/ 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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Bill says:
9 August 2010

“speed kills” was a clever by-line created by a large & expensive firm of consultants. They filled their boots with (money ) offering advice to county after county, then country after country .They created a myth. They created a huge layer of false statistics, as well as bias surveys. They created vast numbers of people in all but one county in the country, all highly paid and with a vested interest in supporting the myth. It was self financing, so no one in government cared about the monster being born. Those car haters found their way onto commitees that had influence, and so on..
Speed doesn’t kill, not on its own. You need inattention, illness, road conditions, poor tyres, or a host of other possible issues. Then with a bit of bad luck there is something immovable in your way, such as a tree or a post or indeeed another car. If you hit a lamp post at thirty miles an hour in a small light car, you will be severely injured or die , at 70 mph, you will have the same result.it has nothing to do with speed. I have studied the deaths in Essex and see what a significant proportion of deaths are in the end due to bad luck ie a tree got in the way as a car spins off the road due to weather conditions. very often, if there were no tree chances are there would be no death.

With all of these figures, if they take out the inexperienced and the motor bike, and very very very few people die on the roads.
Less than 4 percent of the deaths occur on motorways for reasons of speed , that’s less than 100 people per annum. Kids dying on the roads ? Less than one or two per county from ALL causes die as pedestrians, i.e. they may of been fooling around or playing football , and have nothing to do with the speed of the car, the driver gets a life sentence of guilt as he is the unlucky one to hit a child as they step out from behind a car.

All of these people , with a vested interest, a job , a golden pension or a supplier of speed cams are all fighting for their jobs and their future. I for one am sick to death of paying for their excellent life style with yet another form of tax, which was no more than an advertising man’s very clever slogan . I am sick to death of their big brother cameras watching my every move with the camera recognition.

Much of this huge attack on our society was supported by one chief constable, who enabled much of the speed camera manta, rewrote the police hand book, and brought in all of the camera readable license plates as he was a man on a mission. He was wrong , and we are living with the problems he has created as he simply refused to look at the truth held by the statistics, only the lies created with the mis use of same. Why were the traffic police being reduced 15 years ago? they served no useful purpose.. The same applies to speed cameras – except they paid for themselves in the early years. Now the councils have to decide where to spend the money, on a roundabout that really saves lives, or a new camera that just collects money for central govt, they wisely choose to save lives and build a roundabout.

every parish in the country wants a speed cam, to slow cars in their village, providing they don’t have to pay for them and someone else , e.g. the driver, does. What’s missing is the investment in new infrastructure.to bypass these same villagers, who have seen a huge increase in cars, yet no new roads , Thanks Swampy, and friends, many of whom now work ffor the DFT and are still stopping roads being built. Lay death at their door not the drivers, for it is they that have kept us all on old b roads intstead of new motorways. . .

I’m not against speed cameras – in the RIGHT places. But most of them aren’t.

1: Incentives on the Police are all wrong. They are rewarded for the number of speeding ‘offences’ they catch and record. Not for the reduction in accidents. Hence the pressure from Police to avoid painting them bright yellow, and to put them in obvious, visible places. Remember: the ideal speed camera would catch NO speeders. It would work by deterrence, not punishment: leading drivers to drive below the speed limit, instead of catching them afterwards. That’s not the way they’re placed right now.

2: Cameras only penalise speed; not dangerous driving. For that, we need more Police patrol cars.

3: The ‘Tragedy of the Commons’: We all – as drivers – have an interest in driving as fast as is safely possible. That’s also the best solution for the UK economy as a whole: wasted time is wasted effort and money. But we all also have a ‘territorial” instinct to protect our homes and families; so we want everyone to drive past OUR home/school/shopping centre as slowly as possible.
So: a balance.
But we vote where we live, not where we work. So there is a huge pressure bias on local authorities for lower speed limits wherever voters live. I’ve served years as a local councillor, and I’ve seen it at work. It’s completely illogical, and bears no relation to accident statistics. In my village, which is quite safe, the limit is already at 20mph, and there is pressure to reduce it still further. And the drivers who will be affected don’t vote in local elections.

Remember: Oxfordshire are now scrapping all their speed cameras. But quite recently they almost adopted a ”policy” of imposing a 30mph limit on all rural roads in the county. This was clearly insane – but was responding to widespread political NIMBY pressure.

