speed cameras do we really need them?
can speed really be safe ?
THE DEBATE ABOUT THE EVER-INCREASING RELIANCE ON SPEED CAMERAS TO POLICE OUR STREETS GOES ON UNABATED. ARE THE AUTHORITIES WINNING THE ARGUMENT OR IS THE ROAD LOBBY EXPOSING THE REAL TRUTH BEHIND THE MASSIVE GROWTH IN SPEED CAMERA USE?
The speed camera debate rumbles on with both sides claiming that the statistics justify their position and point of view. On the one hand the authorities, represented by the police, magistrates, local councils and government, claim that the increased use of cameras has reduced deaths and injuries at notorious accident black spots. From the other perspective, motoring organisations represented by the RAC Foundation and the British Drivers Association, claim that many more lives have been lost due to the reliance on speed cameras and the consequential reduction in police traffic patrols.
The motoring organisations have latched on to the fact that on average about 3,500 people die on our roads each year and despite the prolific increase in speed cameras, the figures seem to remain relatively constant. They go even further by claiming that before the wide spread use of cameras, the number of deaths was decreasing each year on average by six percent and had this rate of decrease continued during the period that speed cameras were being introduced, it would have resulted in the saving of around 5,500 lives.
The motoring organisations and the RAC Foundation in particular favour a more targeted use of speed cameras at known accident hotspots with the revenue generated from these sites used to finance more police traffic patrols. They believe the evidence shows that police patrols are more effective in changing people's attitudes to speeding than the wide spread use of cameras. They also believe that a greater police presence on our roads would help to reduce road crime overall and improve standards of driving generally.
It is going to be hard to convince the authorities, however, to remove their cameras as they can point to less accidents and a reduction in the loss of life or serious injury at accident black spots as a direct result. They rarely, however, speak of the vast sums of money they are now making from these cameras and the relatively low cost of collecting this revenue. Meantime, the poor old motorist is stuck in the middle again paying even more for the privilege of travelling on our roads and having to put up with more and more restrictions on how they can be used. The record number of fines is testimony to how effective these cameras are at generating cash for the authorities.
The motoring organisations argue that the authorities have taken advantage of their position and installed cameras in locations that are not known for large numbers of accidents but are easy pickings for errant motorists and are there specifically to generate revenue rather than save lives.
One of the most vocal opponents of speed cameras is an organisation called 'Safe Speed'. Their reaction to the authorities' continued use of these devices is to pose ten questions - which we reproduce below. If you want to get some more details on the questions - or how the authorities have so far replied to them, go to www.safespeed.org.uk/pactsssi.html. Or write to us with your own views:
1) What's the evidence that speed cameras save lives?
2) What proportion of accidents are caused by speeding?
3) What proportion of excessive speed accidents take place entirely within the
4) Can you give me any reference to research where the link between speed and
driver concentration has been explored?
5) Why did North Wales Police only issue 3.6% of speeding tickets to under
25s, when in Northern Ireland (the BBC reports) 80% of excess speed accidents
are caused by the under 25s?
6) Why does an important Transport Research Laboratory report contain
outrageous logical fallacies that should be spotted by the average A level
7) Why have we lost the previous beneficial trend in the fatal accident rate
since speed cameras were introduced?
8) Why do several very important government reports into speed camera
effectiveness ignore the DfT's own advice about massive sources of statistical
9) What are the possible, probable and actual negative road safety effects of
high levels of speed limit enforcement?
10) If speed cameras work, why are excessive speed accidents increasing?
The arguments will rumble on but there is little doubt that speed cameras are here to stay and as they become more sophisticated and less easy to spot, the cost to the motorist in terms of license penalty points and fines can only increase.