Update: July 21, 2014: Dr. Perry’s response to criticism in his letter to the editor of The Vancouver Sun:
Dr. Perry Kendall, has responded to our criticism that doctors are not road safety engineers and that they should stick to what they know.
Yes, he’s cherry picked his information (as we do admittedly) to support his bias. In his OpEd piece he said “There is, in fact, little controversy in the scientific literature on the association between speed, crashes, and related death.” Yet in his most recent letter he refers to the work of Norwegian traffic safety researcher Rune Elvik.
Here is the first sentence in the preface to Elvik’s 2004 report “Speed and road accidents”: “The relationship between speed and road safety is a highly controversial and emotionally charged subject.”
Yes it is, and that’s exactly our point and Dr. Kendall doesn’t get it apparently so we’ll say it again. We don’t need DOCTORS or SCIENTISTS on the public payroll to offer subjective opinions based on cherry picked research that has nothing to do with their field of expertise.
Elvik’s research asserts slower is better and it assumes the availability of full time invasive enforcement to achieve compliance. Norway and Sweden have some of the slowest speed limits in Europe where Rune Elvik has his audience.
Nobody disputes the role of speed and crashes, nor the fact the faster you go (when you hit something), the more damage will be done. That’s not up for debate. What is up for debate is how speed limits should be set.
“Re: Speed limit plan based on the facts, July 17
Ian Toothill and Michael Cain state that assessing the risk of increasing speed limits should be based on science, not emotive cherry picking of the data. The opinion piece from B.C.’s public health physicians (New limits may charge death toll, July 14), and our previous submissions to the B.C. Rural Highway Safety and Speed Review, are based on, among other sources, a series of meta-analyses, which in total reviewed 115 studies examining the relationship between speed and car crashes. The conclusions, published by Rune Elvik: in 2004, 2009, and 2013, confirm the powerful relationship between speed, injuries, and fatalities and are consistent with other published reviews.
While a 2003 report, Review and Analysis of Posted Speed Limits and Speed Limit Setting Practices in B.C., prepared for the ministry of transportation and referenced in the Rural Highway and Speed Review, does cite one B.C. study that found decreases in crashes following a speed-limit increase in 1998, the authors state “The reduction in total crashes . . . did not follow the same trends found in most other crash investigations,” and “It is possible other factors unrelated to the speed limit influenced the crash reductions.” The 2003 review also cites eight studies looking at the impact of decreasing speed limits, six of which showed a reduction in crashes, and 11 studies that looked at increases in speed limits, eight of which showed an increase in crashes or fatalities.
While we will be happy to be proven wrong, we are of the opinion the evidence to support increasing speed limits as a safety measure, is at best, extremely limited.
DR. PERRY KENDALL
B.C. provincial health officer”
Dr. Perry Kendall’s original The Vancouver Sun OpEd here: