/ 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.

Mikey D says:
27 January 2011

A typical slanted and unresearched article. So many in accurracies its difficult to know where to start. Swindons fixed cameras were decommissioned yes but replaced by mobile units and therefore to suggest the absence of them led to no change in collisions is misleading. The govts declaration the camera data is to be made public is also misleadding as that data has been in the public domain for over 10 years now and an internet search for the road safety partnerships would show all the data you want. The announcement was just spin and this article is perpetuating it. Of course cameras only slow people at certain places which is why the cameras are placed just ahead of the crash hot spots. It is through motorists being caught by cameras that they are invited to the educational speed awareness workshops so the idea yhat these courses can replace cameras to effect road safety is absurd, they are both needed. Cameras are a deterent, an enforcement tool and a critical componemt of road safety. Finally the DFT data states in 2009 it was 6 people a day that die on our roads and over 500 injured the 2010 figures are not available until later this year.

Also have to add that it has been widely known that speed cameras are generally only on intermittently – But the presence of the Yellow boxes act at a deterrent whether they are on or off.

All methods of preventing speeding must be continued.- speed kills

I wonder if the county who switched the cameras off completely will publish their results widely, honestly and without spin – I doubt it..

“Speed Kills” is one of the most patronising and factually incorrect phrases ever wheeled out.

Speed does NOT kill. If it did everyone might as well stop driving right now. If 68mph doesn’t kill you why would 72mph?

What kills people is when vehicles collide with another object, be that a person, vehicle or landscape.

The causes of accidents range widely but include:

Inappropriate speed
Inattention or lack of concentration
Badly maintained vehicles
Inclement weather

None of these causes will be changed by reducing speed. You can argue the first point but doing 50mph in thick fog is incredibly dangerous, even within a 60mph zone.

People need to learn that skill, concentration etc are far more important factors than just speed. An unskilled driver testing their friend at 25mph in town must be a higher risk than an experienced driver travelling at 80mph on an empty motorway.

Get your own facts in order before criticising a well-written and well structured report with fear tactics and patronising sound bites.

Oh please

Do this little experiment

Drive a car at 20 mph into a wall – you will walk away

Drive a car at 120 mph into the same wall – you will normally be very dead

The only difference is 100 mph – So speed kills – the RoSPA also agree.

To say it is “inappropriate” is totally missing the point. In a crash the speed at which it occurs determines the chances of surviving. In fact the speed at which you drive often determines the probability of a crash happening at all.

A VERY large number drive at “inappropriate” speeds that is why there are so many crashes – they are no longer caused “accidents” but “crashes”

Typo – for “caused” read “called”

Too much intellectualising.
message needs to be quick and punchy.
“Sped might kill,l depending where .etc bla bla” does not quite cut it.
It probably will kill you if you try to read it all
Aim is to get people to think – am I speeding, if so slow down..

al3 says:
7 March 2012

GR says: ““Speed Kills” is one of the most patronising and factually incorrect phrases ever wheeled out. Speed does NOT kill. If it did everyone might as well stop driving right now”. Then later in his post he says: “People need to learn that skill, concentration etc are far more important factors than just speed.”

The anti-camera lobby have been spreading this dangerously irresponsible Big Lie for years, and there is one statistic in particular that blows it right out of the water – ie Male drivers are eight times more likely to kill or seriously injure someone than female drivers (even allowing for the additional number of male drivers and the additional average annual mileage they do). So are we supposed to believe that male drivers are some eight times less skilled than female drivers or their concentration levels eight times poorer than female drivers (or their ‘attention’ levels eight times poorer), or could it be that male drivers in general tend to drive faster and more aggressively than female drivers. We all know the answer, don’t we GR!

And here’s another statistic: 40% of car occupant deaths happen in single vehicle crashes, and whilst some of them happen because the driver fell asleep, the vast majority happened because the driver lost control precisely because they were driving much too fast.

Isn’t it funny how the anti-camera lobby always conveniently ‘forget’ about the boy racers and other speed freaks and motormorons who plague the majority of communities and endanger peoples lives everywhere they go! Shame on you!!

