Road Safety News
 

Road Safety GB counters safety camera claims

Monday 12th July 2010

Road Safety GB has refuted claims by the TaxPayers’ Alliance that safety cameras have not delivered safety benefits.

A report published by the two organisations said: “Since speed cameras were first installed on British roads in 1991, the roads became more dangerous than they would have been without photo enforcement. The road casualty rate has declined at a slower rate since speed cameras were introduced in the early 1990s.”

While recognising a gradual decline in casualties, the report suggests this is due to technological developments such as anti-lock brakes, stability control, crumple zones and airbags.

Responding to the report, Alan Kennedy, chair of Road Safety GB, said: “Road Safety GB supports the use of safety cameras and other proven casualty reduction measures.

“Through the hard work of road safety professionals we have seen a significant reduction in the number of casualties on our roads over the last decade and there is no doubt that safety cameras have contributed to this."

Tim Philpot, Road Safety GB vice chair, added: “1990 seems an odd point in time to choose to make a point about camera technology. It didn't really start to get used systematically until about 2000. And that's when casualty numbers started to fall.” 

The Kent & Medway Safety Camera Partnership also responded to the report, saying: “Safety cameras are having a proven effect on casualty reduction in our county.

"The number of speeding tickets issued by cameras in Kent and Medway has dropped year on year (from around 80,000 in 2002 to around 30,000 last year). This is because more people are complying with the speed limit, resulting in fewer deaths and injuries at the majority of these sites.”

Theresa Casbard, Hertfordshire's head of road safety, added: "This is a ‘tax’ that no-one has to pay - drivers simply need to be aware of the speed limit and modify their driving speed accordingly."

Click here to download the TaxPayers’ Alliance and Drivers’ Alliance report.

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Re: Surveys on camera opinion - I'm sure most people, including me, support the use of speed cameras 'in principle' but not necessarily the way they are currently used. A clue is the likes of the AA surveys where support for cameras is high, but only 4% select cameras as an option for improving road safety. As always, the response to a survey depends on the question asked and the answer options available. Ray Buchanan is 100% correct in everything he says.
Paul Biggs, Staffs

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Roy: thank you again for your informed comment. Your views are clearly based on many years experience in an operational role, and very sound logic. It is a privilege to read your comments. You present a very compelling argument to support your position. The documentary 'Emergency Bikers' shown on TV on Weds 21st July clearly shows the professionalism and excellence of our police and paramedic bike units doing a job that is 100% needed. In many ways this programme provides the rationale to support your position - the job being done couldn't be carried out by anything other than a highly trained professional individual.

I would be very interested to read any comments you might like to make on any developments in the training and development of class 1 drivers and riders. How does the training now compare with what was delivered in decades gone by? What is your opinion of the training and development delivered to police riders and drivers at the standard level? How does this compare with that elsewhere, such as the Californa Highway Patrol? Have you any thoughts or ideas on curriculum development in this area that could be applied in the UK? I realise I've asked a lot of questions, this is an incredibly interesting subject area. Advancing the education, development and skill of emergency services riders and drivers, and of course, others will save lives. At the end of the day that's what It's all about.
Mark - Wiltshire

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Mark: my last years in the police were spent in a research position looking at new technology and alternative strategy that would improve the efficiency of Traffic Division. Communications, intellegence sharing and the latest technology enhances efficiency but well trained, dedicated officers are still required to operate the service. Traffic Division cannot be operated by remote control. The worn out excuse you have heard from some senior officers is a ruse to mask the fact that roads policing is carried out inefficiently due to conflicting priorities and under-funding. From around the world there is a weath of evidence to support the view that roads are best policed by officers with specialist training, a vocational enthusiasm, patrolling in cars and motorcycles. This is what we had; this is what we have lost; this is what we need to reinstate. The fault lies with politicians and senior police officers and we pay the wages of both. So, let us ask them to do what we pay them for. They way forward is clear but no one seems to have the will to progress it. The result is our roads are under policed. Take two examples, 20% of young drivers have no insurance, they don't get stopped by the police for document checks. Mobile phone use while driving is rife, the chances of being caught are low.
Roy Buchanan. Sutton

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The police service and Road Safety Partnership in one area may well have differing operational requirements to those in another. Many of the challenges of traffic law enforcement in London and the West Midlands will be different to those of rural Dorset or Lincolnshire. It is an advantage for Police services and Partnerships to have the operational flexibility to respond rapidly to local needs. A 'one size fits all' standard operating procedure is not necessarily the most effective.

