Seems like an inflammatory question, I know. But hear me out before writing me off as a loony!
We know that there have been various surveys done over the years asking people whether they speed, or use hand held mobile phones, etc. And we know that the national picture is incredibly depressing - survey after survey reminding us that dangerous road use is endemic. And with so many surveys we can start drawing some conclusions as to what proportion of motorists really are criminals on our roads. Back of an envelope style, anyway. Most commonly quoted figure is 70% of motorists admit to speeding in the UK - I'll use that to be getting on with (although I wonder how any simply don't admit it?).
When a local police chap started to talk on twitter about how many speeding offences they've recorded from the start of last April to, well, yesterday, my nose started twitching and I got that 'oh, we can do some sums now' feeling. And then I realised that these sums will necessarily require some hand waving... but heck, lets do it anyway.
27,542 speeders caught in that period in Cambrideshire. Obviously thats not all different people, nor is it one person taking the piss. That means more than 97 per day, 35648 per year if its not a leap year. Which is a hell of a number.
There are 622,000 people in Cambridgeshire according to Wikipedia. Out of 62,500,000 (again, Wikipedia) people in the UK. So we're about 1% of the population. Lets therefore assume we've got about 1% of the motorists - best answer I can find is 38,000,000 in the UK. We now see that, on average, there is 1 recorded speeding incident per 9 motorists in the county. Or, the figure for speeding offences is 11% of the figure for how many motorists there are.
But, you cry out, what about all those surveys saying that 70% of motorists admit to speeding? Yes, you're right - what that means is even if you do speed, over the year you've got almost a 6 in 7 chance of not getting caught. The probability of getting caught, on any particular day, is absurdly low (and presently I hope to remember how to do that sum...). If you speed where you know there are no speed cameras you're pretty certain not to get caught, of course.
Right, thats a lot of averaging things out and guessitmating, but my figures won't be FAR out - if they're off by much for Cambridgeshire then rest assured they're right for the Cambridgeshire population as a percentage of the UK, and there is no reason to assume that this county is particularly odd in this regard. What conclusions can we draw?
Firstly, speeding is a massive problem here, like everywhere. And its something you can do and get away with if you know where the speed cameras are. Frankly the odds on any given day of getting caught are next to nil. Catching one out of every nine of these offenders per year? Cambridgeshire Constabulary, you are not doing enough. Sorry, there it is.
Secondly, the police do love to come out with big numbers but they're not quite so good at putting them into context - I find the figure of 1 recorded offence per 9 motorists per year, when we know that 70% of motorists speed, particularly annoying. What sounds like a cracking figure from the cops isn't really as great as all that, in context of how massive the problem is. In that context its frighteningly poor.
These 'danger motorists' are risking our lives and getting away with it. But thats okay, we've got a PCC now. He'll be on their case. No? Oh dear. Well, never mind, our local papers can bring the reality of this to the attention of the populace, surely they must want a story like this which puts any of the woes about cycling into context? No? Oh dear. Well, thats okay, after all the PCC doesn't interfere with operational matters and a police force like ours must have the sense to realise that its these dangerous motorists who are causing, statistically speaking, all of the problems. No? Oh deary me.
Ok, you've read it now. Feel free to call me a loony.