So: two recommendations:
1: Review all speed limits, with a view to adjusting them to maximum reasonably safe [there’s no absolutely safe speed except standstill] speeds. That’s actually what most motorists tend to drive at.
2: National guidelines on speed camera placement, requiring numerical, verifiable accident statistics, and clear prior warnings and visible placement for every camera.
3: More Police patrols

Mrs.J.Straw says:
11 August 2010

I think that speed cameras are vital in helping to save lives. The trouble is that although we have speed limits many drivers ignore them if there is no camera. There are not enough police to regularly check for speeding motorists.Statistics show that over the ten years we have had cameras the number of fatalities due to road accidents has dropped dramatically

R. M. Taylor says:
9 August 2010

People who speed not only put others’ lives at risk, but engender anger in other road users, and we can do without the stress of road rage. However, if the cameras are costing more to operate than the fines they generate, then they should be replaced with more effective means of disuasion. If they do “raise money”, as long as they are set well above the speed limit, say 40 in a 30 zone, 65 in a 50 zone, to catch only the real speeders, then we should thank the speeders for voluntarily paying extra taxes, and reward their generosity by increasing the penalty each time they choose to contribute.

Cameras have their place, but those places are few.
Why? Because a great many ‘speed limits’ are the result not of road conditions, but campaining NIMBYs. Many perfectly safe A roads between towns have (50) or even (40) stretches, because someone wants to be able to crawl his Jag out of his 5-bed house’s drive – visibility probably obscured by excessive, fir hedge.
So speed limits are discreddited and thus many ignore them. But, on the approach to a School crossing or 30-limit with two humpback bridges within 200yds, then yes and armed all the time – budget allowing. I have seen the introduction of a camera in two location radically alter driver behaviour, more than reports of two dead motorcyclists.
Perhaps, the savings can be used to install jump cameras on major round-a-bouts

I’m sure that Julia’s speed awareness courses are enlightening and exciting events for her captive audience. I hope she also discusses concentration, smooth driving ( speed bumps permitting) defensive driving and anticipation. These are as important as speed. Most motorists get used to the feel of the speed their car is going without being glued to the gauge, but that is usually plus or minus five miles an hour. I wonder, has Julia ever found that her car has gone over the limit on a down slope and needed to brake to correct this? Has she ever been on a strange road and for a moment or two wondered whether she was in a thirty or forty limit? (Poor signage, temporary obscuring by another vehicle, simply not looking in the right direction.) Yes, most are well signed, but there a few… I missed a de restriction sign in Mid Wales last week. Does she ever get irritated when a police car wanders by at eighty on the way to a tea break? Has she ever felt that accelerating away from a hazard was safer than slowing down? (To avoid a side swipe perhaps?) In short, does she believe that as the perfect course lecturer she is also the perfect driver? If not, how does she feel when she gets it wrong?

The trouble with speed cameras is that they don’t work on the motorway – everyone passes me at 70 (or they speed up as I am passing them) and the average cameras cause bunching and tailgating. Well, they don’t cause it, but it happens because they are there. Speed cameras in towns (ugly brutes and ugly road signs ) also cause tailgating by those who know where they are and want to speed between them. Stick to the limit and you are the one who feels like a criminal.

No one has had the motivation to come up with a device that combines the accuracy of a camera with the judgement of a human. No camera can separate the idiots ( often with dangly things on their windscreens) and boy/girl racers, from the motorist who is in unfamiliar territory and gets it wrong once in a blue moon. Cameras have criminalised the motorist and that must be wrong. If everything in life was so cut and dried, we’d all be in jail! Come on all you boffins out there, get working.

Colin says:
9 August 2010

Next time you are driving in a average speed camera section on the road take a look at the surrounding drivers and look how many are not concentrating texting calling doing there makeup etc, it is scary. this is due to the lack of concentration required to get a modern day car to travel at 30 mph, lets face it its simple.
In my opinion the driving test is far to easy, it must be altered and made rigourous and if you fail more than 3 times then sorry you are not fit to be behind the wheel, like with the world cup mess up your out, sort the quality of the drivers out and the accidents will fall we wouldn’t need the cameras.

Gordon Pickering says:
10 August 2010

We have a section of windy dual carriageway just near to us on the West bound A66 going towards Cockermouth, which is frequently closed for long periods for repair (usually several months) due to accidents – presumably people going too fast?
Anyway they have now installed average speed cameras and a 50mph limit over the aprox. 2 mile stretch – so it will be interesting to see if it remains largely open now.
The proof of the pudding??

