Road Safety News

‘Traffic calming’ spend more than 50% up in 2014

Monday 15th February 2016

New analysis has revealed local authorities spent an estimated £75.6m on traffic calming measures during 2014, a 53% year-on-year increase.

The analysis, conducted by Churchill Car Insurance, is the result of 183 FOI responses from 199 local authorities across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

It also reveals that at individual local authority level, the average spend increased from £213,895 to £327,0585 between 2013 and 2014.

Traffic calming measures include the use of self-enforcing speed reduction measures such as road humps, mini roundabouts, chicanes, central islands and reduced speed limits.

Churchill Insurance says there are now more than 5,900 20mph zones across the UK, which it describes as ‘a good investment’. The insurer points to research which shows there to be a 1.5% chance of being fatally injured at 20mph, compared to an 8% chance at 30mph.

In separate consumer research carried out on behalf of Churchill, 42% of more than 2,000 respondents considered traffic calming measures as effective in slowing vehicles down, but almost half (47%) think these measures cause damage to vehicles - and just under a quarter (23%) said they have experienced this first hand.

Steve Barrett, head of car insurance at Churchill Insurance, said: “It is encouraging to see a significant increase in funding for traffic calming measures, as it plays a valuable role in managing the safety of our roads. With that said, road safety is a very complex issue and traffic calming is one of many factors that can impact on this.

“We urge motorists to drive with caution and follow the rules of the road, which include abiding by traffic calming measures. While some may see them as a hindrance, they are an integral part of protecting both motorists and pedestrians and in keeping accident rates to a minimum.”

Photo: © Copyright Lizzie and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.


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By my reckoning I have one more comment left out of my allowance and would simply add and not for the first time, that in matters relating to traffic speed and the management and enforcement thereof, myths and unsubstantiated claims abound from those who seems to be opposed such measures and are based on nothing more than someone, somewhere dreaming up some tenuous connection between traffic calming/speed cameras (delete as appropriate) and an unlikely and unproven consequence and hope that if repeated often enough it might be accepted as fact rather than remain as fantasy.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (11) | Disagree (4)

Note to all contributors

I have decided to use my discretion as editor to restrict to three the number of posts by any one contributor in this thread - a 'one off' decision to try and avoid us going round in (ever-decreasing) circles discussing the merits of broken coil springs! Hope you will all understand and thanks in anticipation for your cooperation.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (8) | Disagree (0)

Hugh - a broken coil spring is an MOT failure. A supposed road safety strategy that causes damage to vehicles that can potentially contribute to an accident elsewhere, or results in a discomfort or delay to patients in ambulances isn't a good idea or necessary in my opinion.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (4)

Hugh, I am amazed and concerned you can drive a car with a broken spring and not notice. The rest of the running gear must have also been in a very bad condition. Springs can turn on the mounting and rip the tire especially in front wheel drive cars, causing loss of control and therefore and accident.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

Agree (4) | Disagree (2)

My point was that vehicle condition as a factor in accidents is insignificant when compared to the role played by the motorists and exacerbated when they're speeding which is what traffic calming is designed to combat.

I'd rather be a vulnerable road user in the immediate vicinity of a vehicle with defective running gear moving at a moderate controlable speed due to traffic calming, than a new car speeding in a road due to the absence of physical retarders.

PS: How does a broken coil-spring cause an accident? I once found I had unknowingly driven thousands of miles with one and it hadn't made an iota of difference to the controlabilty of the car (pre road humps by the way).
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (2)

I have to agree with Eric, I have had all my springs replaced on my current car. The "design speed" for road humps is largely fictitious in the real world unless you drive a 4x4 and the construction of the humps themselves more often than not way out of tolerance from guidelines. Noise pollution from humps and disturbed sleep of residents has not been noted and increased pollution from braking and then accelerating which I have personal experience of at my home.
Steve Armstrong, Halifax UK.

