Road Safety News
 

New RAC report backs safety cameras

Wednesday 24th November 2010

Some 800 more people a year could be killed or seriously injured on the UK's roads if all safety cameras were scrapped, a report has suggested (BBC News).

The report, carried out by Professor Richard Allsop, said cameras had offered continuing road safety benefits since they were introduced.

Several councils have decided to scrap their safety camera programmes after the government cut road safety grants.

The report, commissioned by the RAC Foundation, said the study suggested such moves would be a ‘big mistake’.

Prof Allsop, emeritus professor of transport studies at University College London, also found that safety cameras were not a significant revenue raiser.

He said that in 2007 the Treasury received just £4 from each £60 penalty, and there was no surplus left for local authorities or the police.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The current crisis in funding for safety cameras, and road safety in general, leaves road users at real risk.

"The government has said decisions on safety camera funding must be taken at local level which is why we are sending this evidence direct to all highway authorities.

"Professor Allsop's work suggests scrapping cameras would be a big mistake because the cash to install them has already been spent.

"They save lives and demonstrate value for money, and despite the headlines most people accept the need for them."

Click here to read the full BBC News report.

Click here to download the RAC Foundation report: The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras A Review of Evidence.

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Even if these extravagant claims were true - which they not only are not but could never be - as even the DfT admitted that vehicle activated signs provide them for 9 times lower cost - see www.parliament.the-stationery-office.co.uk/pa/cm200607/cmselect/cmtran/memo_roads/memo1.pdf and the letter from Ladyman to Transcom that I forced him to write.

Further, the real comparison is not the DfT's absurd figures based on 1 year and ignoring the entire enforcement industry, but more like 50 to 1, as confirmed by the detailed documentation on www.safespeed.org.uk/vas.html, including an independenta accountant's analysis of the figures that concludes

The Final Summary

1. The costs of cameras and VAS’s as quoted by Dr Ladyman MP and Mrs
Dunwoody MP were so inaccurate as to be either deliberately misleading or
incompetent.

2. The safety justifications are too unreliable and vague to support the much more expensive option. Both methods slow down cars to a broadly similar extent.

3. It is clear from the financial data and supported by government
correspondence, that the real reason for erecting so many cameras (as
opposed to VAS’s) is the financial gain to be made from speeding penalties –
not safety.

4. It is clear that for any given budget, it is more advantageous to use VAS’s than safety cameras to control excessive speed, whether by achieving the same results for less money or better results for the same money.

Further, the report's claim that benefit occurs not just within camera sites but generally, flies in the face of Partnerships universal responses over years to complaints about rising casualties outside their sites, "Nuffink to do wiv me, guv, not my area".

It also flies in the face of the fact that the bible of camera enthusiasts - long since proved to be biased in favour of cameras - makes NO MENTION WHATEVER of even the possibility of benefit outside camera sites.

Why not? Well, only in 1 year of the 6 during which cameras numbers escalated rapidly under the lunatic hypothecation scheme (in 2007 abandoned by Ladyman because they finally realised that living off fines meant that partnerships only interest was more cameras and more fines) did fatality numbers fall at all - in stark contrast to steady falls for years before cameras.

From 1950 to 1992 deaths per 10bn veh km fell at 7% pa compound but from the first cameras in 1992 by less than 3% pa - a very clear adverse change of trend.

Furthermore, a graph of excess deaths over prior trend from 1993 to 2007 very closely matches the number of speed camera fines - uncannily so.

In short

1/ Even if camera provided benefits they were achieved at massively greater cost than necessary

2/ It is in any case impossible to cut casualties to that extent by reducing speeding, a quite minor factor in accident causation

3/ The record of the speed camera era in terms of fatalities is by far the worst trends since WW2, and for SI probably - and logically the same,but simply not known with any accuracy due to changing reporting levels now down (according to the DfT's latest estimate) at about 30%

It's nonsene on stilts, and highly dangerous nonsense at that.
Idris Francis

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The findings are wishful thinking. We can all be positive when wishfully thinking. Without evidence that any camera can save a life they are an element of pure faith in that they may. That they do not - and cannot is the reality.

Compare the effects of the downward trend of fatalities that slowed appreciably to the point of stalling from the introduction of speed cameras around 1993.

Now compare the decrease in fatalities of Dorset's 'No Excuse' campaign over ONE YEAR which enabled officers to enforce traffic law - a 50% cut in fatalities and 20% cut in seriously injured. No contest. Put officers back on the road, and put speed/safety cameras in the skip. Then you will save lives, and not just an imaginary 800.

With the current concentration on costs, much could be saved by switching from the expensive camera, to the Vehicle Activated Sign. These have been show to be equally in most, and more than equal in many cases at reducing vehicle speeds at chosen locations. Will they stop an accident happening? No more than any camera – but vehicles are slowed, and at one fiftieth of the cost.
Derek, St Albans

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Until someone finds a crash that could credibly have been prevented had a speed camera been present, all claims such as those made in this report are meaningless and without foundation.

Cameras are installed where there has been a spate of 'speed related' collisions (what crash is not speed-related?). The crash rate falls. Proportions are allocated to the various factors that may have contributed to the reduction. When all "known" factors (RTTM, trends, etc) have been "calculated" (note these are often given to three significant figures in the report - spurious accuracy which undermines the integrity of the report) the remainder is assumed to be due to the cameras. This is an act of faith for which there is no convincing rationale.

The report does not mention the numerous (up to 40) negative effects of speed cameras - a glaring omission from an author who is well aware of deaths attributed to cameras (TRL, PACTS and others have acknowledged this). The Cochrane report admits, on page 36, “One of the associated problems with automated speed enforcement is the tendency for some drivers to brake when passing a speed camera and then to speed in excess of the speed limit when out of range of the camera. This behaviour is implicated in some crashes.” With no real of evidence or credible argument of cameras preventing crashes, this alone is enough to sink this latest report.

The RAC report also quotes "public support" - based on a survey using loaded/biased questions. This does not tell us anything about the effectiveness of speed cameras and is completely out of place in a supposedly serious report on effectiveness.

All of the reports cited have been countered by highly qualified and respected independent experts. Prof Allsop is not independent - he is a trustee of PACTS who receive over £11,000 a year from speed camera manufacturers and other related companies (eg speed awareness course providers).

In summary, this report is smoke and mirrors, sponsored by the speed camera industry and not worth the pdf it is written on. The camera industry is clearly becoming desperate in the face of substantial convincing counter-evidence.
Eric Bridgstock, St Albans

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Good to see some data and analysis to fuel the camera debate from a highly experienced academic source! The findings are positive.
Danny Barker, Gateshead

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