Nigel Legg has posted an interesting link on FaceBook to a scary article on The Telegraph's website. The story looks at the way the British Government has misused traffic data to claim that speed accounts for one-third of traffic accidents (the article claims it is actually somewhere between 5% and 10%) and that speed cameras reduce fatalities by 35% (a claim that is hard to support).
For thirty years the UK had impressive reductions in traffic fatalities, making it the safest country in Europe. But for the last decade the numbers have stabilised, even increasing a little. The article concludes that alcohol and drugs account for many if not most of the deaths, and they only a very small amount (2% to 3%) of accidents involved breaking the speed limit (70% of accidents caused or contributed to by inappropriate speed were at speeds below the speed limit).
I do not accept everything that is in the article. For example as a Councillor I have seen the statistics that show that speed cameras reduce the median and mean speed on residential roads, something which may not effect fatalities much, but does improve the quality of life. The article quotes opinion polls which say two-thirds of people don't like speed cameras. I will check this point further, but when Councils poll local residents who live on main roads and 'rat runs' a clear majority want cameras on their road to have speed cameras. Although they sometimes request cameras elsewhere to be removed!
But the main thrust of the article is clear and stark, the Government has misused the statistical data, and when challenged has dug its heals in and attacked those telling the truth. In the days before Web 2.0 this would often have worked. But, now, it will usually fail.