drive limit and subjectively be driving impeccably, not putting a foot wrong, taking defensive driving to the nth degree etc. and even driving safer than some sober drivers. Do you think he/she should be let off and treated sympathetically as you might feel towards a driver exceeding the speed limit, or would you see it as a black and white offence? If you would support prosecution, you would have to also support exceeding speed limit prosecutions. I would put the same argument to you on any other traffic law you think should be enforced - assuming there are some.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Thanks for the links Matt!

The TRACE Project (Analyzing 'human functional failures' in road accidents) is a most excellent piece of work from the human factors point of view.

I particularly like the statement that "the emphasis of this work no longer focuses on blaming the human component of this system, but on revealing the explanatory mechanisms that lead to specific failures, in relation to the situational context in which they are found".

Couldn't have put it better myself.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

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The difference between "exceeding the speed limit" and "drink driving" is that only the latter can be a root cause of a collision or casualty. Additionally, few would claim that driving while over the alcohol limit is ever safe on any road. Whereas driving over, say, 30 is deemed generally safe (conditions permitting) on all roads with a higher limit.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (15)

Duncan is quite right, and Police STATS19 contributory factors are far from ideal in providing information on the "complex causal web" for each collision. But they are better than no information as long as they are treated appropriately.

A number of in-depth studies have used other methods e.g. the Driving Reliability Error Analysis Method (DREAM) or Human Functional Failures (HFF). I've included some links for anyone interested:


Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

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I'm one who disagrees Eric, but I've been retired a few years so how can my livelihood depend on the 'speed industry'? Do you want to investigate where my pension comes from?
By the way, regular speeders have other driving faults as well, as do drink/drivers, 'phone users and non-seatbelt wearers so I wouldn't presume they're 'otherwise law- abiding'. I suspect that notion is what's behind this campaign.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (13) | Disagree (5)

In your post two below this one you say:
"As so often on this website, safety and enforcement become inextricably linked"

I'm not sure that's true, other than in discussion threads where contributors, including you, want to air your views, primarily about speed limits and speed enforcement.

You also say:
"Those who disagree (with targeting speed limit exceedences) will be the ones whose livelihoods depend on the "speed industry"."

In this instance I'm certain that is not the case. I suggest there will be many, many people across the country who support the principle of 'targeting speed limit exceedences' whose livlihoods having nothing whatsoever to do with the 'speed industry'.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (26) | Disagree (1)

Eric and Dave:
I take it you accept that drink-driving (one of the fatal four) is unacceptable and contributes to accidents and you would support drink-drivers being prosecuted? Are you therefore okay with drink/driving for prosecution purposes also being determined by 'exceding a number', prescribed in law, on an alcohol/breath measuring device?

You might say it is similar to 'exceeding a number on a pole' - also prescibed in law. Your regular gripes about speed limit enforcement could apply to drink/drive limit enforcement surely? What about tyre-tread depth? That's a number prescribed in law as well and if we don't comply with it we can get the same penalty as if we don't comply with the 'numbers on a pole'.

If you accept that legally prescribed limits are necesaary in some aspects of safety on the road you should accept them all.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (21) | Disagree (5)

As so often on this website, safety and enforcement become inextricably linked, with an assumed causal link between breaking the law and reduced safety. 15% of fatals may well have "exceeding the speed limit" as a contributory factor but if, say, all 15% involved drink, drugs, car theft or other criminal behaviour (and I conjecture that the vast majority do) then there is no reason to believe that targeting speed limit exceedences by otherwise law-abiding motorists will have any noticable impact on road safety and collision reduction.

Those who disagree will be the ones whose livelihoods depend on the "speed industry". It's akin to prosecuting a dog-owner for walking their unmuzzled poodle on the assumption that dogs savage a significant number of people every year and a poodle is a dog. Such actions do not make our world safer and bring the prosecuting authorities into disrepute.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (8) | Disagree (22)

"Cause & Effect" is technically incorrect as a single cause will have many effects and a single effect will have many causes. Cherry picking one piece of data out of the many pieces that make up a complex causal web makes it much easier to use counterfactual reasoning to try and explain an accident by 'IF-ing' things away. If he hadn't been doing x then y wouldn't have happened is perfectly true, but if he hadn't been doing a, b or c at the same time or encountered d, e and f along the way then y wouldn't have happened either.
Duncan MacKillop, Stratford on Avon

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

Whatever the reasons behind someone "exceeding the speed limit" doing so is an offence and shows up as a factor in 15% of fatal collisions in 2013 - it is enforceable by the police and therefore can be considered one of a few priorities for enforcement in the reduction of fatal collisions on that basis. Whatever the cause, it is the manifesting behaviour that can be targeted and addressed through enforcement.

I must also point out that I included a caveat in my brief look at the data that there will be a number of cases where more than one related contributary factor is recorded - as in your example, drink/drugs could be the reason someone exceeded the speed limit in which case both factors may be recorded.

I will also add that the contributory factors are a subjective assessment so may also carry inaccuracies in that respect - before anyone else points that out.

Bottom line, Dave asked for evidence relating to why speed and mobile phones were included in the 'Fatal 4', I did a very quick search of the most recently published data and provided some evidence. Others will do, and I'm sure have done, a more robust job than my 15 minute search and I'd encourage them to share that evidence.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

Agree (19) | Disagree (4)

I challenge the interpretation of your data. "exceeding the speed limit" when associated with an incident is invariably a consequence of drink/drugs or other unlawful activity; it is never a root cause and, in fact, cannot cause anything.

Proof? If "exceeding the speed limit" could be a causal factor, then that factor could be eliminated if the speed limit were increased or removed. Clearly such a change would not affect the conditions leading to the incident. There is no causal link between exceeding a limit and an incident/collision
Speed can be important, but not in relation to a limit sign.

"Too fast for the conditons" can contribute to incidents (but the root cause then is poor judgement or inexperience) but exceeding a number on a sign cannot.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (29)

With regard to evidence related to speed and mobile phone use:

Firstly, by indexing the percentage of fatalities attributed the causation factor against the percentage of all accidents attributed that causation factor (i.e. overrepresented in fatal collisions). In this case the top four driver related factors (based on 2013 data with indexed scores in brackets) are: Disobeyed double white lines (737), impaired by drugs (383), using mobile phone (382) and exceeding speed limit (333).

Or you could look at contributory factors as pure percentages of fatalities they are attributed to - in which case the list (based on 2013 data) is: Loss of control (34%), Failed to look properly (26%), careless, reckless or in a hurry (20%) and exceeding speed limit (15%).

Now, seatbelts aren't recored as a causation factor (quite rightly) so don't show up in that analysis but the DfT report indicates 19% of fatalities as car occupants were not wearing a seatbelt (where this information was recorded).

Either way speed is in there and there is also evidence why mobile phone is too. Question I might ask is should drink driving be in there either at all or should it be combined with drugs?

I will add the caveat that I've just looked at that in less than 15 mins based on the DfT report and not looked in more depth at where a number of related factors i.e. loss of control and exceeding the speed limit have been attributed to the same collision, which could change the results a little bit. But you get the idea.
Matt Staton, Cambridgeshire

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"...failure to observe all other road users and loss of control". Let's think how those two could come about. Using the 'phone and speeding perhaps? I think that's what they're saying Dave!
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

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Why have those particular behaviours been labelled “the Fatal four”? To make a claim that a particular behaviour is more likely to result in death, it is necessary to at least demonstrate that fatal collision rates within the behaviour group are higher than the non-behaviour group (iow correlation). With “Drink” and “NO Seatbelts” this may be true but the evidence suggests that it is not true for “Mobile Phones” and “speeding”. Without at least correlation, there cannot be the “cause and effect” the website claims.

Should those particular four behaviours not be more honestly labelled as “the enforcement four”, rather than “the Fatal four”?

Surely the real “fatal four” might be drink, no seatbelts, failure to observe all other road users and loss of control? I do understand that this is a more complex message and more difficult to address in terms of enforcement (needs more road traffic Police), but if the wrong behaviours are targeted, does that not lead to a danger that more deaths will occur on our roads?
Dave Finney, Slough

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I attended the launch of the website at the Emergency Services Show and was most impressed by what I saw. Further examination of the site after coming home has not disappointed either. It is a class act and deserves a lot of exposure.
David, Suffolk

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Great to see this excellent campaign with a new website and much fresher feel - well done to Paul and the team. I'm particularly impressed with how you've used video on the site to bring it to life and help communicate your messages. We're about to launch our free webinar for road safety professionals about video production and I'm sure that your new site will inspire the use of video in many other campaigns. Even just the talking heads are really engaging. Great work!
James Evans - FirstCar/First Time Publishing

Agree (16) | Disagree (8)