Agree (4) | Disagree (4)

You make a fair point Hugh, although the average number of contributory factors in accidents is about(2.4). My brother-in-law collects bits of broken vehicle coil springs when he is out on his bike - he has quite a bag full. He recently had a broken spring replaced on his own vehicle - the garage told him that this is now quite common due to the poor state of the roads and humps - they replace springs on at least one vehicle per week. The half-width road humps that vehicles have to straddle are also known to wear out the inside tyre walls. Obviously defects that affect the handling and braking of a vehicle can cause or contribute to accidents. From the DfT contributory factor data 'vehicle defects' seems to be around 3% to 2% for fatal/serious/slight.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

Cushion-type bumps are known to cause damage to the inside wall of tyres (hidden from view) - at any speed. Such damage can clearly lead to a blowout on a motorway at 70 or a single carriageway at 60 (where the consequences could be a swerve into an oncoming vehicle). Let's not pretend these events cannot happen - they clearly can and do. Accident reports often state "driver lost control of vehicle", which could have been as a result of their misjudgement but it could actually be failure of damaged steering, tyres or suspension which may not be identifiable in a wreck.
Eric Bridgstock, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

Are there any known examples of accidents solely caused by pre-existing 'damage' to suspension, steering and tyres anyway? How would one know? I've never witnessed anyone struggling to control their vehicles, due to apparently faulty or damaged suspension, steering or tyres, but do see regularly, on a daily basis, many motorists with apparently fault-free vehicles, moving too fast to be able to avoid slower moving vulnerable road users, if they had to. Ironically, defects in a vehicle's running gear may only become life-threatening at higher speeds anyway. All in all, one for 'Mythbusters' I think.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

I "suspect" that you are in denial on this issue. The notion of "design speed" is a red herring. There are bumps near my house in 30mph limits that feel vicious (and damaging) at 5mph and others that are smooth "hills" at 20-30mph.

It is inconceivable that accidents are not caused, even for careful drivers, by the damage done to steering, suspension and tyres by "traffic calming" measures. These measures also delay ambulances and fire engines (again, how many deaths attributable those delays?).

Finally, how can a pinch-point chicane that brings approaching into a single lane be a road safety benefit? Millions of pounds spent on obstacle courses, mostly to the detriment of road safety.
Eric Bridgstock, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (8)

Clearly there is a wide definition of 'traffic calming' which includes measures that don't physically slow vehicles down - I've seen this article cited elsewhere claiming a 50% increase in speed humps, which clearly isn't true.

As for a claimed 'design speed' for speed humps - there usually isn't an obvious one - try driving over humps at the signed speed limit - one might think it reasonable to be able to do this.

Here in Staffordshire, the Ambulance Service calculated over a decade ago that 3 speed humps equate to a delay of 1 minute. Hence, I would much prefer speed cameras to speed humps. I campaigned with a councillor in neighbouring Warwickshire to get humps replaced by average speed cameras in a 30mph limit. The plan was approved pending funding.
Paul Biggs, Staffordshire

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

I suspect that the "attitude" of people who drive over speed bumps faster than their design speed is far more liable to be the cause of future collisions than the state of their suspension. Frankly I would prefer to gain behaviour change by communicating with people's minds rather than their spine.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

The often overlooked problem with the damage to vehicles is that it primarily affects steering, tyres and suspension. Such latent damage can lead to failure of those components with possibly tragic consequences. Where is the evidence that the positive road safety benefits of physical measures such as bumps outweigh those negative effects?
Eric Bridgstock, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

From TSRGD 2002 “traffic calming feature” means (amongst other things) "a refuge for pedestrians which was constructed pursuant to section 68 of the 1980 Act or section 27(c) of the 1984 Act after 15th June 1999 and is so constructed as to encourage a reduction in the speed of traffic using the carriageway;"
David Sharp, Midlothian

Agree (2) | Disagree (0)

If you read the actual press release footnotes you will find that the estimated £75.6m was based on :-
Footnote 2 :“Averages taken from all completed FOI responses and applied to the total number of Unitary Authorities and County Councils. Some investment values used also include spending on wider traffic and road safety measures, as a number of councils were unable to disaggregate traffic calming costs.”

Footnote 3 “The definition of ‘traffic calming’ provided in the Freedom of Information Act Request was: The use of self-enforcing speed reduction measures, so for example: road humps, mini roundabouts, build-outs, chicanes, priority junctions, central islands and reduced speed limits.”

The reference to “separate consumer research which relates to “traffic calming causing damage to vehicles” seems to conflate the issue with its particular reference to physical (speed bump) calming.

What we do know is that over the past few years most of the 20mph roads have been implemented with either zones with sparse physical calming (ie minimum of 1 as per guidance) or as limits. Note that repeater signs and carriageway roundels are now classified as “traffic calming devices” by DfT.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (5) | Disagree (3)

Interesting that a central island is referred here as a traffic calming measure whereas it could be a safer crossing place for pedestrians.

One would have to identify the justification for it being there to make the distinction. The fact that it does both seems not to be considered in this report.
Peter City of Westminster

Agree (9) | Disagree (0)