/ Motoring

Don’t switch off speed cameras


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

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stanbayly says:
7 August 2010

I am an ex metropolitan traffic police officer. Its a shame , but the avarege motorist cannot be trusted to keep to the letter of the law, so cameras though inconvenient are a necesary evil. Having disposed of the traffic patrol cars as they were with the word police clearly visable and with the large loudhaler dorns on the roof, these cars were feared by the motorist, and seldom if ever attempted to overtake , but today its a free for all and no attempt seems to be made to stop speeding. It is claimed that cars are now safer, but because one purchases a new car the brain of the purchaser doesnt always adjust to the faster speeds that the car is capable of.

Totally agree – the number of idiots on the road is now staggering – I think far heavier fines and bans would certainly help. Too many people think because their car is "safer" they can drive at any speed they like – ignoring that at 25 mph many pedestrians DIE.whether your car is modern or ancient.

I also think more pedestrians and cyclists should be heavily penalised – some are absolute cretins!!!.

leary53 says:
7 August 2010

Speed awareness courses are brilliant – they have changed the whole attitude to speeding of the friends and relations of mine who have been on them….and of the one I went on.

Julia 4j has got it spot-on. And all Keith can do is question someone’s (=her) integrity – presumably he thinks all ‘professionals’ know nothing abt their subject. Does he apply this to heart surgeons? It is such a cynical and unthinking approach.

The point she is making, Keith, in case you still haven’t seen it, is that abandoning or raising speed limits in the present economic and social environment [financial cuts the order of the day – look what Oxfordshire CC are doing – and Coalition ministers now bragging that they are "reducing the war on the motorist" (what utter tosh that is!)] will simply increase fatalities and serious injuries on the road….with all the spillover effects on other people’s lives. Let’s get real!

Jim McKay says:
7 August 2010

I assume that you went on the ‘Speed awareness course’ as an alternative to more points on your licence ?? I have been driving for over 50 years, cars and m/cycles (big fast ones) have no points on my licence (now), and have never been offered a speed awareness course and never felt the need for one

Agree with you Jim – it is obvious that some posters need to go on one though – They keep saying they don’t know what speed they’re going.

I used to run an RAC/ACU motorcycle course to help teenagers ride properly – and I’ve never been offered a "Speed awareness course" either.

I wonder why? It couldn’t be because I obey the speed limit could it?

The truth of the matter is surely that we have too many cars for our road-system; we have too many roadside distractions, of all kinds, to encourage considerate driving. What amazes me is that our accident rate is as low as it is. My opinion is that: the cameras that smile or frown at the driver produce a greater effect on speeders than any other; average speed cameras are sensible; a driving test ought to be re-taken every 10-15 years; a bit more common sense would help. AIso shall be fascinated to note if my typing of words containing a close realtive of the donkey is asterisked by your "offensive word" filter – pass (overtake), assist (aid), lass (young woman), class act (a good show)!

Mike Middleton says:
7 August 2010

In time, Oxfordshire will be required to produce statistics showing the effect of their actions on road safety. Whatever the figures may be, the council will be very reluctant to admit that their actions have been the cause of any extra deaths or serious injuries. My guess is that the statistics will be inconclusive and that the council will put the best possible spin on them in any case to try and show that they have acted responsibly.

The result may well be, that despite the many arguments in favour of cameras, as an aid to road safety and not just a cash cow, statistics will be introduced showing that we are all just as safe with or without them. Personally, I can`t wait to find out.

Helen says:
7 August 2010

For what it’s worth, my view is get rid of most speed cameras, especially those on open roads where they are clearly a money-making enterprise. In most cases, they are a dangerous distraction. However, there is no doubt that cars are driven far too fast. Where cameras could be useful is in very residential areas where people, including children and the less nimble elderly, dogs, cats roam about between batteries of parked cars and where drivers need to be made far more careful and aware of what is going on about them rather than just the task of getting from A to B the most quickly. We all need to slow down though. I live in a very rural area and cars are driven far too fast round very narrow winding lanes without a thought for what may be coming in the other direction whether cars, horses, sheep, people on bikes or walkers. Cameras are impractical on every small lane obviously. Maybe we should all have to go on speed awareness courses every few years!

I think speed bumps are more effective – and that’s what we have – Supeb – I’ve seen a 4 x 4 have bits ‘fall off’ – the driver never drove at that speed afterwards.

Even speeds just over the limit recommended (they are on the roads in large figures) will usually destroy the suspension – fantastic! Here our speed bumps are accurately graduated so that if you drive at 30 in the 30 limit your car is undamaged.

