Remember the outcry last summer when one council announced it was switching off speed cameras? Now Which? Car has discovered that over half the fixed cameras in England and Wales don’t work at any one time.
No, this isn’t some mass switch-off, but evidence of the different outlooks on Gatsos, and the resulting strategies being implemented by different local authorities around England and Wales.
Sussex has 60 cameras and all are operational, while only 10% of Lancashire’s 287 yellow boxes are snapping motorists at any one time. Four counties: Cleveland, Durham, North Yorkshire and Wiltshire don’t have any fixed cameras at all.
So it seems opinion is well and truly divided among officialdom – as well as motorists – on the worth or worthlessness of speed cameras.
Do Gatsos make roads safer?
And that’s no surprise – conflicting reports of their ability to cut accidents have been running rife for some time. Eighteen months before the Oxfordshire switch-off, Swindon did the same, and reported no change in its accident rate. But just last month the RAC predicted that 800 more people would be killed or seriously injured on the UK’s roads if all speed cameras were switched off.
While I respect the RAC’s opinion, I strongly disagree that Gatsos are the only solution to cutting accidents – there’s far more to it than that.
And 83% of the people we asked in a recent survey agreed, stating that fixed cameras only stop people speeding at specific locations, and don’t change behaviour generally. And behaviour is precisely what needs to be changed to eliminate the hundreds of needless deaths that happen on our roads each year.
Other road safety strategies
The police – who have been repeatedly attacked for helping to rake in cash from speeding motorists – appear to be looking at the wider issue too. Earlier this year they announced plans to extend their option of speed awareness courses instead of points, and a fine to a wider number of offenders.
At present, only motorists caught speeding below 39mph in 30mph zones are offered the option of a speed awareness course. But this could be extended to motorists caught doing 35-42mph in a 30mph zone, 46-53mph in a 40mph zone and 57-64mph in a 50mph zone.
As well as helping the public see the police in a more positive light, this could make a bigger impact on road safety awareness in general, as participants will be forced to spend some time thinking about the potential consequences of speeding.
And this move could work alongside other road safety strategies – better educating our children for a start, and improving driver training are just two areas that spring to mind.
Make speed camera data available
Another positive move that will help everyone decide whether speed cameras should stay or go is the government proposal to make speed camera data more widely available. The intention to make information about the effectiveness of speed cameras available to the public was announced in December, and it could start to happen as soon as April.
This should at least provide a starting point for the much-needed wider debate on what is the best overall approach to stopping people from dying on our roads.