PeterW says:
27 January 2011

“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.”
Agreed. The yellow-boxed cameras at accident black spots should therefore be supplemented by camouflaged cameras at random, frequently changed locations. And this interim measure should be followed up by fitting speed governors to all motor vehicles, programmed to adjust maximum speed according to the limit on each stretch of road.
That would be logical; is technically feasible; and people would quickly get used to the new limits, as most would soon accept this is a fair system that affected everybody in the same way.
Sadly however it is not practical politics given the outcry that would go up from the motoring lobby.

Phil says:
27 January 2011

“Now Which? Car has discovered that over half the fixed cameras in England and Wales don’t work at any one time.”

You seem to be competing with Wikileaks for the title of Best Recycler of Old News Stories. It’s been common knowledge for decades that not all camera housings have a camera in them. One possible reason for there being no increase in Oxfordshire’s road deaths is that they’ve left the empty housings in place and people still slow down. I live on the Oxfordshire border and pass three cameras quite regularly so I know this to be true.

Robert Gifford says:
27 January 2011

Behavioural change takes a long time to occur. What is important to recognise is that during the 1990s over 70% of drivers broke the 30mph speed limit in free-flowing traffic, this putting themselves and vulnerable road users (pedestrians, cyclists and children) more at risk. By 2009, that figure had fallen to just under 50% – still too high a level of non-compliance but a clear indication that change is occurring.

Cameras are just one part of a number of measures to ensure appropriate speed management on our roads.

Phil says:
27 January 2011

Here we are Which?, you could’ve saved yourself a lot of work by copying this old report from 2005.


Perhaps you did.

I don’t think your research shows that officialdom is split over the worth of speed cameras – more that no single approach to cutting traffic accidents is appropriate nationwide. And even if cameras don’t contain film, they still play a useful role by acting as a deterrent to speeding.

And while I agree that having access to this sort of information can only help a healthy debate, I don’t think the ultimate end result will be to use it to come up with the ‘best overall approach to stopping people from dying on our roads’ – I think it’s about understanding what works in different situations and ensuring that funding is allocated to enable different authorities to employ the most suitable measures for their area. It’s the effect of cuts in government funding on road safety that worries me more than anything.

The department of transport should be made to get rid of all the road signs that have been designed to look like speed cameras with big bright unnecessary yellow borders that suddenly appeared when Europe made our police force stop camaflaging and concealing cameras behinds bridges etc to generate revenue! and cameras had to be in bright yellow enclosers in full view. also it would be good if the speed limit was clearly displayed on the camera, this would prevent a lot of motorist from panicking and braking hard to slow down to 30mph in a 50mph zone for instance, a lot of accidents are caused by shunts near cameras which results in much higher insurance premiums for all of us.

Pete says:
27 January 2011

Speed cameras have undoubtedly made the roads a lot safer and less intimidating to vulnerable road-users. Modern cars are so smooth, quiet and safe inside that drivers lose all perspective of how their speed relates to the outside world. Speed cameras provide very effective reminders.

It is a pity that the yellow camera boxes are so conspicuous and that not all of them are working. It would be much better if some sort of continuous speed limiting could be put into place. i.e speed limit data is electronically transmitted to the vehicle and the speed limited automatically. This would save drivers the trouble of having to keep watching for speed limit signs and it would avoid them getting fined for exceeding speed limits. Cheaper for drivers, safer for everyone!

GATSO cameras have had their day – God rest the GATSO. What we should have is AVERAGE speed cameras, which is why they have them at motorway roadworks. Fact is that all those speed merchants that zapped past you on the open motorway doing 100mph plus are all forced to slow to 50mph through the roadworks. An inconvenienc? Maybe, but traffic generally flows very well and we are talking about the safety of workers here.

I note that many Councils, including my own, Calderdale, have introduced average speed cameras on the approaches to the Towns. A good move as hardly anybody speeds and accidents are down by a long way.

Most car speedos read about three miles per hour fast accross the whole range of speed – check yours on a stopwatch to be sure – so if the cameras are set to 10% above the area limit that means that a car doing an indicated 36.3mph in a 30 zone would not be caught. How fast do you want to go for heavens sake?

If you drive in Australia there are many states that have HUGE signs that read ‘HEAVY FINES – LOSS OF LICENSE’ and they mean it too. It may seem draconian, but it works and the driver education happens. The accident rate goes way down because motorists know they will face walking home. Yes, they actually take your license on the spot and raid your credit card too. And you have to attend a speed awareness course at your own cost.

Result – nobody speeds.

