Despite All Sorts Of Laws And Automated Ticketing Cameras... Car Injuries Increased In The UK

from the damn-that-data dept

With so much effort put towards new laws banning mobile phone use while driving, and installing speed cameras and redlight cameras, you would think that places that were quite aggressive in doing so would see a decrease in the number of auto injuries. After all, isn't that the point of all of this? The UK has been particularly aggressive in such efforts, but as Jeff Nolan alerts us, a new report out in the UK suggests that (despite the gov't's earlier claims) injury accidents have actually increased over time. The government has now been forced to admit that the stats it had been pumping out (which showed a decrease) were faulty, and that the real number of accidents may be as much as three times as high as what it had been reporting. This only came about after the British Medical Journal looked at hospital admission records of those injured in car crashes, and saw the numbers went up as these new efforts were put in place in the UK. We're all for safer driving, but the claims that these measures lead to safer driving aren't supported by the data.


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  1.  
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    Nick (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 1:40pm

    Possible causes

    I've always thought that aggressive policing of school zones and work zones makes pedestrians less safe, because rather than focusing on them, some drivers are likely focused more on the speedometer and on looking for police cars.

    I believe the same is likely true for red-light cameras. If a driver knows there are red-light cameras around, and he finds himself going through a red light (because he was looking down when it turned yellow, or just because he thinks he can beat it), he might be looking for a camera rather than looking at the road to avoid other cars in the intersection.

    I have no data to back this up -- just my thoughts on the matter. It'd be interesting to see a review of photos from these cameras to see where the driver is looking, especially the ones that caught an accident.

     

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  2.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 1:43pm

    Despite laws against acts such as murder, rape, kidnapping, etc, these crimes still occur. Do you think such laws should be rescinded because they're not working? Just asking.

     

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  3.  
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    Jeff Nolan (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 1:52pm

    Re:

    it's exceptionally disingenuous to suggest that traffic violations are equivalent to violent crime laws.

    Considering that many traffic laws are passed on the basis of proposed public safety improvements, when one of these laws is demonstrated to not achieve its intended goal (or make the condition worse in this case!) then yeah it should be repealed.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 1:54pm

    Re:

    Despite laws against acts such as murder, rape, kidnapping, etc, these crimes still occur. Do you think such laws should be rescinded because they're not working? Just asking.

    If the laws resulted in an increase in people getting killed, raped or kidnapped?

     

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  5.  
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    LoL, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 2:01pm

    It brings in money that is why they do it.

    Cameras bring in income and that is why nobody will repeal them, and that is why they reduce the yellow light timing.

    This is a crime, not committed by the public or drivers but by your own government that put you in harms way to make a buck.

     

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  6.  
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    :Lobo Santo (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 2:03pm

    Re: Re:

    There are, in fact, rather good scientific studies which demonstrate the completely un-necessaryiness of speed-limits.

     

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  7.  
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    jjmsan (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 2:10pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    I haven't seen those. Could you post a link?

     

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  8.  
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    Analyst, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 2:14pm

    Re: Possible causes

    Good points PC. Another thing to consider is the number of reported cases where yellow light times have been reduced to maximize revenue potential.

    Couple possible reduced yellow times with the kind of induced paranoia you've discussed, and the government has created a real recipe for disaster...

     

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  9.  
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    Lorne, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 3:24pm

    Traffic camera

    The systems are nothing more than a way for the government to impose sin taxes on motorists with technology instead of a peace officer, a peace officer costs money.

    The bottom line is the bottom dollar as this new economy demonstrates.

    In California red light camera tickets were thrown out in San Diego County when it was revealed that a private company was getting a percentage of the revenue from the fines, and in Riverside County there are some traffic cameras that issue tickets that are illegal and if you challenge the ticket it get's dismissed. But how many people just pay the fine and go on with life.

    Politicians need to come up with better ways to finance the special interests and programs they support by using a balanced budget and not more taxes (including sin taxes).

     

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    djgkanata (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 3:48pm

    Deeper analysis

    Mike's bottom line is an excellent summary: "...the claims that these measures lead to safer driving aren't supported by the data", because there is no data in the UK report either for or against these claims and indeed the report shows that the data is unreliable.

    However, Mike's claim "injury accidents have actually increased over time" is not supported by the report.

    Part 5 of the report analyzes the reliability of the available injury data and concludes (page 82):
    "The figures presented act as a broad indication of the total number of road casualties in Great Britain, which very roughly illustrates the possible extent to which the STATS19 data are incomplete. However, the limitations of this approximation need to be made clear: ... The nature of these estimates, the way in which they have been produced, the assumptions made and the considerable margin for error all mean that it is not appropriate to produce figures for individual years or to look at trends over time at present, though this may be possible in future."

    In other words -- they have no idea if the number of non-fatal injuries per year has changed over recent years.

    The graph highlighted by the thenewspaper.com article is in Chapter 5 on page 68. Neither the report nor the thenewspaper.com article support the TechDirt article's statement that "injury accidents have actually increased over time". The report does not claim that either line is correct. The report states that different sources of data produce markedly different results, and that it would be unwise to draw conclusions from inaccurate data. The article focuses on the problem of justifying policies by using unreliable data.

