Yesterday the Association of British Drivers updated their late 1990’s website with a press release under the heading “The Historic Evidence Shows 20mph Blanket Speed Limits are not Effective”. Now, I’m not a big fan of 20mph zones, I think there are more effective ways of reducing speeds and casualties, but I do have a fondness for statistics and those who like to misrepresent them. For example the chairman of the ABD ended the article by saying
There is little attempt to collect scientifically sound evidence of the benefit of such ideas. No proper controlled, “double-blind” trials are undertaken…. Don’t be fooled by these methods but look at the facts.
If this was all you read you might be under the impression that the ABD were interested in facts, maybe some statistics and some proper analysis of the evidence, it’s amusing then that this quote came at the bottom of an article in which the only fact presented was
Before 1930 Great Britain had a blanket 20 mph speed limit across the whole country. But road deaths in the year before this limit was abandoned were about 7,300 compared with about 1,900 in recent years. They also fell in the years immediately after 1930 when they had been rising before.
I would like to point out a couple of problems I have with this.
- The highest number of road deaths in pre-war Britain occurred in 1934.
- There was no particular trend in the years between 1930 and the war.
- The introduction of penalties for disobedient motorists or the introduction of the Highway Code, probably did more to limit the increasing carnage than allowing motorists to travel at whatever speed they chose.
- In 1934 a new speed limit of 30mph was introduced, this did coincide with a slight downturn, but it also introduced a driving test.
- Many, many alternative reasons exist as to why there were 1,900 deaths last year compared to over 7,000 at various times in the past, these reasons include…Better tyre compounds, disc brakes, ABS, EBD, airbags, side impact bars, crumple zones, traction control, better headlights, improved road markings, improved traffic signals, better road surfaces, the Cats Eye (invented 1933), children not playing outdoors, the existence of paramedics, well equipped ambulances, a professional fire and rescue service, A&E units with high quality intensive care facilities, surgeons who don’t rely on leeches. Lastly, the fact that pedestrians and cyclists barely exist on many roads may well account for the decline in pedestrian deaths from 3,700 in 1930.
And if none of that convinces you that the abolition of the speed limit in 1930 had nothing to do with a change in fortune for vulnerable road users, even the Daily Mail says that the 20mph speed limit was universally flouted, and getting rid of a law nobody obeys can’t really have much of an effect.
Perhaps the ABD should have thought twice before immediately releasing this horseshit.