Sunday, 30 December 2012

KCC refuses to reduce road accidents yet again

Kent County Council transport chief, Cllr Bryan Sweetland, has claimed that "the casualty figures for the Maidstone district are falling when the increased traffic flow is taken into account" in response to a 50% increase last year. A case of lies, damn lies and statistics me thinks.

For the record, in Maidstone there was a 10% increase in accidents in 2011 involving cars compared to 2010 and 24 accidents where people were killed or seriously injured in 2011, up 50% on the previous year. If the number of vehicle miles has increased too, that is hardly cause for complacency.

He is maintaining his position of refusing a blanket 20mph limit in the town which I find shocking given the strong evidence that 20mph limits reduce accidents, improve air quality, increase walking and cycling and reduce congestion.

His email to me was in response to my letter to Ann Barnes a couple of weeks ago.I have replied to him as follows:

Dear Cllr Sweetland,

I am, of course, disappointed by your response. The evidence for a blanket 20mph is clear - it reduces accidents. There is also strong public support and no need for additional police enforcement - they don't insist on speed humps in 30mph areas and there is no need for them in 20mph areas either.

With 8 million people living in 20mph areas and a growing number of major cities in the UK joining them, the time for pilot schemes is also over and there is now growing evidence that short sections of 20mph limit simply serve to confuse drivers.

We will continue to campaign for this simple scheme that saves lives and costs little.


Cllr Sweeland's email to me was:

Dear Mr Jeffery

Thank you for copying me in on the recent email exchanges. I wanted to set out the facts for the avoidance of doubt.

Looking at the Maidstone district, there was indeed a rise in the number of crashes in 2011. However, it is important to put the figures into context.

  •  There were 412 car crashes on KCC roads in Maidstone in 2011, and this should be viewed against the reduction seen between 2009 and 2010 (395 to 375).  The number of car crashes in the district was 3% lower than the 2004-8 baseline average of 424.
  • The number of Killed and Seriously Injured crashes in the Maidstone district in 2001 was 24, and this again should be viewed against the reduction seen between 2009 and 2010 (29 to 16).
  • Traffic in the Maidstone district increased between 2010 and 2011 with 146,069 more vehicle miles recorded in cars.
Any road crash casualties are a cause for concern. In context, the casualty figures for the Maidstone district are falling when the increased traffic flow is taken into account.  Furthermore, simple comparison in statistical variation with the previous year does not necessarily present the true situation.  For this reason local Highway Authorities and the Department for Transport always consider at least three years data to more accurately pinpoint issues that we should focus on.

There are many benefits to the implementation of 20mph limits in specific locations and we already have nearly 800 roads in the County covered by such limits. However, whilst speed is a factor in almost all crashes, there are many other causation factors that should be taken into account when considering appropriate responses to crashes and casualties on our roads. A targeted approach, rather than an indiscriminate "blanket" reaction, has served Kent well over the years in the reduction of road crashes and I intend to maintain that approach. We have a close relationship with Kent Police, and their current position on 20mph zones is that they should have an element of self enforcement which would not require a Police presence unless there are exceptional circumstances.

Following further pilot schemes in the Maidstone area, we will be considering our 20mph policy in 2013 and we will consult widely to ensure that appropriate cost effective solutions to road safety issues are delivered. This will ensure that the limited amounts of public money we have for road safety education, enforcement and engineering are spent with the utmost efficiency.

I hope this provides some clarification for you.

Yours sincerely

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