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The CIS on speeding

October 31st, 2003

The Centre for Independent Studies has published a number of pieces by pro-speeding British sociologist, Alan Buckingham. The site structure doesn’t facilitate linking so you’ll have to look for them individually. Suffice it to say that the standard of argument is well below that usually associated with the CIS. This passage for example, is fairly typical of the general level

If speed did kill then the safest roads would be urban roads where speeds are lowest. In fact, the reverse is true. It is freeways, where speeds are much higher, which are the safest roads.

I hope it’s not necessary to point out that speeding means going faster than is safe on a given road, and that the safe speed is higher on a freeway than on a suburban street, but just in case it is necessary to point it out, I’ve done so.

Similarly, Buckingham praises increases in the speed limit in Italy and the US, not bothering to observe that both countries have worse road death rates than Australia (the US rate has actually been rising over the past decade).

Then there’s the claim that because road deaths in Britain declined more slowly after the introduction of speed cameras than before, speed cameras are ineffectual. Again Buckingham fails to mention the fact that the policies he’s attacking have produced one of the safest road systems in the world. If his arguments prove anything (this kind of casual empiricism is highly unreliable) is that the safety benefit from speed cameras is less than that from previous interventions such as seat belt laws and random breath tests, all of which were vigorously opposed by the Buckinghams of this world.

Buckingham’s work is riddled with sloppy time-series arguments, invalid cross country comparisons and plain non sequiturs.

There are serious issues to be debated regarding speed and law enforcement, and a fair bit of debate has taken place on this blog. Buckingham has done nothing to advance the debate.

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