    Unfortunately, the bulk of the report is spent presenting data showing year by year trends of many parameters, which is rather undermined by the data reliability analysis of chapter 5.

    Since the year-by-year non-fatal injury trends are unknown, it is not possible to draw conclusions regarding the effect of the traffic control measures on non-fatal injuries. They may be helping, they may have no effect, they may be making matters worse -- there is no data available.

    Part 5 also concludes that the available data on fatalities is accurate and that the number of fatalities per year has decreased over recent years. Anecdotally, the number of traffic cameras has increased over recent years. Correlation does not imply causation. The report does not offer data or opinion on traffic cameras.

    On a separate note, the report does conclude on page 90 "From the in-depth accident studies unbelted vehicle users were found to be significantly over represented when fatalities were investigated...It is estimated that nearly 300 lives would have been saved in 2007 if all car occupants had been wearing a seat belt." The data does support some government-mandated safety measures.

     

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  11.  
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    Rabbit80, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 4:11pm

    It has been known that speed cameras here are not effective for some time. As such, many fixed cameras are being gradually phased out, with more mobile cameras being used. The best devices - that actually work THOUGH, are the signs that flash up the speed limit as you drive past them if you are going too fast! No penalties - and a great tool for making you aware of your speed!

     

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    Rabbit80, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 4:12pm

    OOpsy

    I don't quite know how the word "though" ended up in caps.. Sorry!

     

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    Bob Vila, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 5:39pm

    Doesn't shorter yellow lights result in people gunning the engine at intersections to beat the cameras? Just saying that this seems like it would increase accidents.

     

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  14.  
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    ..., Sep 29th, 2009 @ 6:00pm

    Re: Re:

    Heh - good answer

     

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  15.  
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    ..., Sep 29th, 2009 @ 6:04pm

    From Wikipedia

    Rationalization (psychology), the process of constructing a logical justification for a decision that was originally arrived at through a different mental process

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 29th, 2009 @ 8:35pm

    "It is estimated that nearly 300 lives would have been saved in 2007 if all car occupants had been wearing a seat belt." The data does support some government-mandated safety measures."

    The government can't mandate away stupidity, nor should it try.

     

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  17.  
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    Jeff Nolan (profile), Sep 29th, 2009 @ 10:01pm

    Re: Deeper analysis

    you have provided a lot of data and quite honestly I'm too tired to attempt to rebut the excellent argument you are making. However, as I read that original source material it did seem to indicate that casualty rates did increase, it was that the correlation to camera enforcement, etc. could not be attributed as the cause of that, which I suspect is precisely what you are point out with your second to last paragraph.

    Similarly, the decline in fatalities with the number of accidents increasing could be attributed to new automobiles, with better safety devices, entering the fleet. I don't think Mike would, and I certainly would not, suggest that government mandated safety devices like seat belts and airbags don't save lives, the question is do traffic law enforcement devices. If they are sold on public safety grounds and they do not fulfill that goal then they should be discontinued, I believe.

    Lastly, while we know, statistically, that seat belts save lives, we also know from hard data that lengthening yellow light timing saves lives yet we don't see a rush to legislate increased yellow light times. Traffic cameras, on the other hand, do not reduce accidents, according to every piece of research I have been able to find, yet they do increase revenue and accordingly we see proliferation of these devices, and in some cases accompanied by a shortening of yellow light times.

     

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  18.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 1:23am

    Re: Re:Moral vs Technical

    The focus on "moral" aspects of road safety as opposed to technical aspects is the biggest cause of death.

    Compare air transport safety and motor racing safety with road safety. Both of those fields have seen much bigger improvements in safety in the last 40 years than the roads have - and in both cases safety is regarded as a technical issue not a moral or legal one.

    In motor racing, safety used to be regarded as the driver's problem - until the death of Jim Clark when it was realised that, if the most skilled and responsible driver in the world could die then the problem must lie in the system.

    Ironically many of the major safety improvements on the roads have their origins in motor racing - and one thing motor racing doesn't have is speed limits (except in the pit lane).

    One direct example of the moral approach to road safety costing lives is the death of Princess Diana. She died because there was no crash barrier in the tunnel. Because all the focus has been on conspiracy theories, drink, drugs, the paparazzi etc that simple factor has been overlooked. Worse still it hasn't been fixed and others have died needlessly since.

     

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  19.  
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    Richard (profile), Sep 30th, 2009 @ 2:11am

    Re:

    Actually the effectiveness of speed cameras for safety is likely to vary inversely with their ability to raise revenue. The flashing signs are good for this, as are the point to point cameras which seem to slow everyone down so that you can't get a ticket from them even if you tried.

     

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  20.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 30th, 2009 @ 6:22am

    The reason for this is simple. They're treating the symptom, not the cause. Doing so will never solve anything. The problem is bad drivers. If you have bad drivers, it won't matter how many stupid signs or barriers or cameras you put up, things will just get worse. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure this out. The focus needs to rest on educating people on safe driving habits, and put a little sting into the punishment for unsafe driving violations. If there's no harsh consequences for bad driving, other than accidents, people will just keep right on doing it. That's basic human nature.

     

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