It may be a brave government that introduces such measures, but accident rates go down in the controlled zones, so it does work. Education is sometimes painful, even if only to your wallet, but lives are more important are they not?

If you want to arive on time, stress free, and drive economically, leave earlier – easy really.

Sorry – There is a LOT of evidence that Australians speed

There was evidence hanging didn’t eliminate murders – but it bet it deterred quite a few.
As someone who used to speed and be a bit more reckless (probably didn’t think so at the time) I agree with measures to reduce. I try to watch whare I am going and stick to the limits – much less stress as I don’t have to worry about cameras and have easily avoided accidents (and idiots) I probably wouldn’t have if I had been driving faster.

Speed doesn’t necessarily kill; stupidity, inattention & lack of anticipation are far bigger culprits of ‘accidents’ & deaths. A 11 year old lad didn’t look & rode into the road by our house straight into the side of a van which was doing well under 30mph & was killed. The result would have been the same even if the van had been going faster.
The Council then fitted humps in the road which has now speeded the traffic up as drivers realise that vehicles ride over them more gently at over 35mph than at 20mph!
I was riding my vintage bike at around 25mph (I’d just started up) and 75m down the road an old driver leaving a Medical Centre on the right hand side of the road, paused at its junction with the A461 and, despite my tooting my horn to warn him of my presence (I also braked and swerved towards the gutter, ie away from him) he still drove out across almost the whole width of the road & hit the back two feet of my bike. In this case if I’d been going over the speed limit I’d have been past him & avoided the collision. If I had been doing 20mph I’d still have been hit! I wore a fluorescent tabard & lights on and he still admitted that he didn’t see me!
The other day I narrowly missed a collision as a lady was driving down the road on her mobile and turned a corner while using it – speed wasn’t a factor here either.
It is inappropriate speed which is dangerous as well as stupidity, inattention & lack of anticipation.

Sorry missing the point – Crashes at speed are far more likely to kill than a similar crash at lower speeds. Nobody has said that speed ALWAYS kills – but the probability is far far higher – so all measures to reduce speed should continue.

Sheer speed kills in addition to all the other factors involved in why crashes happens. So GATSO cameras should stay.

There should be far higher penalties for poor driving

Neil Gott says:
28 January 2011

I agree that covert strategically sited cameras would be more effective than the current prominent ones, which are generally only “obeyed” while being approached. We did, I believe, once have for a while, some covert ones, but there were outcries of “unfair”, “not cricket”, and “snitching”.

Well if “snitching” can save just one person from death or injury, lets be “unfair”. One does have to ask, to whom would it be “unfair”, and should we feel sorry for them?

Smiffy says:
28 January 2011

I don’t know why speed cameras are necessary at all, when the potholes we currently have are far more effective at slowing us down. An uneven road surface is a very good deterrent to excessive speed, so if I was in the road engineering business I’d be looking at research into different surfaces and textures, rather than speed-catching technology.

Cyclists need a smooth surface of course, and I’m sure there will be ways of making provision for them, but this is my ‘take’ on the speed debate.

The problem with fixed speed cameras are that they are a blunt and often inappropriate instrument. Far better to use police with mobile cameras; these can be targeted on dangerous speeders, and discretion can be used (e.g. a verbal warning if only slightly over the limit). And what constitutes a dangerous speed depends on the road conditions, not exceeding an often arbitrary speed limit by a certain amount. Doing 30 past a primary school at home time could be far more dangerous than doing 40 in the same place on a Sunday morning. Fixed cameras can’t discriminate.

Colin couldn’t have put it better in his earlier post. There’s a poster on the side of our local superloo. It shows a child apparently having been thrown into the air by a speeding car whilst crossing the street. The caption reads “driver in a hurry, child in a coma”. Clearly the whole thing is concocted – unless that is the child had been told to run straight in front of a car while there was somebody conveniently placed to photograph what happened – and hitting the child at that speed caused no damage whatsoever to the car. Not a word about educating children on road safety. Whatever happened to the “green cross code”? Of course as we all know, “speed kills”. Simples.

Brysy says:
28 January 2011

We need more mobile cameras and stop pandering to the idiots who believe they are above the law. There should NOT be warning signs of the existence of cameras, if people are reckless enough to drive above the speed limit for that particular road then they deserve all the punishment they get. There should also be a more robust purge on the idiots using mobile phones whilst they are driving invariably driving over the speed limit! These people should know the law but they try and get away with it because of their arrogance.

