You’ve probably seen the headlines about government cuts forcing some councils to switch off speed cameras. So is it really the beginning of the end for the Gatso?
The papers have leapt on the decision by Oxfordshire County Council to switch off its 72 speed cameras with thinly-disguised glee. And I’m sure there are many drivers who feel the same (or who wish they lived in Oxfordshire).
But before we all rush to herald the death of the Gatso, let’s look behind the headlines at what’s really going on.
Road safety cutbacks
Oxfordshire council has been forced to make savings after a swingeing 40% cut in central government funding for road safety. The council has opted to slash £600,000 from it’s funding of the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership (which maintains and administers the region’s fixed-location cameras).
So after years of building up a network of speed cameras, those in Oxfordshire will now be turned off – all in the name of saving money.
That’s ironic, given that most drivers seem to think speed cameras are nice little earners for the council, or simply a ‘tax on motorists’. But the money they raise goes to central government, not to the local council. And I’m quite sure that if Oxfordshire council could use the revenue from its cameras to fund other road safety projects, it wouldn’t be decommissioning them…
Cutting cameras to cut costs
I’m not a great fan of the Gatso – I don’t like the way drivers are distracted into checking their speedometers rather than the road ahead, or brake suddenly to avoid a fine. It pains me to say it, but average speed cameras work much better at controlling traffic (although these wouldn’t work for all roads, and still create a distraction).
Personal gripes aside, I can’t help thinking that this could be a landmark moment in road safety policy – especially if other councils follow Oxfordshire’s lead, as seems likely. So a knee-jerk reaction based on cutting costs isn’t helpful.
In my view, the government should be encouraging a much more considered debate, seeing where it’s possible to make road safety savings that will pay-off long-term. It doesn’t have to be a bloated year-long policy review costing millions of pounds. It just needs to pool local knowledge from around the UK, and review the best road safety practices from other countries.
In recent years, councils have fallen in and out of love with speed bumps, width restrictions, chicanes, flashing signs and speed cameras – but does anyone really know which are the most effective?
I’m not saying we need more speed cameras or traffic calming. But as a driver and a taxpayer I want to know that we have an integrated policy for preventing tragic road deaths, not a piecemeal approach to cutting costs.
Are you for or against speed cameras?
Against (53%, 425 Votes)
For (47%, 382 Votes)
Total Voters: 807