No one likes to admit they are not acting sensibly. All of us know that the faster we drive the longer our braking distance is and the less time we have to react to the unexpected, thus increasing risk to ourselves & others.

I prefer the threat of being penalised for raising the level of risk to be focused on those who do so. All vehicles & their passengers are subjected to the discomfort of speed bumps, or having to stop for chicanes that add to the cost of road & vehicle maintenance because of those who want to ignore the decreed safe speeds. I might not like keeping within the limits but I want to be safe & comfortable so I accept my responsibility for obeying the law. There are clever people who end up in A & E after accidents, did they expect to be there?

Speed cameras have proved effective in slowing some who would otherwise drive with increased risk to themselves & others. Deaths have been reduced. Iresponsible spending contributed to the economic dificulties. This appears to be iresponsible waste. The governments proposal does not appear to be a way of saving money. The capital expenditure to install them has been made. The income from speeding fines should be used to provide the revenue for operating & maintaining them for the benefit of the community as a whole. If this government manages what has been spent effectivly it will eventually make us better off & safer. I do not want to see taxes spent on throwing away what could be saving lives because some people want to be free to ignore the laws of the land.

Encouraging us to be responsible for our actions rather than trying to evade them would help create a more just society. The government/politicians should set the lead in doing this!

Bob Manning says:
10 August 2010

Switch them off, I agree totally with Keith. They are a blunt instrument to deal with an issue that requires judgement not the get everyone approach of cameras. 75 on a 70mph speed limit empty dual carriageway at 1:00am and is very different from 40 on a 40mph road at 8:30 on a wet morning with poor visibility. Yet the camera only punishes the former. Speed rarely causes accidents, poor anticipation, failing to comply with “Give Way Signs”, poor road surfaces; poor lane discipline and the like are the causes. I have often wondered if all the money raised by cameras was given to charity would there be so many cameras and is the motive for installing them really safety?

Speed cameras may or may not reduce acidnts. Their main problem is the frequent inappropriate deployment;- placing them to maximise income on open roads debases thir purpose and alienates motorists. If they were all deployed as they are on the A14 – each camera located at or very near an interchange – I suspect few people would object. The beaurocratic rigmarole related to an infringement doesn’t help. Why not use the European system of spot fines and leave it at that?
We just had an object lesson in the futility of the camera system. My wife recently got caught on camera doing 37 in a 30 limit and opted for the ‘speed awareness course’. While there she conducted a straw poll of the other attendees. With a combined driving history of some 300 years not one of the people there had ever been involved in an accident. How does a record like this demonstrate the effctiveness of speed cameras?

John Price says:
11 August 2010

It may be a stupid question, but if these things make money, why are they being cut as a part of cost cutting?

Interesting isn’t it – Tests show speeding in Oxfordshire has risen 88% since the speed cameras were switched off – Yet some still want to ban speed cameras??

Yes Richard; but has there been an increase in accidents? Has anyone been hurt by these “speeding” drivers?

Or are they driving safely on roads where the limits are set too low?

I don’t think we have had enough changes in motoring conditions to ascertain accident rates for all conditions – But we have had enough time to show people do not obey speed limits without speed cameras..

I can only say that SINCE speed cameras on the A406 were installed – accidents fell and traffic flow improved. Which was the reason why they were installed in the first place

BrianExCIS says:
11 August 2010

Higher speed means less reaction time, so worse injuries and more deaths. Keep speed cameras switched on, and install more cameras that will monitor average speeds so the stupid and selfish can’t speed up as soon as they’ve passed a camera. If funds are tight, tax the bankers and the wealthy that do all they can to avoid tax, e.g. by moving assets and company ‘headquarters’ overseas.

I am staggered at some of the previous comments. I would never have believed that the British could have been so successfully ‘brainwashed’, regarding some of the totally unrealistic speed limits now being imposed, and the advisability of speed cameras.
Not one mention of the fact that Swindon (which has had its cameras switched off for a year) has seen road related deaths, injuries and accidents, — fall, since switching them off.
Inappropriate speed for the conditions, and inattention to the road ahead (mainly due to the virtual forest of signs we now have), is what causes accidents.
Is it really necessary to drive past a school at 20 mph at 3 o’clock in the morning?

