TaxPayers Alliance on Speed

[BPSDB]Numerous newspapers have carried the TaxPayers Alliance’s claim that speed cameras cause road deaths, so I thought I would take a closer look at the figures.

They say:

The road casualty rate has declined at a slower rate since speed cameras were introduced in the early 1990s,” the study explained. “Using the road casualty rate from 1978-1990 it can be estimated that 1,555,244 more road casualties have occurred from 1991-2007 than would have if the 1978-1990 trend had continued.”

Such figures should see a continuous steady decline because advances in automotive technology including anti-lock brakes, stability control, crumple zones and airbags have made vehicles significantly safer over time. Those who are injured in an accident are also more likely to survive as medical treatments and trauma care likewise advance.

In terms of the number of fatal accidents per billion passenger miles traveled, the casualty rate fell from 773 in 1979 to 331 in 2007. The pre-camera fall, however, was far more impressive. Had cameras never been installed, the group projected the casualty rate would have been 128 in 2007.

The projected figure of 128 deaths per billion passenger miles is obtained by a straight line extrapolation of the rate of decline in 1990 when speed cameras were introduced – about 22.5 deaths per billion passenger miles per year. One should always treat straight line extrapolations with a pinch of salt because they usually generate nonsense conclusions, as a comment after the article points out:

If it weren’t for those darned speed cameras casualty rates would have fallen to zero deaths per km by about 2012, and would continue into the negatives where new people spontaneously appear in places where there used to be accidents.

Over the period 1979 -90 the fatality rate fell from 773 deaths per billion passenger miles to 500, a rate of -24.8 deaths per billion passenger miles per year. In the ealy 80s, however it was much steeper than this and as we have noted, by 1990 it was -22.5 deaths per billion passenger miles per year. In other words, the rate of decline was levelling off anyway so the TPA’s projected figure of 128 is an absurdity.

Elsewhere the TaxPayers Alliance criticises speed cameras as “revenue generating devices”, as do many columnists in the press. Personally, I do not see the problem. The more revenue that is generated by fining criminals, the less will have to come from the pockets of the law-abiding. This surely benefits tax-payers in these straitened times and you would think that an organisation with a name like ‘TaxPayers Alliance’ would support it.


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5 Responses to “TaxPayers Alliance on Speed”

  1. Neuroskeptic Says:

    Like you I’m always puzzled by the complaints that cameras exist only to make money. Well, if so, good, they need to make money somehow and this way they only make money from idiots.

  2. FullFact Says:

    There are a lot of myths flying around about the use of speed cameras. We looked at whether or not they are simply ‘cash cows’ over here at Full Fact, and came to similar conclusions to Neuroskeptic. have a look if you’re interested:

    • jaycueaitch Says:

      Interesting, FullFact. Thanks for the link. Somehow I doubt that the Daily Hate etc will put the notion out to pasture though.

  3. Uponnothing Says:

    The rate of road deaths was declining highest around the time when the greatest leaps in basic car safety were being introduced – ABS, airbags, power steering, crumple zones and the like. Cars are safer now than in 1997, but the difference is not as large as say the difference between a car made in 1987 compared to a car made in 2000.

  4. Michael Grayer Says:

    My attention was drawn to this report yesterday afternoon when I saw that silly graph on the BBC One o’clock news.

    I have to say I’m very impressed with the transparency of the statistical methodology used, even though the methods themselves are, well, completely inappropriately applied. I’ve blogged about it here (and just added a link to this post now that I’ve seen it!)

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