Roy: Thank you for your informed comment, it was very much appreciated. I have been informed that some senior managers in the police service are of the opinion that advances in technology (communications and intelligence sharing) available to the police in an operational environment, mean that the needs of modern roads policing can be met by fewer dedicated roads policing units. The technology integrated with modern operational strategy means that policing requirements can still be met with fewer units.

I agree that a highly visible police presence on our roads is a very effective deterrent to those who would knowingly commit traffic law violations. I am also informed that dedicated traffic officers make a number of 'high quality arrests', criminals tend to stand out to the experienced eye. There is no substitute for the mark 1 human eye ball.

Cameras are one tool among others that are available to be deployed where considered appropriate.
Mark - Wiltshire

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The arguments for and against speed/safety cameras will continue for years and I havenít seen anything new in reasoned argument for a while.
It seems to me that from the motoristís point of view fairness, equality and consistency across the country is most important.
Most motorists are not aware of the possible significance of moving from one English camera partnership area to another and the different policies operated by them these days e.g. covert v overt. At least in Wales we still have one policy across the whole region. Whether you agree with it or not at least you know where you stand!
Pat - Wales

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Another e-mail from Phoenix. Robert Halliday, Director of the State Department of Public Health, said "More Arizona Highway Patrol Officers, not cameras, would improve road safety." Hmm, sounds like an OK guy to me!
Roy Buchanan. Sutton

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Immediately after writing my previous comment, the next e-mail on my queue was one from a researcher telling me that Arizona has abandoned the use of cameras due to their unpopularity with the public. It was the first State in the USA to introduce them but has now followed in the footsteps of British Columbia who withdrew theirs for the same reason.
Roy Buchanan Sutton

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Steve: as you must be aware surveys can, and often do, create a false picture because people, when asked, will not say what they truly feel but what they think sounds correct, proper, intelligent or desired. Talk to people off the record and they are more likely to give you their true feelings, not the ones they think you want to hear. Hence, my impression is that cameras are universally unpopular among the public. I appreciate that there is probably no alternative to surveys but, as both of us know from our experience, there is a considerable range of factors that impact on surveys that diverts the result. I am sure, with you, I do not need to go into detail but surveys can be unsound.
Mark: please may I answer your question about roads policing in bygone decades. In the late 60s and early 70s, the Metropolitan Police had 14 Traffic Garages spread throughout London. There were 1,500 officers in Traffic Division. Three of those garages covered Central London and between them the supplied around 45 motorcyclists patrolling that area between 0700 hours and 2300 hours. Shortly before I retired from the Met, 15 years ago, I carried out out a survey (should I admit that!!) to examine roads policing levels. The result was that there were 9 police motorcyclists patrolling THE WHOLE OF LONDON between 0700 hours and 2300 hours. Today, in the Met, there are only 5 garages and less than 700 officers. I am told, most of those officers are not Class-One motorcyclists. In my day most of us became Class-One riders within 3 years. Latterly, there have been a number of forces who removed all motorcyclists patrolling there territory, Essex, Thames Valley and Northumbria immediately come to mind. Essex and Thames Vally admitted the mistake and have reinstated motorcycle patrols. Northumbria remains in a state of misguidance due to a point of political correctness over H&E issues. A colleague who lives in Brighton and commutes to Sutton by road said he saw at least 4 Traffic Division vehicles patrolling the A23/M23 per journey (Sussex and Surrey Forces). That became 1 police vehicle spotted per week. A reply from the then Chief Constable, Paul Whitehouse, admitted that he had reduced Traffic Division by 50% Perhaps you can see why my campaign for better roads policing remains near the top of my agenda. Campaigns should be evidence based so, as an example, look at the Mission Statement of the RCMP (Royal Canadian Mounted Police) and they are not alone.
(All comment and opinions are personal to the author NOT those of the London Borough of Sutton)
Roy Buchanan Sutton