John Robert Walsh says:
16 August 2010

the whole thing is a load of hypocracy , if you dont want people to speed along motorways at 100 mph then put pressure on car manufacturers to limit the size of thier engines to under 100 BHP and max speeds of 80 mph , why dont goverment do answer : money
Or ban cars alltogether and we can all ride bikes or public transport.
Speed cameras have been proved ( in most parts of the country with little exception) to have had no effect on road deaths since thier introduction, why else would they even consider decomissioning them , the fact is they may have made money when first introduced because people were caught out by them as they were unfamilier with them, Now everybody either looks for them constantly or has a sat nav which doubles as a warning system, result NO revenue

Conclusion accident stats before speed cameras and after speed cameras NO difference!
revenue takings for speed cameras against cost and administartion for the last ten years: a loss of 25%
Result: get rid of them because THEY ARE MAKING NO MONEY
Anybody who thinks that the idea was ever about road saftey is an dingleberry or easy led fool who also believes that the HMRC is a fair organisation designed to use our money to make our lives rich and wonderful

Sorry – RoSPA totally disagrees with you. Accidents have fallen – deaths are down overall.- They’ve been keeping records – which I rather doubt if you have.

Motor cars are usually built for a world market – so modifications would not be implemented. Motorways are designed to increase traffic flow safely – and they do – riding cycles would not be effective over distance.

The fact speed cameras are VISIBLE is a part of the deterrent – It slows motorists down or they face punishment. If someone is unfamiliar with speed cameras – They should not be driving.

They are considering decommissioning Speed Cameras because the ‘new’ Government will not pay for them –

Stephen Rose says:
16 August 2010

Against them I am, yes, but, not to break the law but insofar as the amount of attention one pays to the speedo to prevent the potential offence in the modern car and with such constant variables especially in urban areas of limits, typical ‘A’ road is 30 then 40 then 30 etc. Costantly being on guard and doing the right thing distracts from keeping vigilant outside the car. I am a 40 – 50 k a year man 90% work that is and I don’t want a licence to speed but there is more to breaking the law than speeding of course. A police presence has no real substitute!
Additionally I would say that every speed bump is a restriction on use of almost every car with low ground clearance, as a driver of a Morgan +4, (no exactly a boy racermobile!) I can tell you that in the Kent area alone I can no longer negotiate 50% of restricted areas, so what about my right of way / access to these public roads as a tax payer etc, if my own street had these fitted (and this could be so) I would have to get rid of a much loved car, still made and available new. Heaven knows how others feel about this. There is an entire (and major) housing estate in the Medway area that I cannot drive into for this very reason. When other residents in our area campagned for speed bumps to slow down traffic we were told that it was not possible as it would slow down the busses! – This was the cause of the campagne in the first place as the busses are the major offenders (in our straight but narrow road), cameras were ‘too expensive’ and the two adjacent schools then strove to get bumps put in. So what is the criteria?
Stephen Rose, Kent

Surely good drivers should be considering ALL the conditions inside and outside the car AT ALL TIMES ?.- if you are in “a constant variable condition ” and can’t cope – slow down – It increases reaction times so accidents are less likely to occur. .

Though I do have some sympathy for your particular car ownership – The fact is speed bumps are designed to slow down EVERYONE – if they were lowered so that you could negotiate them easily – a great many other car drivers – especially 4 x 4 drivers – could drive at excessive speeds. and I like seeing 4 x 4 drivers suffer after approaching speed bumps at excessive .speed (you can hear the suspension being damaged)

Not sure why the buses dictated the refusal of installation of speed bumps – as here we have 30mph speed bumps on bus routes on narrow straight roads..

I think the criteria is – “the most effective measure for the vast majority”.

Peter says:
17 August 2010

We should not switch these cameras off under any circumstances! What the government should do is to look at the statistics for revenue earned from convictions over the last few years. We should then calculate how much we need in additional revenue to pay the costs and then increase the fines pro rata. Simple maths calculations! And look at the lives this would save?

Years ago I was involved with a local council decision to introduce a speed limit on a part of the A370. On discussion we all felt that 50mph would be a safe speed and so, on the grounds that motorists would tend to drive above the speed limit, introduced a 40mph zone. This achieved the desired effect of keeping most traffic below 50. Years later a speed camera was introduced, set of course to enforce the 40mph legal limit, not the 50 the council deemed safe. If the cameras are going to be kept many speed limits need sensible adjustment, usually upwards.

Well, if you wanted a 50mph limit why the heck did you set it at 40?