ASA Non-broadcast Adjudication: Dorset Safety Camera Partnership
Dorset Safety Camera Partnership
23 March 2005
Objection, from a motoring journalist, to a leaflet for the Dorset Safety Camera Partnership. Text, above an image of a speed camera, stated "Reducing speed can save lives". On the inside of the leaflet, under the headline "The facts", text stated "Government research shows speed to be a contributory factor in one third of road collisions". The complainant, who asserted that two Government studies showed speed as a contributory factor in 14.6% and 12.5% of road accidents, challenged the claim.
CAP Code (Edition 11)
Complaint not upheld
The advertisers said the claim "Government research shows speed to be a contributory factor in one third of road collisions" had originated from a Department for Transport (DfT) publication "Killing Speed and Saving Lives" (1992) that cited excessive speed as a contributory factor in 22% to 32% of accidents studied by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). They asserted that TRL Report 58 (1994) also supported the one-third claim and that research from the United States suggested that about one-third of all fatally injured vehicle occupants were involved in speed related incidents. They drew attention to a DfT article, published on its website in 2004, which analysed data from the STATS19 accident recording system which was used by about half of the 43 police forces in England and Wales in 1994. The system recorded both objective factors, such as speed limits, time of day and weather conditions, and ''contributory factors'' which the reporting officer at the scene of the accident believed had played some part in causing the accident. The DfT article stated that, between 1999 and 2002, "excessive speed" was identified as contributing to 12% of all accidents and 28% of fatal accidents where contributory factors were recorded; "excessive speed" was the most frequently recorded factor in fatal accidents. The advertisers noted "excessive speed" was one of 54 contributory factors used in the STATS19 system; they asserted that other factors that could include an element of "inappropriate speed" were following too close, hurried, careless, thoughtless or reckless behaviour, failure to judge another person''s path or speed, and aggressive driving. They believed that any speed that allowed for errors or misjudgements by any party could be construed as inappropriate and as a consequence could lead to a collision being unavoidable and, depending on the speed of impact, have a significant effect on the extent of damage and injuries caused. The advertisers argued that the influence of speed as a contributory factor in road traffic accidents was even greater than that suggested by the single factor "excessive speed" in the STATS19 system. They said TRL Report 323, which contained the 15% figure referred to by the complainant, had been quoted out of context. They drew attention to a TRL newsletter published in September 2002 that stated "Speed and accidents - let''s put the record straight ... In the 1990''s [sic] a number of police forces conducted a limited trial of an experimental accident reporting system. The results were reported in TRL Report 323 but they have frequently been misquoted. Speed increases the impact of many of the factors which contribute to accidents. For example ''aggressive driving'' or ''driving too closely'' are both much worse at speed. Such factors were recorded in the system separately from speed; but speed plays a big part in their effect on accidents. The system also allowed speed to be recorded in its own right. The total effect of speed on accidents is obviously the sum of both types of factor ... This means that speed is far more important in causing accidents and increasing their severity than the misquoted figures suggest". The advertisers said that DfT Road Safety Research Report 43, "Review of the Contributory Factors System", which contained the 12.5% figure referred to by the complainant, reviewed the STATS19 contributory factor system and recommended improvements so that a national system could be designed for adoption by police forces throughout the UK. They acknowledged that the report attributed 12.5% of accidents to the single factor "excessive speed", but noted it also stated that that statistic "gave insufficient weight to the problems associated with speeding, and that an additional factor should be included for ''Inappropriate speed'' to supplement the existing factor". The advertisers argued that, because the advertisement did not differentiate between "excessive" and "inappropriate" speed, they could justifiably claim that any speed effect was eligible as a factor in road accidents.
The Authority understood from the DfT that analyses of STATS19 data were likely to underestimate the contribution of speed factors to road collisions because some contributory factors, such as "following too close" or "behaviour - careless, reckless, thoughtless" could be associated with, or made more serious by, excessive or inappropriate speed. It also understood that, because STATS19 reports were compiled after the event, or when an accident was reported at a police station, the police were not always able to judge whether speed was a contributory factor in a collision.
The Authority considered that the advertisers had shown that analyses of STATS19 data might not give an accurate picture of the contribution of speed factors to road collisions, because of the restrictions that that system placed on police officers recording accidents and the way in which that data was collected. It also noted the STATS19 system had been discontinued as a national requirement in 1959 because of doubts over the reliability of factors being reported. The Authority acknowledged that TRL Report 323, referred to by the complainant, showed speed to be a contributory factor in 15% of accidents only. It noted, however, that the authors of that report had subsequently qualified their findings in the September 2002 TRL Newsletter and had stated "When allowance is made for all the other speed-dependent factors, the contribution is, we believe, much greater. This means that speed is far more important in causing accidents and increasing their severity than the misquoted figures suggest". The Authority noted the DfT''s Road Safety Research Report 43 referred to by the complainant also stated "The single factor specifically relating to speed in the TRL devised National System is ''Excessive speed''. One of the results from the survey of data providers and users as part of the ''2002 Quality Review of STATS19'' was that this gave insufficient weight to the problems associated with speeding, and that an additional factor should be included for ''Inappropriate speed'' to supplement the existing factor". Moreover, the Authority noted the DfT''s report "Tomorrow''s Roads Safer for Everyone" (2000) stated that "research has shown that speed is a major contributory factor in about one-third of all road accidents". It understood that that statement was consistent with the data presented in the DfT''s "Killing Speed and Saving Lives" report (1992) which the advertisers had used as the basis of their claim. The Authority acknowledged that, because the STATS19 accident reporting system included categories that might be speed related, but which did not refer specifically to speed, there had been some debate about whether analyses of STATS19 data showed the total contribution of speed-related factors to road collisions. It nevertheless considered that, because the DfT''s reports "Killing Speed and Saving Lives" and "Tomorrow''s Roads Safer for Everyone" both stated that speed-related factors, including excessive and inappropriate speed, contributed to 22% to 32% and one-third of accidents respectively, the advertisers had substantiated the claim "Government research shows speed to be a contributory factor in one third of road collisions". The Authority concluded that the claim was not misleading and did not object to it.