More speed cameras, and more fines

The Daily Telegraph ran a front page article on 27th December in which this writer was quoted. The article reported on the increase in the number of speeding fines issued by the courts in England and Wales in 2013 (the latest year for which figures are available). There were particularly sharp rises in areas such as Essex (up 44%) and Avon/Somerset (up 34%). These fines go to the Treasury and £45 million was generated as a result, but those figures do not include those who pay a fixed penalty notice or accept an education course (which they also have to pay for of course).

What are the reasons for the increases?  It seems very unlikely that it arises from more drivers exceeding the speed limit on the ever more congested roads. The main causes are probably the switch from old fashioned Gatso type devices with film cameras to digital cameras which never run out of film and where the processing can be automated, plus the increased use of speed awareness education courses. The police get a kick-back from the course operators and hence have a financial interest in generating more potential prosecutions. The ABD has reported in our past newsletters on this perversion of justice where the police are financially motivated to waive prosecutions, but the Government and senior police officers see nothing wrong in this morally dubious practice. If this happened with any other “crime” the police concerned would be prosecuted.

In addition the number of active speed cameras has been increasing with rising numbers of average speed cameras. For example, London is committed to putting them on many of the main arterial routes into the centre of London to replicate those already on the A13.

Note that there are proposals afoot to increase the levels of fines imposed by magistrates courts so the level of fines collected by the Treasury may triple. For example the maximum fine for speeding on a motorway may rise to £10,000.

In London the justification for installing more average speed cameras (in a report dated 17 October 2013) was that “speed related collisions are a serious problem on London’s roads and account for 46 percent of all KSIs in London over the last three years”. This is a truly astonishing claim and cannot be reconciled to the national figures reported by the DfT which are much lower (only 25% of fatal collisions have a speed related factor and not necessarily where speed exceeded the posted speed limit). They also claim KSIs are reduced by 57% where cameras are installed which ignores all the other factors that have reduced accidents in recent years, and the impact of regression to the mean. Indeed it’s worth pointing out that when the City of London were arguing for their new 20-mph speed limit they said that “speed is not recorded as a factor for most of the collisions within the City…..”.

One has to conclude if one has examined the evidence in detail that any benefit from speed cameras is dubious which is why I said to the Telegraph reporter that “It is in the Government’s interests to encourage the issuing of fines; they are effectively a cash cow”. This is not about justice or accident prevention. It’s about those with little real understanding of road safety wishing to inhibit and control road users as part of a wider agenda. In terms of cost/benefit there are lots more effective ways to improve road safety than speed cameras. There is more information on these topics on the ABD London web site at http://www.freedomfordrivers.org.

Roger Lawson 1/1/2015

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