But have noticed in Muswell Hill some of their speed bumps are impossible to traverse at 20 in the 20 zone.

Eddie Potts says:
7 August 2010

Speed cameras are a confidence trick to collect money from drivers. They are located not where needed to slow dangerously fast traffic, but surrupticiously to trap normal driving. Who says where a "limit" should exist to traffic speed – we have roads inside towns with national limits(70) and open country roads, straight roads and roads with no junctions with 30mph limits – there should be a process to challenge the idiots who set illogical limits that encourage law breaking – that are then used by others as a "Good place to put a camera". It is the speed limits that need cleaning up – every one should have a reason that can be explained. The cameras should be scrapped until the whole system is driver logical – cameras would then not be needed.

John C says:
9 August 2010

If cameras bring in so much revenue through fines, why does switching them off save money? Either Oxford have got their sums wrong, or the widespread assumption voiced by Eddie is rubbish.
The history of road deaths in this country clearly demonstrayrs that drivers wreak havoc if left to regulate their speed without statutory limits. Higher speed means more serious injuries & enormous healthcare costs to the country. If we want to save money, average speed checks should become the norm, not a driver free for all!

John Godfrey says:
7 August 2010

Speed limits are imposed for saftey considerations, if you activate a camera you are breaking the law. That said I do consider that speed restrictions are sometimes unreralistic, I also consider that monies gained from speed cameras should contribute towards improving road safety, both in road design and driver retraining. I would like to see wider use of average speed cameras, I also like traffic lights/ pedestrian crossing lights etc. linked to radar checks whereby the lights go against drivers travelling to fast as I have seen in mainland Europe. The use of speed reducing signs may seem confusing to begin with but seems more sensible than a blanket approach as on British roads. Yes, I was once zapped by a camera when I carlessly accelerated just sufficiently above 30 mph before changing gear before I realised it, my fault not the camera or any one else. Think about your reaction to the death toll from gun or knife crime being around 10 per day as it is on the road?

JoHnS says:
7 August 2010

There is nothing intrinsically safe about any prescribed speed limit. I find it safer to take your eyes off the speedometer and watch the road instead for any possible hazards that might arise, even as you glance at the speedo. Collisions often occur where the roads are simply inadequate for the weight of traffic they have to carry, very little of the income from the licence fee being spent on upgrading the road system to cater for the vastly increased volume of traffic, or for getting it off the roads when not being used. It has simply been embezzled to fund other popular political stunts! Many former colonies have better systems than ours and don’t need recourse to speed cameras.

No it means YOU are driving TOO CLOSE to other traffic – SLOW DOWN

Grahame says:
7 August 2010

As Oxfordshire County Council are removing the "Speed" Cameras to save money, are they saying that these cameras never made money for them!! For all these years we were led to believe they were "safety" cameras and placed at strategic positions, were known accidents had happened in the past. Clearly this needs to be questioned as if that premise is correct then accidents will cost them and other services such as Fire, Ambulance, Police a lot more than the running costs of a "Safety" camera.
No doubt we can look forward to more speed humps or Traffic Calming as it preferred to be called and increased Police mobile speed traps.

The money from fines went direct to central Government.

Rosemary Hughes says:
7 August 2010

Yes they should be turned off, but more of the flashing signs telling you if you are speeding shold be put up.

BobP says:
7 August 2010

Speed cameras always seem to slow drivers down through any designated area or vision of the camera view whereupon they speed up again so really they are of little use , It is only the people who are not concentrating upon there driving & are in the usual trance [ on the phone , thinking about the next bit of business they are to carry out , listening to the tape or radio & oblivious to the road or those around them that get caught by cameras , We have to think for them anyway !!!! . The way to stop Static Cameras is to employ more unmarked police cars on the roads / motorways & show a presence while stopping speedsters beside the road / motorways . I have contacted the Devon & Cornwall police station asking why there is no sight of them on the A30 some 60 miles from Exeter in Devon to Bodmin in Cornwall as on the 2 lane motorway cars pass me doing well over the 70 speed limit soon disappearing into the distant in seconds , reply We Are Present At All Times When Not Doing Other Police Work , Why do the government change the system where police forces collect the fines to pay for all cars / personnel employed as this would stop many people speeding in areas where speed restrictions stand & on motorways ., Far better than cameras which slow you up then speed again later . If 70 mph is not fast enough then get out of bed earlier / leave earlier & get there safely , & be within the law of the country after all we all can with the modern car do 100 mph but this is why we have laws in this country NOT [ for idiots who cannot care less for the law or other road users ] . I am not a prude or a goody good , but now a pensioner who will keep up to the speed limit at all times when safety allows ,[ not doing 50 in a 60 mph allowance causing frustration to others . Another point brought up on this survey has been the way speed limits go from 60 to 30 then 40 to 50 back to 30 , Why the H**l do they not keep to two limits as we found there speed areas did around BATH / FROME roads as when in heavy traffic your attention should be on the car in front of the one following to be able to read the traffic flow not on continuously changing speed limits then get caught on cameras . Has anyone noticed the amount of different road surface colour markings being used now that are not in the highway code no wonder we drivers are always breaking the law !!!! . Just another thing to think on is while moving down through Wales A470 / A479 it was observed that on leaving a 30mph area there is NO leaving sign to let you know the national limit of 60 can be observed , only a plain rear of the other carriageway warning of 30 mph so if you do not see it owing to traffic you go for miles before noticing it is no longer 30 mph . This not stated in highway code either .

