2010 RSA International Conference on Speeding

Yesterday I attended the Road Safety Authorities (RSA) International Conference on Speeding. There were six international speakers. The conference began against a back- drop of twenty six fatalities in May 2010 so far. Indeed in the last ten days there were ten fatalities making May the worst month this year.

According to the Minister for Transport (Noel Dempsey TD), speed is attributed to thirty percent of all accidents. In 2009, eighty out of the two hundred and forty one people killed, died as a result of speeding. The good news is that from 1999 to 2009, road deaths in Ireland fell by forty one percent.

Michael Brosnan of the RSA described the energy equation of motion to us in that the energy in a moving vehicle is half the mass multiplied by the square of the velocity. Essentially this means that as you increase your speed the energy increases exponentially. Even a small increase in speed results in a massive increase in energy. In an accident, the energy must be dissipated into another form of energy and for those of you who remember science class, energy cannot be destroyed, rather transformed from one form to another. The energy is in the cars and the “another” is you. When two cars collide, the energy is dissipated around the vehicle structure, deforming it, but also into heat and noise. The forces are so great that we mere mortals crumble.

Superintendant, Con O’Donohue from the Office of Safety Camera Management (OSCaM) described the Roll Out of the Safety Cameras by GoSafe. A consortium, GoSafe won the tender to operate the cameras in conjunction with an Garda Siochana. You note I said Safety Camera instead of Speed Cameras as every speaker on the day wanted to ensure that’s how we would look upon them and not as a money making exercise. I was sceptical but we have been assured that GoSafe are being paid for the number of hours of detection rather than detections. I was further assured in the fact that the locations of the cameras and speed zones will be picked by OSCaM using the RSA’s Road Collisions Facts. These take into account all injuries and fatalities, including times of day and where the accidents are happening. The cameras are set to begin in October 2010 and figures of 7,500 hours per month of monitoring by January 2011 have been promised.

Professor Steve Stradling (A psychologist) from Edinburgh Napier University, highlighted why the number of detections were not important but rather the hours of detection backing up Superintendant, Con O’Donohue. Simply put, cameras in the UK resulted in a 53% reduction in vehicles exceeding the speed limit and a 100% reduction in those exceeding the speed limit by 15 mph where they have been employed. This results in a massive saving to the state as the cost per fatality is €2.8 million and the overall cost to the state in 2008 was €1.2 billion. So a reduction in speeding equals a reduction in cost to the state. He also maintained that we are “Car-Cooned” and this is why we speed.  Modern cars make us feel safe, in essence cocooned.

Ms Ellen Townsend from the European Transport Safety Council said that the EU has a target of reducing fatalities by fifty percent from 2001 to 2010. In 2009 there were 35,000 deaths in the EU.  She also highlighted that in terms of value for money speed cameras, and specifically automatic cameras are estimated to cost €12 per fine and manual detection using police at €80 per fine based on the French experience. Furthermore, surveys have shown that seventy four percent of drivers in the UK are in favour of “Safety Cameras”.

Therefore the messages coming out of the conference were

  • Speed Kills
  • 30% of all accidents involve speeding
  • A reduction in speed by 5% equals a reduction in fatalities of up to 20%