Road Safety News
 

Confusing signals from safety camera survey

Friday 17th June 2011

A new survey published by the IAM has produced conflicting findings with regard to public opinion of safety cameras.

On the one hand the survey shows that just 29% of Britain’s motorists think that safety cameras are only used at sites with a bad record of crashes and injuries, and 50% think that raising money is their primary aim.

However, the same survey also reveals that support for safety cameras is at 79%, with the highest level of support in London (85%) and the lowest in the North East (67%).

The figures are revealed in the IAM’s latest report, ‘Public Opinions of Speed Cameras’, which is based on a survey of more than 1,000 people.

The survey also says that 70% of motorists agree that speed awareness courses are a better idea than prosecution. The greatest support for this is among 17 to 24 year-olds with 82% in agreement. In contrast, 65% of the over 65s think they are a good replacement for prosecution.

81% of respondents think that safety cameras have contributed to falling road death rates over the past decade and nearly half think that road deaths and serious injuries would increase if cameras were turned off.

Neil Greig, IAM director of policy and research, said: “Support for cameras is strong as is support for speed awareness training rather than fines or points.

“Prosecuting and fining drivers does not improve driving skills or awareness of the hazards of excessive speed. Training would reduce the number of casualties and prosecutions. That so many young people want this is very positive.

“Many motorists are still cynical about the aims and deployment of speed cameras and much more work needs to be done to dispel their negative perceptions. In times of cut-backs to police budgets, speed cameras are an essential part of the policing toolkit, but it’s clear that the public need reassuring about their purpose and funding.”

For more information contact the IAM Press Office on 020 8996 9777.

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Fully agree with Mark. I would also urge you all to review R&D carried out by makers of average speed cameras (SPECS) which show spectacular results for KSI reduction over very long stretches. Whilst I fundamentally disagree with current government approaches, it is particularly disappointing the added benefits of average speed cameras seemed to have been lost in this long debate.
Peter, Manchester

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It's interesting that "nearly half think that road deaths and serious injuries would increase if cameras were turned off".

That means that OVER half think that road deaths and serious injuries would DECREASE or not change if cameras were turned off. This suggests that the British public might not be quite as gullible as the road safety industry might hope for, especially considering that millions of £s have been spent in publicity campaigns trying to convince them.

Mark re-posts his comments of last year so here's a re-post of part of my reply:

"Mark of Wiltshire has noticed that deaths peaked in 1966 at almost 8,000 but if we look at the deaths per billion vehicle Kms (perhaps the most important road safety indicator) we find the following:

Average annual change:
1950 – 1959 : -2.4%
1960 – 1969 : -3.8%
1970 – 1979 : -4.2%
1980 – 1989 : -6.1%
1990 – 1994 : -8.3%
1995 – 2004 : -2.9% (1st 10 years of speed cameras)

For the 1st 7 reasons that Mark suggests, the 1st 10 years with cameras should have given us the best safety improvements we have ever had, yet we actually had the worst since the 1950s!

See www.speedcamerareport.co.uk/08_gb_road_safety.htm"

If the authorities were to start being honest about the effect of speed cameras, the survey results might be VERY different!
Dave Finney, Slough

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I vote Mark in Wiltshire for PM.

All those not in favour raise your right foot now and stop moaning about safety cameras!
Susan, Warwickshire

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Concurring with Mark above, the emergency services working in "Partnership" with local authorities, the Safety Camera Partnership, and other agencies on reducing the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads are the most cost effective way of reducing the loss and suffering in human terms. Jointly we have brought about this reduction in accident statistics borne out by evidence lead information. The biggest influence but not the only influence on this reduction must have been the introduction of safety cameras. A team of dedicated road safety educators, engineers and innovators have pooled their knowledge, resources and thought more laterally about using hard evidence of collision statistics to best effect. I have seen the number of fatal and serious injury collisions I have attended reduce over the years, particularly since the introduction of enforcement cameras, oh yes they may be uncool Mr Clarkson, but they do save lives. The camera partnerships could have been slicker in their spin and PR from the outset as the politicians seem to be most adept at. Dedicated teams across all the public services working together, have reduced the heartbreak that no relatives should endure, I have met the fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, brothers, and sisters of the victims of fatal and serious accidents a good number of which were caused by excessive speed. Can a politician honestly stand up tell these grieving mothers and families whose lives have been torn apart for ever that the removal of the cameras was because it was a needless war on motorists? I would ask those misinformed tabloid journalists could you stand in front of a room full of teenagers and tell them about the night your child died, or suffered an irreporable brain injury how your whole world was ripped apart because of a speeding irresponsible driver having fun? Time and time again I hear the mantra economy efficiency effectiveness, but what value do the politicians put on human lives to keep their accounts looking so nicely within budget? Public Opinions of Speed Cameras’ as in the IAM report above are mostly favourable, as we seem to be going down the "Big Society" buzzword route let us continue to protect the overwhelming majority of safer drivers on our roads, where speeding is recognised for the antisocial behaviour it really is.
Wyn Davies, Devon

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The comment I made on his issue last year is still relevant. See below.

