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Killing speed
  1. I B Pless, Editor

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    “Speed kills. Kill your speed”. This clever message has appeared in the media in the UK for several years. Other countries use similar phrases. Although brief, all the essential ideas are represented. They state the problem and offer a solution. In this respect, it is a model safety message. But the question to be asked of it, as of any other preventive measure, is: does it work? Is there good evidence that drivers have slowed down?

    I acknowledge being preoccupied by speeding cars in part because I bicycle to work. Speeders are part of every trip and I occasionally see the grim consequences of their behaviour. In vain, I shake my fist and shout at the violators but it seemed that writing this might be more effective and safer. After deciding to do so, however, I discovered that I had been scooped by an editorial in the BMJ.1 The author does such a good job of summarizing the main points that I quote him extensively and shamelessly. Moreover, if memory serves I have editorialized on this before and may at times be quoting myself. In any case, I make no apologies for doing so again, such is the importance of this problem. It is the same everywhere in the world, affecting all age groups. (I do apologize, however, for drawing almost exclusively on material from the UK. It just so happens to come in a readily available form.)

    The problem

    Numerous studies show the relation between car speed and injury. The “kill your speed” message originates with the estimate that “the chance of a pedestrian [or cyclist, presumably] being seriously injured or killed if struck by a car is 45% at 30 mph and 5% at 20 mph”.1 Other studies indicate that someone hit by a car travelling at …

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