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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: July 29, 2010 @ 6:23 am

    Speed camera in UK face axe in cuts: But are they useful in the first place?

    Michael McAleer

    Thousands of speed cameras look set to be switched off in the UK after the Government there slashed the money to fund them.

    Minsters have pushed through 40 percent cuts to the funding given to councils for road safety. This in turn will limit the amount of money the councils can pass to the road safety partnership, which run the cameras. Oxfordshire are set to turn off their cameras this week and Buckinghamshire says it is likely to follow. There will also be no funding given for new speed cameras.

    UK Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said at the weekend that this cut – which specifically ends central funding for fixed speed cameras – was “another example of this government delivering on its pledge to end the war on the motorist”.

    There has been mixed reaction to this news across the UK, with motorists and motorist’s groups largely welcoming the measure, with such cameras often seen as merely revenue generators. Swindon Borough Council switched off all its fixed speed cameras a year ago, claiming that they weren’t an effective tool in cutting road traffic accidents as only 6 percent were caused by people speeding. In the first six months after the cameras were switched off accident numbers across their sites remained the same.

    However there has been evidence in the past of the effectiveness of speed cameras in other locations. A 2004 study by University College of London, “The National safety camera programme: three year evaluation report” showed that vehicle speeds at speed camera sites had dropped by 7 percent following the introduction of cameras. At new sites, there was a 32 percent reduction in vehicles breaking the speed limit. At fixed sites, there was a 71 percent reduction and at mobile sites there was a 21 percent reduction. Overall the proportion of vehicles speeding excessively fell by 80 percent at fixed camera sites. And perhaps more crucially, 40 percent fewer people were killed or seriously injured.

    The gap left by the absence of the fixed cameras is likely to be filled by the police force, which many commentators are saying will end up costing much more to fund.

    What do you think? Do you think that speed cameras, specifically fixed ones, are an effective deterrent in reducing road deaths? Are they located in the right areas and at this stage doesn’t everyone know where they are anyway?

    • Sean says:

      Road Safety should be taught in schools . educate young people before they ven take to the roads and we won’t need spped cameras .

    • Dave K says:

      A previous survey showed accidents actually ROSE at one third of speed camera sites. Unless we think the cameras actually caused accidents, then the reason is simple; statistical fluctuation. If this is so, then it is probable that the FALLS at one third of the sites were ALSO statistical fluctiations. Thus, two thirds of speed cameras almost certainly have no effect on accidents, before we consider anything else.

      Secondly, where do we put speed cameras? Where there have been a high number of accidents. Again, these may be noted in a location due to a temporary variation of a random nature. Then we put a camera where the accidents were, and because they were only ever a temporary random effect, lo and behold the local statistics drop once the camera is installed – but because they were a temporary random increase, they would have dropped anyway.

      If we put cameras where there had never been any accidents, guess what? We would see that the statistics rose after putting them there, simply because they could not fall. That would also be a random effect. It would also say just as little about speed camera effectiveness as putting them where there has been a recent increase in accidents; in both cases, the supposed effect of speed cameras is a mirage.

      Basically I do not believe there is any evidence in favour of speed cameras which has taken such points into consideration. Neither do I think there will be. When I am driving, I ought to be looking at the road and seeing where I am going, judging my speed in response to the road conditions. If instead I spend my time looking out for speed cameras or staring at my speedometer, I may end up running into the back of a truck, or the front of a child.

      Yes, I have had a few speed tickets from cameras. On every occasion there was neither another car or a pedstrian as far as the eye could see. Exactly why driving at 46 mph is dangerous in a 40 mph area when there are no other cars or pedestrians to be seen is beyond me. However it is quite clear to me that if I drive around staring at speed cameras or my speedometer, I cannot be giving my attention to the road.

      Accident statistics have been falling for a long time. This is for many reasons, including better car design. No one is telling me how they have factored that reduction into their appraisal of speed camera effectiveness. Not to do so is to present a fallacious argument, and that ought to be obvious.

      When the speed cameras are turned off, for the first time we will get REAL statistics about their effectiveness, because only then can we compare the statistics like-for-like in given locations over a meaningful period of time.

    • mark says:

      speed cameras are an distraction, forcing drivers to search the hedgerows and city centres, signage and hiding places in stead of watching the road for hazards. we are now concentrating on looking for traps and constantly checking our speeds instead of reading the road with our eyes, and lets face it, they do not save lives, they are just cash grabbers for local councils ~ some of which have gone into overkill to maintain there incomes, take nottingham for example, with its fixed and average speed cameras almost everywhere just waiting for you to go 1Mph faster ~ its totally disgusting and does not prompt or encourage me to visit the area unless i have to.
      I welcome the cameras being switched off ~ now i can watch the road for potential hazards like children & animals ect ect and bad drivers.
      Iam Iacm & Lgv Driver.

    • Tom Halligan says:

      Speed per se isn’t the problem, the problem is inappropriate speed. For instance pretty much any speed is safe driving an appropriate vehicle on an empty motorway wheras in many instances motorway speed limits are dangerous in fog or heavy rain or where traffic flows are heavy. Cameras do nothing to address this. The only way to effectively address inappropriate speeding is with a greater emphasis on policing, especially in unmarked vehicles. The funds earmarked for speed cameras and the police resources devoted to speed checkpoints should be diverted to this end.

    • TrevB says:

      Speed cameras dont save lives. In the immortal words of Homer Simpson, “people can come up with statistics to prove anything”. Also given that a report 3 years ago in the UK found that only 3% of accidents were caused by breaking speed limits it seems more and more probable that the cynical view of speed cameras being nothing more than revenue generators is an accurate one (Why are they painted grey and not luminous yellow?).Unfortunately it seems that here in Ireland the government is turning a blind eye to the experience of other countries in this regard and are increasing the number of speed cameras. So many speed cameras are positioned in areas that have obviously nothing to do with promoting safety. Why are there speed cameras on motorways!? They’re the biggest contradiction in the “speed kills” argument. The fastest roads with the least accidents! The focus on policing speed should be replaced by a focus on policing driver attitude and behaviour. Erratic and aggressive driving in busy traffic is far more dangerous than speed and yet it goes unpunished regularly.

    • Peter says:

      The biggest problem in the UK was that speed cameras were placed everywhere rather than just on accident prone roads. This led to shooting fish in barrel syndrome and public apathy to the cameras.

      If the Irish cameras are only placed in areas of high accident rates, then they should be welcomed.

    • Mark says:

      Unfortunately the South is always 20 years behind the UK.
      We are set to see a role out of cameras across the country. This must be viewed with scepticism considering the minimal safety impact such initiatives have in the real world but instead will act as another conduit for fleecing the motorist for minor traffic infringements.

      Just another sign of this country becoming overregulated by inept public representatives lacking any real initiative to educate & guide.
      Speed is not necessarily the problem. It’s the poor standard of driving on the roads which is sadly never detected.

      Just hold out for a decade or two before the cameras are withdrawn.

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