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Debate Speed cameras

The Association of British Drivers claims to have new evidence showing that speed cameras are undermining safety.

This week we ask: Do we need an immediate review of the use of speed cameras as a primary weapon in improving road safety?


Tony Vickers, London spokesman, Association of British Drivers

Despite the government's cherry picking of favourable statistics to support its continued lucrative roll out of speed cameras throughout Britain, there is growing evidence that far from improving road safety, they are in fact undermining it.

The Association of British Drivers has figures that show overall deaths and serious injuries rose 20% in 2000 at the 38 speed camera locations in the west Midlands. Last year, road deaths in the UK rose for the first time in many years. It is hard to see how the government can claim to be meeting its target for reducing road casualties unless it is engaged in its habitual and cynical manipulation of the figures.

Speed cameras force drivers to scan the sides of the road for the next trap, concentrate more on the speedometer than the road conditions in front of them and watch in the mirror for a flash after they have passed (even when they are within the limit).

Police traffic patrols have been reduced in favour of cameras. As a consequence prosecutions for dangerous driving have fallen dramatically.

An irresponsible driver knows he can get away with any feckless act as long he stays within the speed limit near a camera site. The continued hounding of responsible drivers by these police and local authority inspired machines brings all traffic law into disrepute and drives a wedge between the public and the authorities.

The ABD supports the use of speed cameras as a last resort, when engineering solutions have failed or are impractical and when accidents at the black spot where they are to be located can be shown to be speed related. However this applies to very few of the locations where cameras are currently placed.

The criteria for siting cameras at present are so loose that almost anywhere can be deemed appropriate.

The ABD calls for a return to the three E's: education, engineering and enforcement (by trained traffic police) - a tried and trusted formula that produced decades of falling casualty rates on British roads and has now been all but abandoned in favour of sterile and ineffective automated law enforcement.


Susan Beck, National communications lead, National Safety Camera Partnerships

Since speed cameras were introduced in the UK in 1992, they have been shown to reduce road deaths by 55.7%, saving 43 lives, in a three year demonstration project in west London. A 1996 Home Office study found that accidents were reduced by 28% at speed camera sites. In April 2000 eight pilot areas began trials of the netting off funding scheme for safety (speed and traffic signal) cameras, but most are speed cameras. In the first year killed and seriously injured casualties were reduced on average by 47% at camera locations.

As well as high levels of public support for safety cameras there is strong support from road safety groups and motoring organisations. There is no published evidence that speed cameras increase accident risk, only unsubstantiated claims by those opposed to them. The same critics have persisted in falsely claiming that TRL Report 323 shows speeding to be a small factor in accidents.

The article in TRL News of September 2002, 'Speed and Accidents', clarifies this by stating that speeding is far more important in causing accidents and increasing their severity than the misquoted figures from TRL Report 323 suggest. Those wishing to find out the real road safety effects of speeding should refer to TRL reports 421 and 511.

Suggesting that cameras are distracting or are an easy alternative to other road safety interventions is equally misleading. The authorities responsible should always investigate engineering and other solutions before placing cameras, which should be regarded as a last resort. But speeding is dangerous, antisocial and illegal and must be discouraged. It is a criminal offence and not a technical infringement.

The benefits of cameras to society are enormous, including reduced hospital admissions.

The safety camera netting off scheme is persuading people to drive at speeds appropriate to their surroundings and is making one of the most significant contributions to reducing road deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Only drivers breaking the law need be concerned about safety cameras and for them the solution is easy - stick to the limit.

The facts lFigures leaked to the ABD from West Midlands Police show that the number of deaths and serious injuries at speed camera sites in Birmingham has increased from 34 in 1999 to 41 in 2000.

lIn April 2000 eight pilot 'netting off' schemes - Safety Camera Partnerships where police and local authorities could use revenue from speed cameras to pay for additional cameras - were introduced. Figures from the Association of Chief Police Officers show a 47% reduction in those killed and seriously injured at camera sites, with an 18% average reduction in the areas as a whole.

lThe scheme is now being widened to all local authorities, although the government is being challenged over its legality.

lTRL News can be read online at www. TRLNews_sep02. pdf.

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