/ Motoring

Speed cameras – should they stay or should they go?

Speed cameras on a motorway

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.

Comments
Guest
Dagger says:
31 January 2011

I think that speed is good if you can do it somewhere safe. I mean what is the point of developing cars which can do in excess of 150 miles per hour if the maximum speed limit is 70 miles per hour?
There are probably no sensible arguements for suggesting that speed cameras should be done away with but alternatively there are very few places where people who enjoy speed can actually go to enjoy speed. There are also the ‘drivers’ who stick to 30 mph even on 60 mph+ roads. I personally find this infuriating. There is also factual evidence (apparently) which states that modern cars are capable of stopping a lot quicker at speed that the highway code would have us believe. The problem is that people do die on our roads and sometimes that is due to drivers driving too quickly but as suggested elswhere on this thread there can be other reasons also.

Overall, I would like to be able to drive fast because I enjoy driving at speed and pushing both myself and my car but I don’t want to injure or kill anyone in the process so because of the legal ramifications I drive within safe driving restrictions, but only because of the restrictions.

Guest
Trainer says:
1 February 2011

If you want to drive fast, take your car on a track day. Pleased that you have a responsible attitude to the speed limits – they are there for a reason. All hazard signs and speed limits are re-active, not pro-active. They are there because somebody has been killed or seriously injured.

Guest
Gyro says:
3 February 2014

Well no! a track day requires a ROLL CAGE! and you have 100% sped before so playing the ignorance game is silly. Residential and near schools or town centres sometimes need speed limits (infact i think many winding country roads do because they are a death trap), motorways need higher speed limits. National speed limits are from the 70 or 80s, cars these days can handle 80mph i think that should be the new national speed limit. Limits should be in place but they are over used and this is causing congestion, congestion can cause accidents, pile ups, aggression, road rage. The fact is if limits are higher people don’t feel they have to go 50mph in a 30mph zone because they were held up in traffic earlier. If you are going 30mph because some guy is sticking to the limit plus congestion, as soon as the road is clear your going 50mph because your late! Whereas if someone was just rushing on a clear road he might go 40mph instead of 50 in 30 zone

Guest
David says:
3 February 2014

Speed in the right place and whilst fully concentrating on the road is reasonably safe. I’ve been driving since before the 70 limit at speeds upto 120 mph and never had or caused an accident. I have had many bumps at speeds below 20 and some when stationary. All but two when I have been run into. Your comment on people driving at 30 in a 60 plus zone is valid but what about the drivers doing 60+ in a 30 zone. Nearly half the drivers on the road travel well above the 30 or 40 speed limits. I think that average speed cameras would be much better the you wouldn’t get the sharp last second braking then hard acceleration to the next camera. A day on a race track is a good place to push yourself and your car to the limit, and could be cheaper than a fine for 99 mph.

Guest
Josie W says:
31 January 2011

Yes I think speed cameras are essential and those who speed should pay the price. Speed limits are set for everyone’s safety and there is never any excuse for breaking them. This kind of driving is not only dangerous it is also envrionmentally unfriendly. Excessive acceleration and braking is not just wasting fuel, it also pollutes the air we breathe.

Guest
Arcturus says:
31 January 2011

We all travel at high speed without incident. Speed is not the issue. The issue is the impact and preventing the impact. Pedestrians should be taught to cross the road at safe places using crossings where possible. Drivers should slow down when approaching hazards. Road safety is a joint responsibility. I have no objection to road safety cameras being used to determine facts. I object to road cameras being used to penalise the motorist. Has anyone heard of a road safety camera being used to exonerate a driver in an incident involving a pedestrian and car?

Guest

Umm

Have you had a tyre blow out at say 100 mph – that “incident” can be fatal.

Pedestrians are taught to cross roads safely – but just like many car drivers who speed -they ignore the law – and if hit at over 30 mph are likely to die,

They are not road safety cameras normally really – they are speed cameras. Though there are cameras that capture careless driving like yellow box infringements – or traffic light cameras – Both actually take a short recording that is possible to view to appeal the decision.

Guest
Trainer says:
1 February 2011

As recently discovered by which, most counties have far more fixed camera sites than they have cameras. However, you do not know which boxes have cameras in. The resultant effect is to calm the traffic to the posted speed limit, job done. I cannot understand why people get so wound-up about speed cameras calling them revenue earners etc. If you do not want to pay the fine and contribute the revenue, don’t speed, simple! I believe Oxfordshire is re-instating their cameras because the average speed has increased significantly since switching them off. We have CCTV cameras everywhere these days, we obviously need cameras to make us comply with the Law.