You couldn’t have missed this, but cuts in road safety budgets are prompting some council’s to change how they use speed cameras, or perhaps even do away with them totally.
In response, nine UK based road safety groups have got together to effectively defend the speed camera as what they refer to as “an effective part of a much broader programme to save lives and reduce injuries on UK roads”
The references to a “much broader programme” are however where this falls down, as many of these safety groups have primarily used speed cameras as the major tool in their armoury, rather than taking the time and spending the money to implement much broader improvements to make our roads safer, so I have to say it’s pretty much “the same old song” as for years now almost of the entire strategy towards road safety in the UK has been built around punishing drivers rather improving the environment that we all drive in.
No one, none of us, want to see anyone injured or losing their life on our roads, but we have to accept the fact that with the number of us moving around, as pedestrians, cyclists and motorists, even if we are as careful as we can be, there are going to be accidents, lots of accidents and frankly, we can’t legislate those out of existence.
For sure, speed cameras have their place and who could argue with one on the approach to a school for example; as they do slow drivers down, but fact is, drivers then speed up again once they’ve passed the camera location, although none of us would probably admit to being that driver. Simply looking at the number of people that are caught by speed cameras gives us a firm indication that “like it or not” as drivers, we don’t have much respect for the way our roads are managed and even less respect for the speed limits that are often unnecessarily imposed.
So let’s look at what these nine road safety groups have said: – they want to raise public awareness, demonstrate unity and feed the wider debate with facts stated below.
- Speed cameras save lives – an “estimated” 100 lives a year in the UK.
- Lives are saved by reducing speeding as speeding significantly increases the risk of an accident happening and also increases the severity of the injuries
- Speed cameras should continue to be used where casualty statistics show they are needed
- Switching off cameras systematically would be close to creating a void in law enforcement on the road. Cameras account for 84% of fixed penalty notices for speeding.
- Cuts might also threaten many speed awareness courses that give motorists the opportunity to learn about the dangers of driving too fast
- While public spending needs to be cut, cuts must be justified by evidence. Cameras pay for themselves and currently make an important contribution to achieving compliance with the speed limit.
I don’t know about you, but it’s “the same old song” and if that the best they can come up with, I am really disappointed. Nine different organisations, telling us what they refer to are the facts! Yet the very first item, which is the number of deaths speed cameras prevent, is referred by them as “estimated” and I don’t believe you will find the words ‘fact’ and ‘estimate’ meaning the same thing in the Oxford English Dictionary.
We have heard what the pro speeding camera people say, so it’s only fair we look at some research that seems to tell us that these cameras can also cause accidents.
New research has been carried out for motor insurance company LV and found that many drivers admitted to “behaving erratically in front of speed cameras, with thousands confessing to slamming on the brakes, or looking at the speedometer as soon as the camera came into view”. The research goes on to suggest that this behaviour could be responsible for up to 28,000 accidents since speed cameras were rolled out nationally in 2001. ICM research surveyed 1532 drivers and reported that in 1% of accidents, speed cameras were a contributory factor.
So, it’s never black and white and whilst one side say that speed cameras save lives and prevent accidents, the other say they cause accidents. It’s for sure however people have little respect for what they were put there to do, otherwise, no one would ever be fined going past a camera over the limit.
Lets face it, even if you are someone who regularly speeds, you’ve got to be pretty silly to get nicked on a camera that’s in your area as you know its there, so this leads you to think that its just “out of towners” that are the ones picking up the fines and the points.
No one would deny, that speed can cause accidents, after all, if we all stood completely still, we wouldn’t hit anyone, but its speed in the wrong place, or wrong time, or wrong weather conditions that is dangerous, not speed per se and its time we stopped demonising anyone who breaks an arbitrary limit, simply because a group of people say it should be the limit.
The whole concept of speed limits is flawed and that’s why very few drivers respect them as clearly, if it’s considered safe and legal for us to do 70mph on a motorway in the snow and ice, surely, it can’t be that awful to do 80mph on the same road on a glorious summer’s day? That’s the problem, as they seem to legislate starting from the worst case scenario, imposing fines when in all reality, the driver wasn’t doing anything dangerous at all, but simply wasn’t doing as he was told!
The shame of this is that in the right place, speed cameras are a fantastic safety device to slow you down and I think everyone even persistent speeders would behave and obey the law if cameras were only in the right locations and for the right reasons. Now however, they have sprung up everywhere and it’s become a case of quantity not quality and drivers no longer think “oh, speed camera, there must be a real danger to driving too fast at this location and slow down” but instead, perceive as revenue raising cash cows, with no real purpose other than that.
So my message is, don’t do away with speed cameras, but have less, in more significant and important locations, so that drivers realise the importance of the location they are approaching. Speed cameras should act as a warning that you are approaching a dangerous area where accidents are more likely, but the proliferation of speed cameras has meant that drivers have become complacent about them and their use has become devalued and they no longer alert drivers in the way they should and indeed, “could” and we should take a step back to when we first had cameras in the UK and site them in only the most sensitive locations. Have you heard the expression, “sometimes less is more” well it couldn’t suit a situation better than it does this one..