John Hatton says:
8 August 2010

Bob, I agree with some of what you say, but as a regular driver along the Exeter-Bodmin stretch of the A30, I do not agree that the police need to spend any more time than they already do patrolling this section. This is for the most part a well designed and safe road, that can easily handle vehicles travelling at 80mph. Traffic police patrol regularly in their unmarked Volvos and BMWs and clearly agree because they don’t concern themselves with vehicles travelling at this speed unless the drivers are behaving badly.

bobP says:
10 August 2010

A reply to John Hatton [Page 4 ] upon my comments are in my mind showing what type of driver he may be . He was probably one of those who while travelling again along this part of the A30 yesterday [Bodmin to M5 Exeter ] we where passed by appx 50 or more in each direction of those persons who believe like you that it is acceptable to travel at speeds well above the national speed limit of 70 mph . Vehicles passed us while I was travelling at my Sat Nav speed of 70 mph [ these instruments are more accurate than speed clocks in vehicles ] , disappearing into the distance in seconds . We the persons who abide to the speed limits could very easily drive along this & other routes well above the limits set by this country , Without trying to be a big head I have driven all sorts of sized vehicles , Coaches ,Cars with trailers / Caravans , lorries , Dump trucks in excess of 100 ton 14′ wide when loaded in the clay industry where it slid down hill side ways at times on the very slippery hills so would think I would be one of the more experienced type of driver . All I can say on this subject is Mr Hatton slow down it is 70 mph not 80 as if you think it is Ok to do 80 then why do you not think it right to do 90 or 100 so until the law states it has raised the speed limit then please drive at the correct speed for all road users sakes being another of the responsible brigade upon our roads as then the government could start to do away with WATCHING SPEEDERS , CAMERAS , & all Other of the so called BIG BROTHER is watching us Systems used to watch the LAW BREAKERS . lets all hope they will be caught sooner than later .

Sue says:
8 August 2010

I completely agree with Keith; some speed limits are set unrealistically low to appease the politically correct green agenda of some councils and are nothing to do with safety.

I have seen a 40mph limit in place way out in the country on a good width lane running between two fields! What is the point of that?

Drivers need to be taught to drive responsibly; this means making decisions for themselves. Conditions vary enormously and this cannot be legislated for! Cameras cannot spot dangerous drivers.

It seems that speed limits (backed by scameras) are set to the lowest sensible speed on a particular road in poor conditions (bad weather, busy times) and then we are expected to stick to it whether or not the conditions are better.

Remove all the cameras!!

Mary Wilkin says:
8 August 2010

I think that if Keith lived in a street that had a 30 limit but because it was a rat run, had cars and commercial vehicles speeding through at in excess of 50 miles per hour he might well change his tune.
I don’t live in such a street but if I go anywhere on foot I have to cross one. Between the parked cars and speeding traffic you take your life in ones hands whenever you cross the road. I also drive along this road on a regular basis but would be happy so see a speed camera to be installed on this stretch of road, it’s not that hard to stick to 30 MPH.

justin cooper says:
8 August 2010

Before I retired I was responsible for, among other things, where cameras went in my council’s area. It is a fact that all the cameras I had put in place were at sites that had an accident record. At these sites, the number of accidents after the camera went in went down. It is also a fact that cameras are not a source of income. Most of the arguments against cameras are false and you will only get caught if you exceed the speed limit, normally by a considerable margin. That said, there is undoubtedly a danger that drivers might go faster where there are not speed cameras. However it seems certain that removing all speed cameras will only result in an increase in speed related accidents. It would be much better if cameras were hidden but only at spots that are geniunely know to be dangerous. That should be in parallel with a general (upward) review of most speed limits; eg m’ways to 80mph.

