by Clint Childs


Road safety week is a campaign organised by Brake.

Below is a summary or the Brake ‘Speed Awareness’ campaign and comments on those claims (in a different colour.)


In the UK speeding is still a major problem. It causes needless crashes, untold suffering and stops people living safe and healthy lives.

The Brake Speed facts are summarised below:

Breaking the speed limit or travelling too fast for conditions was recorded (by police at crash scenes) as a contributory factor of 24% of fatal crashes in 2016

  • Drivers with one speeding violation annually are twice as likely to crash as those with none;
  • Other evidence suggests that drivers with a speeding convictions are 3 times more likely to have an accident within 3 years.
  • A Brake and Direct Line survey found that 40% of drivers admitted that they sometimes drive at 30mph in a 20mph zones;
  • What is not stated is what time of day these drivers were speeding: rush hour, school run times, or in the middle of the night for example, each having period a different level of risk.  There are several report such as the Dekra report which cite that after 20mph measures were introduced the average speed in one area reduces by 1mpg to 27mph from 28mph in 30mph zone.    Other schemes have had similar results.
  • 26% of drivers admitted to ‘regularly’ speeding in areas designed to keep children and other road users safe.
  • What time of day at these drivers driving?  During the school run or in the middle of the night.

Further information from the Speed Summit Report (8th Nov 2017) states [released as part of the Global Road Safety Week, provided by Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety (PACTS)]:

  • 59% of all fatalities in Great Britain occur on country roads where limits are typically 60mph;
  • The risk of a pedestrian being killed if hit by the front of a car is estimated to be 1% at an impact speed of 20 mph, 7% at 30 mph and 31% at 40 mph;



Driving is unpredictable and if something unexpected happens on the road ahead – such as a child stepping out from between parked cars – it is a driver’s speed that will determine whether they can stop in time and, if they can’t stop, how hard they will hit.

The statement above contradicts the concept embedded in Roadcraft: The Police Drivers handbook.  The system of car control “leaves nothing to chance” therefore very few things can happen “suddenly”.  So on the contrary driving is not “unpredictable”.  As anyone with effective near, far, and all round observation Takes, Uses and Gives information continuously, so that they assess the situation and have early anticipation of potential hazards.   The full text from Chapter 2 is:

“The system of car control is a way of approaching and negotiating hazards that is methodical, safe and leaves nothing to chance. It involves careful observation, early anticipation and planning, and a systematic use of the controls to maintain your vehicle’s stability in all situations.”

Every driver should anticipate the need to reduce speed because visibility hides hazards, such as children between parked cars.  This is referenced in the Highway code rules 146 “Adapt your driving” and  152 “Residential streets”.   

Yet newer vehicles are more powerful than ever before and reach high speeds quickly. Driving fast is glamorised and often encouraged by programmes and adverts that worship the cult of the car. We all live busy lives and there is a temptation to speed up in the hope of saving time, where in fact we could be costing lives.

This means that drivers are not driving with restraint appropriate for the environment (including static and moving hazards, and the weather.)

That is why we are encouraging everyone to Speed Down Save Lives for Road Safety Week 2017 (20-26 November).

If someone does not observe the road and surrounding environment properly, and behave with their vehicle accordingly, then just slowing down all drivers without improving their driving skills, is still not an ideal situation.  Slower is safer in many situations, but it is about appropriate and adaptive slowness, an intelligent slowness that saves lives.  It is the behaviour motivating speed that needs to be addressed.

We can all play our part in raising awareness about the dangers of driving too fast and this year’s campaign will focus on:

An awareness of driving too fast is likely to have a limited impact on changing driving behaviour.  It takes several days to make a change in behaviour permanent by regularly reinforcing a concept of different (better) behaviour.  The underpinning problem is what really causes “fast driving” (inappropriate speed would be better): attitudes, levels of risk, courtesy, patience, urgency (e.g. running late.)  Then again it could be driving too fast for the conditions: ice, snow, fog, flooded roads.  Slowing drivers down does not change the related emotions and beliefs a driver has that underpin how they drive.  Making drivers aware of the effects of speed is a step in the right direction. 

Other factors:
How many accidents are caused by left hand drive vehicles?
How many accidents and of what type and severity are caused by EU and international driving license holders, and drivers that have not taken a U.K. driving test?
Likewise how many accidents are caused, by New Drivers, Drivers in different age groups, and U.K. driving license holders who have taken a U.K. driving test?