I agree with Mike Giannasi.

I find it interesting that politicians and the media use emotive language when it suits them. The end of the 'war on the motorist'. Not too long ago parties of different political persuasions were talking about fighting the 'war on crime'. As I understand it breaking the law is a crime. If you exceed the posted speed limit you're breaking the law. If you're in politics and campaign that we're the ones that really stand up for law and order and its enforcement, it gets a bit confusing, when you do a bit of a U turn because too many law breakers are being caught by an efficient and cost effective method. The gentle persons are for turning because the 'too many lawbreakers' that are being caught don't like it and are having a whinge. Shame!

So they're not going to fund any more fixed cameras. They'll be happy if local authorities can justify them and foot the bill, but any fines will go straight to the treasury. You fund 'em, you run 'em and we'll take all the money and look good to the voting law breaker - Impressive spin I have to admit.

Some of them have said that we need more education. Great I'll go along with that one, but somewhere in the great scheme of things you've got to catch 'em to educate 'em. Are police services going to deploy hundreds more dedicated roads policing units to do this? Given the state of the public purse, probably not. How's it going to be done then? What sits at the road side, detects the offence and provides the evidence all quite cost effectively? We know the answer to that question.

There's a county in the UK where the police service and other parties are working together on a stunningly effective campaign with the snappy title 'No Excuses' (should I use the word 'partners', might it become unfashionable as a term and become politically incorrect? Might I get arrested? Probably not - yet!). Ah, what piece of tech helps to run a campaign like this? Know the answer to that one too!

Before the election a political group expressed the opinion that the government’s dependence on fixed cameras has 'blinded' them to the alternatives. I don't think that government, local authorities or police services were 'blinded' by dependence on fixed cameras. They made no secret of the fact that they were one of a number of law enforcement strategies used, the deployment of which was continually assessed, based on operational requirements.

So what about the alternatives? One example - speed awareness workshops - a success story in many areas according to the feed back from the majority of road users who attend them. These road users don't get any penalty points on their licences. Instead they come away with a greater appreciation of road safety, further personal development and a more realistic overview of their driving/riding ability on today’s roads. In an area north of the Watford Gap, it has been reported that road users who attend a workshop have a reoffending rate that is three times lower than those who don't. How do we get road users on these educational workshops - I think we've been there before!

Before the election there was a report in one national newspaper which discussed safety cameras and stated that they 'milked millions of pounds a year from motorists', and how a political party will cut funding for them. I remember that this party and the media that lent their support to it used to make a big song and dance about law and order, and if you do the crime you ought to do the time. They also went on a bit about personal choice. Guess what - driving/riding past a safety camera breaking the law isn't compulsory. Many of those that do get to make another personal choice - have their day in court take the points or attend a workshop. Those who are killed by them don't get a choice.

The powers that be really need to avoid the knee jerk and think this one through a bit. If safety cameras go into decline, more road users will break the law and won't be caught. Fewer road users will be given the opportunity to be educated. The incredible positive ripple that has now started will fade out and with it more lives.

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.

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 legislation.
* 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.

Now that the purse strings are being tightened, we should be looking even more closely at camera technology so that this can free up highly trained roads policing officers to continue with the first class work that they already do.

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

There's never been a war on motorists; there's never been a war on any kind of road user. What there has been is a planned and generally systematic delivery of realistic and sustainable measures by dedicated professionals and volunteers that has reduced the number of deaths and serious injuries on our roads. Evidence based evaluation and analysis has been used to deploy the most appropriate initiative where it is most needed.

Where a given measure is not appreciated by a particular type of road user, they will tend to feel 'hard done by'; hardly surprising. What professionals have tried to do is to strike the right balance between reducing casualties, practicality, cost-benefit and the needs of all road users in the given area. This achieved by hard work, planning, a passionate belief in the core values of road safety and a bit of 'thinking outside the box'. Hardly a war. More like caring in the 'big society' that some politicians are fond of using as a buzz-phrase at the moment!

It has been reported that about 98% of health spending goes on clinical solutions and about 2% on prevention. Politicians of all persuasions have often commented that more resources should be diverted to prevention - so we attempt to 'close the stable door before the horse has bolted'. This is what dedicated road safety professionals and volunteers do every day - some war.

I came across a mobile safety camera unit (motorcycle) recently. The operator had just finished for the day and had packed the equipment away. I stopped and we had a chat - one motorcyclist to another as you do! A villager from a nearby property came out and praised the operator for the really good work that was being done, and offered us a cup of tea or coffee.

The mobile unit operating in the village enhances the safety of all road users and is clearly appreciated.

The powers that be need to think very carefully about Mike Giannasi's views. Once the entire infrastructure and the key support staff are removed, it will be very expensive to reinstate it could be a very costly mistake.
Mark, Wiltshire

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