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Generally, as Steve points out, most people support the use of safety cameras - until they are caught speeding by one! Then it's in an inappropriate position, hidden up a tree, got an invisibility cloak around it - the make of which isn't approved by the Ministry of Magic etc! That's human nature.

In 1966 there were just under 8000 fatalities on our roads. Since then the numbers killed on our roads has decreased to the levels we have today. What was the level of roads policing in the 60s, 70s and 80s? Some traffic officers of that era have informed me that it was excellent. I believe (my opinion) that the standard of our advanced police drivers and riders (class 1) was excellent then and remains so today. As to their deployment and the management of them as a policing resource; front line officers and senior police management teams of today and yesteryear may well have differing professional opinions. Similar opinions regarding management of resources over the years are found in other professions.

A number of factors have contributed to the reduction in fatalities on our roads :-
* improvements in vehicle technology - ABS, TCS, air bags, crumple zones, side impact reinforcement etc
* Speed of emergency response (most people now have mobile phones, no need to find a telephone box or knock on a door)
* air ambulance
* medical technology - look in the back of a modern ambulance, the life saving and life enhancing technology is amazing - compare it with what you would have found in a cream coloured ambulance of yesteryear.
* skills and knowledge developed by modern medical practice passed on to first class paramedics
* emergency calls are filtered and where appropriate an A&E doctor will go out with the first responder
* seat belt leglislation
* safety cameras
* intelligence led roads policing
* a first class fire and rescue service staffed by dedicated professionals with modern technology at their disposal
* modern road safety profession with dedicated professionals caring passionately about what they do, developing appropriate evidence led interventions.

All these factors and dedicated first rate professionals working in teams have contributed to the reduction in fatalities that we have seen over the years.

Let us hope that the powers that be don't start systematically undoing what has already been achieved.
Mark - Wiltshire

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Roy, cameras are not unpopular in the UK: all the surveys I have seen or conducted since their widespread introduction this millenium have 'approval ratings' ('Overall, I am in favour of speed cameras: Strongly Agree + Agree) running at around 70% - 80%. There is a tranch of Don't Knows and a small minority against them. In one study we ran in Scotland only 4% of female drivers disagreed that they were in favour of them - and we all know which gender are the safest drivers (less likely to kill themselves or others when behind the wheel of a car) and whose views should thus be privileged!
Steve Stradling, Manchester

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It is very easy to drop into the mindset that speed camaras do not work and even easier to formulate an argument that they do. The consequent debate often seeks simple conclusive evidence that overlooks the fact that roads policing in the UK is only a pale shadow of what it once was, thanks to misguided management in the Police. Tim Philpot has identified that 1990 is an odd date selection in the TPA Report, but it may be that this is when the mirror effect started to become noticeable. The 'plateauxing' (DfT's word not mine) of the casualty reduction figures seems to be refected in the 'plateauxing'of the deterioration of roads policing hence the situation is doldrumatic. The analysis will always be multi-faceted, so to point the finger at any one of those facets - cameras for example - is unrefined. It is not surprising that the TPA is hostile to cameras, they are, after all, universally unpopular because they are so indiscriminate in relation to a highly contentious issue. I cannot help thinking that the report's author knew exactly what he was doing when he made the provocative remark that our roads have become more dangerous than they would have done had cameras not been installed. A wild comment intended to attract attention - and it has succeeded.
Roy Buchanan. Sutton

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