  • speed causes deaths and serious injuries on our roads
    Excess speed may be contributed to be s statement has not been backed up by empirical evidence, hundreds of thousands of vehicles speed on motorways in a year but do not cause any accidents, this is a sweeping statement that needs to be supported by context.
  • rural roads are not race tracks
    It is true that the majority of new and young drivers use inappropriate speed, but the question that needs to be answered is why?  More and more rural roads have posted speed limits (not the National Speed Limit) but accidents still occur which means that drivers are ignoring the road signs, road markings and other warnings, but why?
  • 20mph is the only safe speed in heavily built-up areas used by pedestrians and cyclists. 
    The ‘only safe speed’ this is a very strong sweeping statement that is not reinforced by any context.  What is the difference between a heavily built-up and a built-up area, plenty of room for ambiguity?  Vehicles can often get closer to cyclists and pedestrians on narrow pavements on rural roads at 40mph, 50mph and National Speed Limits.   What makes a ‘built-up’ area a danger? Is it the perception that hazards are hidden or more frequent?
  • going slow = stopping in time
    Going slow still only applies if someone has effective observation.  Distractions (e.g. children and mobile phone interaction) can still cause accidents at a slow speed.
  • speed is scary and noisy. It stops communities being enjoyable places for children and families to walk, talk and play.
    What speed is scary and noisy?  Two statements ago the reference was to built up areas and the reference is to children and families which I expect keeps this within the same context.  Is there really a difference in noise for a vehicle travelling at 20mph and 30mph, or between 30mpg and 32mph?  Which I can only assume since 30mph is the default speed limit in a built-up area.  Is there any empirical evidence as to how much noise pollution changes for a different speed, the sound tone of a combustion engine is dependent on the gear used and higher pitch noises are louder, therefore 25mph in 2nd gear could be louder than 30mph in 4th as the revs are higher in this scenario when travelling at 25mph.  Likewise where speed bumps exist, the accelerating and decelerating that often occurs in the driving of many drivers negotiating this hazards will create more noise, than having a vehicle travel at an even speed at constant revs without the need to change gear.  
  • speed cameras work. They save lives.
    If speed cameras saved lives why are very recent reports informing us that almost half of them are not working.  For this reason it seems unlikely that speed cameras predominantly save lives, they may slow traffic for stretch of road that a speed camera monitors.
  • Intelligent Speed Adaptation (ISA – originally Intelligent Speed Authority) is an important development that is likely to be fitted to all vehicles in the future.
    Firstly what is ISA?  ISA is a system that ensures the vehicle does not exceed a safe speed or legally enforced speed.  The system can be passive where an alert (e.g. audible alert) warns the driver, or active where the vehicle automatically restricts the speed of the vehicle.  The vehicle can use a combination of devices to read speed limit signs and previous knowledge of the road speed for the position of a vehicle on a road as used in many sat navs.  ISA systems can also provide information about driving hazards (e.g., high pedestrian movement areas, railway crossings, schools, hospitals, etc.) only in as much as the vehicle is in that type of area.   The global idea is that 20% of casualties (in an unspecified region/group of countries) will be reduced by all vehicles being restricted to the safe or legal speed limit.
    Using technology without other measures (e.g. driver training) to reduce accidents, means that bad driving, including ineffective observation is being deemed acceptable, and that the underpinning human factors and human errors that cause accidents are being ignored.  It is like patching up a problem rather than treating the root cause.  Will drivers drive worse because ISA makes drivers overconfident in their ability to take risks?  Drivers may try to go as fast as the vehicle lets them all the time, and become ‘lazy’ drivers by relying on the technology in the vehicle to do the safe thing.  When ISA is combined with Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB) where drivers will expect the car to stop automatically, and thereby be incline to concentrate less on the road and the hazards as the car should ‘keep me safe’ automatically.  The real problem with ISA is that vehicles will use the legal speed limit as a target, and that drivers will likely drive in the same way ignoring the need to adapt vehicle speed according to the conditions of the road and any potential and emerging hazards that are present. 

The UK has attempted to delay ISA (Sep 2013)

The following report is used as one of the influencers for the need for ISA:

Australian Report on Speed (July 2011)