Tag Archive | "20mph zones"

Can Motoring Surveys Be Trusted?


There’s an old saying that might be attributed to the writer Mark Twain, that says: ‘There are lies, damn lies and statistics’. This is the problem with stats born out of surveys. Surveys purport to give a public cross-section of opinion about any given subject; but this, of course, depends upon who you ask. Go to an urban area and ask about road safety, you’ll get one answer. In rural areas you may well get an opposing view.

Road safety zealots, for example, will always paint the blackest picture about motoring. In some of Britain’s major cities 20mph limits have been in place for some time and a survey suggests that some 60% of us support this; although women, younger people and pensioners seem to predominate. So why is that official DfT figures issued in the Autumn of last year indicate a 24% rise in road casualties in 20mph limit areas in 2011 over the previous year? There was an equivalent drop of 1% in 30mph zones.

The reason is unclear. Perhaps vulnerable pedestrians or cyclists become complacent or maybe some drivers are ignoring the limit because often speed limits are poorly thought through and make no real sense, guided as they are by ‘surveys’. Certainly, 20mph zones have their place. By and large with our graded scale of speed limits we’ve pretty much got it right in the UK (although there’s a good case for 80mph on motorways); but these limits need to be based on real road safety needs and real ‘statistics’ such as the DfT figures, rather than the opinions of what may be biased or skewed surveys.

Meanwhile back in the world of motoring, very little seems to be being done about the use of mobile devices whilst driving. A survey has found that one quarter of those questioned admitted to texting whilst driving. This is another worry about surveys. Although they are anonymous how many people really tell the truth? Why would anyone voluntarily admit to breaking the law? Nevertheless, it appears that those most guilty of committing transgressions at the wheel are those who drive professionally.

17% of people on their way to work admit to doing some personal grooming. Professional or work related drivers are more likely to use a mobile phone or a ‘hands-free – whilst motoring and 76% admit to speeding at more than 35mph in a 30 limit and speeding in general. The point is that these percentages are based on surveys and not gathered facts. Thus it is that a survey that provides what purport to be accurate statistics may not necessarily be accurate yet it has a profound effect on those that run insurance companies who treat them as gospel, for example. We all pay for that.

It is right and proper that we have laws and speed limits otherwise there would be carnage on the roads; but let’s at least ensure they are based on facts and not limited range vox pops.

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