The great Gatso con

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The statistics bandied about to prove Gatsos save lives, the big excuse used for their ever-growing numbers, are hand-picked and thoroughly mis-leading, our inquiries have revealed.

Counties with the highest death rates in the country in 1999 were chosen for pilot schemes where police were given the all clear to keep cash from speed fines to pay for even more cameras.

Death rates in those areas did indeed fall when the cameras were introduced. But what the pro-Gatso lobby never tells you is that the 1999 highs were nothing more that statistical blips. The fact that they fell can be seen as them settling back to normal rather than evidence that Gatsos have prompted a downward trend.

It may come as no surprise that the figures have been massaged. The Government has used them to give itself the moral high-ground in allowing every police force in the country to spend speeding fine revenue on more cameras. Hundreds of them.

Eight constabularies were involved in the pilot scheme, called netting-off. Four – Essex, Lincolnshire, Northants and Cleveland – were in the top 10 areas for rising road fatalities in 1999.

But examine the figures of their preceding years and it’s clear they were always going to do well – and help the Government “prove” their Gatsos’ and Truvelos’ worth – when the cameras were finally introduced.

In fact, the results seemed so convincing that the pilot scheme’s second year was cancelled. On paper, the case was proved. And the Exchequer was several million pounds richer from fines, too.

In 1999, Cleveland had 46 per cent more deaths than the year before. Essex had 39 per cent more, Northants’ death count rose by 27 per cent and Lincs’ by 25 per cent.

That made them perfect for inclusion in 2000’s netting off scheme.

According to cops, the blips of 1999 can be attributed to many things. They include poor weather, particularly bad crashes involving many vehicles, and even the ages of drivers and passengers.

These freaks were absent in 2000, ensuring the numbers of fatalities dropped.

Essex’s fell by 19 per cent, Northants’ by 24 per cent and Lincs’ by 38 per cent.

But the drops in Essex, Northants and Lincs had such a net effect that the sum total of the fatalities in all eight netting off areas actually dropped from 693 in 1999 to 644 in 2000. And that’s despite an increase in the number of fatalities in three of the other five areas included in the pilot scheme!

Cleveland’s rose by 18 per cent.

Thames Valley, which entered the scheme on the back of a three per cent rise in fatalities in 1999 saw that figure grow to 15 per cent once it started piling in the Gatsos.

Notts, which had enjoyed a 25 per cent drop in 1999 found it self bleakly staring at a 13 per cent hike in the number of deaths in 2000. So much for more Gatsos equals safer roads.

Only South Wales, which had gone down three per cent year on year from 1998 to 1999, enjoyed a big drop in fatalities once extra cameras sprang up. Its 2000 figure showed a decrease by 16 per cent in fatalities.

Strathclyde, which saw the number of deaths drop by six per cent in 1999, pushed that down a further three per cent year on year in 2000.

That’s hardly the massive success rate the Government crows about.

The Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions says it assembled its pilot forces carefully in order to get a mix of rural and urban areas, as well as forces which already had camera enforcement and ones which didn’t.

But the Association of British Drivers (ABD) believes the regions were chosen because most of them couldn’t fail to show a drop in road deaths.

Spokesman Ben Lovejoy, who rides a Kawasaki ZX-6R, said: ” The Government knew what the results would be. It chose unrepresentative areas where the figures would clearly go down.

“It’s quite outrageous that the Government is lying to its citizens in order to get more money out of them.

” After 12 months of a two-year scheme, they decided they didn’t need to see the results for the next year.

” The results in the first year showed a drop – as you would expect – so they wouldn’t want to risk a different picture emerging in the second year. ”

The DTLR denied that it had selected forces in order to rig the results of the trial.

Spokesman Scot Marchbank said: ” It’s a ludicrous argument. The participating forces weren’t chosen because they had bad years – they were chosen to improve road safety.

” We let the scheme go nationwide a year early to save lives, rather than sitting around while people die. ”

Gwyneth Horner, statistics lecturer at Cardiff University, said: ” This is how to lie with statistics. It is very naughty to claim this is making a big reduction when there’s a blip in the figures.

” To attribute the reduction to speed cameras is not justifiable. Statisticians would not approve of using figures in this way. ”

MCN Staff

By MCN Staff