Actually, it doesn’t. Where speed is a contributing factor to deaths on the road, it is the inappropriate use of speed for the circumstances or prevalent environmental conditions that has lead to an incident where the risk of death is more or less likely. The problem is, you can’t fit that explanation easily onto a poster with big yellow writing to scare people. This also leads to other complications such as perceived double standards and blatantly inexcusable fund raising through speed cameras.
You only have to read through the papers or look at news stories involving speeding and the police, or traffic matters to see that large sections of the public are unable or unwilling to separate PC’s on the street whose job is solely to respond to 999 calls and the council run ‘partnerships’ responsible for enforcing speed restrictions. Personally, I hate speed cameras. I think that they are divisive, ill placed and serve no purpose other than revenue generation. I can’t remember which paper it was in otherwise I would link to it, but I read a story about a year or two ago where an undercover reporter went to Gatso stating that they were from a council considering putting up speed cameras. Part of the sales pitch from the company was along the lines of “if you target school runs and rush hour, you’ll make more money in a week than you’ll know what to do with”
If Gatso were all about saving lives and the nobility of penalising drivers, then I would think the company would donate all their profits to charities like Brake. They don’t though, they are a very profitable company that has had a boom since the major role out of cameras in the UK by councils. The only reason that the councils run the ‘partnerships’ with the Police is because only the Police have the jurisdiction in law to enforce traffic legislation and without the Police partnership (of which they cannot opt out of as the Home office requires them partake) the councils could not enforce the speed cameras. It doesn’t take much to see that the reputation of the Police in the UK has been almost damaged beyond repair thanks to the introduction of speed cameras and the reduction of traffic departments. All people see is the word Police, they don’t think that it’s the local council that is sitting back rubbing their hands together and counting the cash. The local Police force only get a small percentage of the revenue made from cameras, almost as a token gesture or so they can say "look, the Police make money from it too"
Where I live there are a lot of schools and a lot of 20mph zones, if there was a speed camera outside the schools to catch the taxi drivers and idiots who blat along the roads outside them at 60mph plus then fine, I think the majority including myself would accept them. But they are not, they are on the main arterial roads and on the slip roads out of the city. When was the last time you saw a speed camera in a 20 or 30mph residential zone? And even if you have, I’ll wager that there are considerably more on the main roads in and out of the town or city than where your kids play in the street or where you take the dog for a walk.
The main roles of traffic (or roads policing) departments is to cut road deaths, enforce traffic legislation, to educate other drivers and to deny criminals the use of the road. It is a considerably more effective deterrent to bad driving and criminal behaviour having a marked Police car driving along the road with experienced officers who will watch how you drive, or where you have come from and can stop you at any point to see how much you’ve had to drink. By getting rid of traffic officers and replacing them with static cameras or unmarked mobile units whose sole purpose is to prosecute speeding motorist the roads are left open for people who don’t have driving licences, have no insurance, get drunk at the pub then drive home or use their cars for criminal behaviour.
The first two might not seem like a big issue, but just think how pissed you'd be if your other half was in an accident caused by some kid with no licence? Or if your child was run over by someone with no insurance? The latter part of using it for criminal behaviour is another one that people rarely think about - funnily enough no one walks around with bags labelled swag and a balaclava. I know traffic officers who have arrested more burglars than most response officers, simply because they find them in their cars on the way out while we are scouring back gardens looking for the start of the trail for the dog unit.
As a response officer I use traffic as a means to get my head into peoples cars, have a nose around and find out who they are and more importantly what type of people they are. Any copper worth their salt can tell usually within seconds if someone is going to be known to Police either having been stopped lots of times previously or having previous convictions. This is usually because of stereotyping and I make no apologies for that, if I’ve stopped someone it’s for a reason and I’m rarely wrong about someone having a criminal history. If I do stop someone who is a genuine normal member of the public who has never had any dealings with the Police or the courts, its usually a pleasant surprise (for me anyway) and is the result of some indiscretion that I am usually able to deal with by having a chat with them. The only time most of us ever process someone is if they fail the attitude test or are simply driving like a knob and don't care. We stop people in cars all the time, and to be honest, it’s more of a pain to write out tickets or a summons book than to have a chat and just remind some people that there is a reason for speed limits or traffic lights and that they need concentrate.
As far as traffic legislation and prosecution goes, the Home Office don’t count it for anything which is why they put pressure on forces to reduce the expense and personnel in traffic departments. Contrary to popular belief (thanks to speed cameras) we don’t get any points/stats/bonuses or figures for issuing speed tickets or any other traffic process. If we stop someone and they are unlucky or unless they are seriously taking the mick by doing double the speed limit in residentials or jumping reds while on the phone, then the chances of actually getting stuck on by a Police officer is remarkably slim. This is in stark contrast to speed cameras which don’t care if you’ve never been stopped before, that you pay your taxes and don’t burgle your neighbours. Once you’ve been caught you need to be able to afford an extremely expensive solicitor otherwise your licence (and insurance premiums) is in jeopardy.
The other major problem that the 'Speed Kills' slogan creates is it leaves us (the Police and other emergency services) wide open for calls of hypocrisy and double standards as we regularly use the legal exemptions from the speed limits in order to attend calls. All Police and emergency service drivers have degrees of training that permit them to drive at certain speeds or in certain conditions such as patrol, response or pursuit. The contrast in training and experience between Jo Bloggs who passed his test a few years ago and drives to and from work every day and an advanced Police driver who clocks 500+ miles a week as a Police driver in addition to their own, is like someone who is a weekend fun pilot versus a professional pilot.
In order to remain in complete control the driver needs high levels of training and continuous exposure and has to be able to handle the car beyond its own limits in the conditions that it is going to be used in. Driving at 130 miles an hour on a race track is easy, wide smooth un-cambered tarmac is very different from a council maintained two lane B road where 60 miles an hour can be hairy, and as such all Police driver training is done on the road to give as much realistic exposure as possible. Another point to consider is that the exemptions are only permitted in situations where the Police (or Ambo/fire) driver is using them in the execution of their duty. Outside of work or even at work and outside of a situation that enables the exemptions, we are just as liable if not more than everyone else, regardless of what the papers say with inflammatory headlines like “150 Police drivers caught speeding AND NOT ONE PROSECUTED”
If we get caught speeding outside of work we go through the same process as everyone else and usually higher penalties if we go to court. We then have to advise the professional standards departments who will consider whether discipline is needed. If we get caught at work and it was a perfectly legal use of the exemptions then the ticket is scrubbed, it would do no one any favours at all to prosecute every emergency service driver for every legally breached camera or red light, there would be no one left to answer calls within a weekend. With no one able to drive emergency vehicles with the legal exemptions, road deaths would increase exponentially if live saving first aid is delayed even by a few minutes, purely because we would be unable to use speed or traffic exemptions appropriately to the conditions and the circumstances.