You need to look up the term “regression to the mean”. Of course accidents went down, you waited until there has been an unusually high number of accidents! If you’d stuck a garden gnome beside the road, accidents would have gone down.

Ray Perez says:
9 August 2010

Speed cameras should be kept, and the cost of anyone using excessive speed should have a minimum fine of £250 plus 3 points on their license. If caught again the fine should be doubled. There are too many idiots on the road at the moment and it is getting a lot worse. A large number of drivers don’t even bother to use their indicators. I have been driving for nearly 50 years in a number of different countries (and no, I’m not an old fogie who drives at 40mph on the motorway) and over the last few years the driving habits of some drivers has got a lot worse. The main reason for many accidents is speed and impatience and not driving to according to the appropriate conditions. As for road rage, anyone charged with this offence should lose their license altogether. Keep the speed cameras!

Raymond (Baker) says:
9 August 2010

I am in favour of speed cameras. While vehicle accident statistics have improved in recent years, we motorists still managed to cause 248,000 casualties in 2007 (the last published record) of which almost 3,000 were deaths. Surely we must be prepared to submit to some restriction on our freedom to drive as fast as we like in all road conditions. Only the lunatic fringe would argue for the removal of all speed limits. And if there are to be limits, there must surely be some way of enforcing them. Speed cameras may not be perfect but it is hard to see a realistic alternative. Better driver training? Yes, but who would be naive enough to believe that all drivers would regulate their own speeds to a safe level? Ten minutes on any motorway will prove the contrary. So keep the cameras. If you find they distract you, or if you keep getting fined, the solution is simply to drive within the legal speed limits. Is this so very hard?

Stephen Rose says:
16 August 2010

In reply the comment from Ray Baker I would say that, Yes it can be difficult in a modern car to keep 100% within limits, particularly 30mph. But let’s be constructive here some car manufacturers have a solution (not cruise) but speed limiter device as original equipment. My previous Citroen C8 had one as has my sister in law’s Merc ‘A’ series. This when set keeps you within the law and does not cancel when applying brakes or activating the clutch, allowing you to drive in any gear up to the set speed. 1000% better than cruise control any day which is impractical except midight in the Scottish Highlands or somewhere!. Every car manufacurer selling in the UK market shoul;d be made to offer as an original fittment or option. I would buy one every time.
Stephen Rose, Kent

I do not elieve that turning off speed cameras per se is good or desirable. However, I DO believe that placing these cameras with more careful thought and intelligence is paramount to our keeping them going.

On another point altogether, look at your comment "Bored OF typing your….." For goodness’ sake at least write English correctly. As I’m sure you well know grammatically speaking it is "Bored WITH typing your ……"

Of course we should have fixed cameras to catch speeding motorists along with other tools in our armoury ,if you’re worried about a fine and points on your license stick the speed limit or hand your license in because it wont be long before we take it off you any way.It is your responsibility to drive in accordance with the road traffic act nobody elses.Maybe the fines and point system could be altered to be a little fairer like down under in WA :less than 9km/h $75 no points;between 9&19km/h $150 2 points;20 to 29 km/h $300 3 points;30 to 40 km/h $700 5 points;more than 40 km/h $1000 and 7 points; more than 45km/h vehicle is impounded for1 month 1st offence 3months 2nd offence 3rd offence 6months or permanent.Use of mobile phone whilst not parked $250 3 points, not wearing seat belt $500 4 points an extra $100 per person under 16 there are also on long weekends and prescribed holiday perionds double demerit points for speeding ,driving with excess alcohol in the blood and seat belt offences.So maybe your not so bad off after all, so payup with grace next time yo’ur caught and do’nt do it next time, then you wont be caught.

Andrew says:
9 August 2010

In my opinion Oxfordshire have endangered lives with the announced switch – a licence to speed. Why not say 50% are being turned off but not say which ones. Average speed cameras seem to have the best effect. They reduce speed, reduce accidents, and keep traffic flowing like the variable speed limits. They prevent the stop, rush mentatlity of speeders.

I say keep the variable speed cameras on the major roads and keep the fixed cameras on the urban 20 and 30mph roads.

Give the revenue to the councils as asking me to fund the costs of the camera through council tax and then central givernment keeping the revenue from the cameras means I am being taxed for other peoples offences.