So called “safety cameras” aren’t always safe. I was recently overtaken by a motorcyclist (in a 40mph zone) who saw a camera as he did so, cut in in front of me and slammed his brakes on – presumably thinking it was a 30mph limit. I narrowly avoided hitting him! Education to change attitudes (as with drink driving) is what is needed – not cameras.

Mickjaques says:
29 January 2011

Surely the ‘education’ re drink driving is heavily dependent on strict fines and licence suspension, plus increased insurance later, rather than the goodwill and commion sense of motorists. The incident above suggests that the motocyclist was the ‘unsafe’ factor as he had not observed the earlier speed limit signs. Don’t blame the camera.

Angus McNicoll says:
28 January 2011

I drive around 50,000 miles each year. A mixture of commuting and business on a variety of Scottish roads. It’s not just speed that kills, it’s driving inappropriately and not taking account of current driving conditions that also kills!! It’s possible (but not advisable!!) to drive at 70 miles per hour on a dual carriageway (70 MPH limit) past a fixed speed camera in thick, freezing fog without triggering the camera. I’ve seen it happen only too often! The speed limit is just that – an UPPER limit, but a lower speed may well be much safer in poor conditions.

However – do fixed speed cameras really work? In my humble opinion, the answer is “NO” for a number of reasons. They only encourage dirving within the speed limit within the very short range of the camera. Those travelling the same roads daily and those making use of the “Safety Camera Warning” on their Sat Navs know where the camera locations are, and usually only slow down as they pass the camera. This procedure in itself can be dangerous!!

Mobile cameras are somewhat more effective, as I know to my own cost! They provide a much more “random” coverage and aren’t always so obvious!

So….what would be better? The Average Speed Cameras used on some stretches of road are very effective. They can “protect” long stretches of road and I know that they are a definite deterent to many drivers. There are a few examples around the Glasgow area, and the effect on driving habits is extremely noticable with everyone being extremely careful not to exceed the average speed between two cameras. On a trunk road such as the A90 between Aberdeen and Dundee (65 miles of dual carriageway), Average Speed cameras would be very much more effective at maintaining safe driving speeds than the 10 or so fixed cameras on this stretch……..but no doubt there would be less drivers caught speeding as a result, and consequently less revenue from fines!!

PeterFairhead says:
29 January 2011

I drive 50k – 75 k miles a year including the roads mentioned. I have to agree that Average Speed Cameras on long stretches of road work very effectively.

mike says:
28 January 2011

I am not against fixed cameras to reduce speed levels where there is a possible danger ,i.e schools blind hills bad juctions.etc etc.What i find really and i must not swear here is the mobile cameras only placed in positions to generate money,yes i know it a crime to speed but good drivers dont need cameras or speed signs to drive at a safe speed thats all down to coman sence and the road conditions,mobile camers in my opion add to the dangers as we all seen the hard braking before a camers then the traffic behind having a problem with backing up ,please get rid of mobile and replace with fixed with proper signs so drivers are aware of them and reduce speed

Mike says:
28 January 2011

Modern cars have come a long way in terms of safety and performance since the present, slow, 70 mph limit was brought in. Lets keep the 30 limit in towns, and have more sensible higehr speed limits on dual carriageways (80) and motorways (90)
Speed doent kill, incompetent driving does.

Wonderful – So you propose to increase speeds so that the added safety is completely negated. Wonderful!

Speed kills – it is simply helped by incompetent driving to kill even more.

PeterFairhead says:
29 January 2011

One must accept that just as some of us fall before GCSE’s while other go on to attain a Master’s, so we all bring different abilities to the road as drivers and you cannot raise everyone to the ability you think you have attained, Mike. Also it is now accepted that men and women have different perceptions, for example, so their road behaviour will be different. Average Speed Camera’s and Lane education (and enforcement ?) would probably reduce average journey times more, by increasing average speeds, reducing congestion, and reducing tailbacks caused by accidents and bottlenecks. There is evidence for this – in the UK.

80 on motorways I think is reasonable. But the limit is 70 and so many already drive at 80 .
Push up to 80 and how many will increase to 90.
Dual carriageways per se – no thanks. Too many variable standards.
As you get older you seem to value life a bit more.