Minister should consult before deciding on cameras: Road Safety GB

13.42 | 17 May 2010 | | 16 comments

Alan Kennedy, chair of Road Safety GB, has urged the new transport secretary to consult with stakeholders before making any swift decisions about safety cameras.

According to a report in the Daily Mail, Philip Hammond has declared that the ‘war on the motorist is over’.

He has promised to end the way the country’s 33 million drivers have been targeted by ‘an array of speed cameras’ by scrapping public funding for cameras.

Mr Hammond added that councils could fund them if they had the money and could justify their use – but the money raised would go to the Treasury

Alan Kennedy said: "We welcome My Hammond’s appointment and wish him well in his new post.

"However, we believe it would make sense to carry out a comprehensive review of the effectiveness of safety cameras before making any decisions about
their future funding.

"An impulsive decision may have a serious impact on casualty reduction and impede the efforts of road safety professionals to further reduce casualty levels – or even maintain current levels.

"We understand the financial pressures that the new government faces and are not unsympathetic to the position it finds itself in, but a knee jerk reaction – and using phrases like ‘war on motorists’ – are not helpful."

Brake, the road safety charity, reacted furiously to Mr Hammond’s comments.
Mary Williams OBE, chief executive, said: “There is a vast amount of data showing that cameras reduce speeds and save lives.

“Most people accept that they are a legitimate road safety measure, and communities are still crying out for them outside their schools and homes.

“With advances in technology it is now possible to have digital cameras that track a vehicle’s speed between two fixed points and it would be nothing short of a scandal if this life-saving technology sits on shelves rather than streets because of archaic political bias that isn’t even popular.

“This announcement is like a trip back to the dark ages – if camera numbers go into decline or fail to go up where they are so desperately needed then that will inevitably mean faster speeds and more blood on the streets that could have so easily been prevented, as well as fearful communities who are not prepared to risk their lives by walking or cycling.”

Click here to read the full Daily Mail news report.

Footnote: we have contacted the DfT press office and invited Mr Hammond to make a further comment or statement if he wishes to do so. If he takes up this offer we will publish his comment/statement in full.


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    Does it really matter whether cameras have an effect on accident rates? The whole system is simply wrong anyway.

    Most motorists drive safely and serious accidents are very rare. Most of us escape early death and get through a lifetime of driving with all limbs intact. Speed cameras, however, are targetted at each and every one of us. Speed limits are being lowered and enforced with cameras regardless of the time of day, weather conditions, experience of drivers, and so on. Thousands of harmless people are being stung for driving a few mph over the posted limit even though they may be presenting no danger. Meanwhile the small number of dangerous drivers are either adept at avoiding cameras or don’t give a damn about them. We need to target bad drivers, not fleece good ones for minor transgressions.

    While road safety zealots bang on about “respect” the system is thoroughly disrespectful.

    Tom, Tyneside
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    It’s interesting to see more people now quoting “facts and figures” about speed cameras, yet seemingly without any understanding of what they mean!

    Richard of Banbury writes “Thames Valley … 200 fixed cameras installed under the last Conservative government”. That’s true but by the time 3 years had passed to evaluate them it was 1997 and Labour took over.

    Richard goes on “They have been a huge success with an average reduction in casualites of 40%”, but we know that the cameras did not cause that reduction. Places that met camera rules, but which didn’t have cameras, reduced by similar amounts and over the whole of Thames Valley – it was an utter disaster. Deaths reached their lowest level in 1993 after 5 consecutive falls, then the trend completely reversed and deaths rose as more and more speed cameras were installed.

    Full report here:

    Thames Valley is the 5th graph.

    We are being deceived, there is no good evidence showing that speed cameras improve road safety. Speed cameras have NEVER been subjected to scientific trials and the RTM effect has never been measured or eliminated. In other words, cameras have never been tested properly.

    If any engineer in any other aspect of engineering were to be as incompetent and reckless as those responsible for speed cameras, they would be sacked and probably prosecuted. We wouldn’t allow it anywhere else, why do we allow complete disregard for engineering basics in road safety?

    Dave Finney – Slough
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    Mr Craven
    Your comments surprise me. You still consider the cameras as being not only “cash-cows” but deliberately placed to be so! The actual case is completely different and they have played a significant part in the reduction of casualties at camera sites. The Grant that is paid to the Councils is I believe used to fund some excellent initiatives, including Wasted Lives and Ridesafe Backsafe I believe? I’m not sure if you have heard of them?

    I’m sure if you looked on the Partnership’s website as I do, you will see more of the excellent work they do.

    steve NW
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    Further to this. I remember some 4 yrs or so ago Blair made a statement to the effect that no new fixed speed cameras were to be introduced. This was reported in the national papers.

    On the same day in my local gazette it was reported that Blackpool had acquired some new 18 speed cameras. No doubt Mr Blair and both papers were right and the number of cameras had been increased by such a date and then no more. It gave the LA some additional revenue which i am sure was welcomed at a time that LA monies were being withdrawn or at least capped by the then Govnt.

    So i wonder how 18 new cameras could be justified,certainly not on the grounds of accidents. 3 of these new cameras now suround where i live [ all within half a mile] and had lived for 5 yrs previously without knowledge of any accidents AT OR NEAR THESE NEW SITES AT ALL.

    It may be that Blackpool was being greedy and that other LA’s had better priorities but such a circumstance brings some degree of scepticism as to their usage.

    As previously stated the initial monies went to the LA and after a certain date all monies went to the Govnt. It is then that they fell into disrepute and many now stand there obsolete. relections of a bygone age.

    But not to worry, technical achievements now give us a newer cash cow. Average speed cameras.

    I am anti speeders and believe that there should be a deterent but as the previous writter i would like to see our streets properly patrolled and well equipped to deal with road offenders.

    bob craven Lancs
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    Alan has taken the correct approach in advocating consultation with practitioners before the Minister makes a policy decision. This is an excellent example of calm wisdom. In debating the issue of cameras, a sense of perspective must prevail. Therefore, rhetorical comments like “war on the motorist” are unhelpful but equally so is the comment from Mary Williams regarding “more blood on the streets.” These juvenile remarks do not progress the matter. I was loosely connected on the periphery of the installation of the first camera and my commanding officer at the time has admitted many times subsequently that the camera policy has taken a turn that was never intended at the outset. I could present an argument in support of cameras but I accept that many erudite commentators argue robustly in opposition. There is not space here to present a paper on the issue so I would urge commentators to strike a balance and be positive in selecting the best from both sides of the table. However, as a devotee of roads policing, I cannot end without taking, yet again, the opportunity to campaign for the return of dedicated Traffic Division police officers. Cameras are part of the answer, Traffic Patrols are the ultimate answer and it is this concept I would like to see politians embrace.

    Roy Buchanan Sutton
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    Interstingly, the ‘war on the motorist’ in Thames Valley was mainly conducted before Labour came into power in 1997 with 200 fixed cameras installed under the last Conservative government. They have been a huge success with an average reduction in casualites of 40% – more than double the reductions seen elsewhere on ‘our’ roads.

    If the reason no new cameras are going to be put in is because the country is skint then that’s a reasonable excuse but let’s not pretend it’s something to do with evidence-based road safety practice.

    Richard – Banbury
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    In Cumbria we have the lowest KSI statistics for more than 25 years. Statistical analysis shows that the introduction of safety cameras and, in 2007, a major change in mobile strategy is largely responsible for this reduction. Financially, between 2003 and 2007 the drop in KSIs saved approximately £115 million in casualty related costs.

    Safety cameras here also have the support of between 70-80 per cent of residents.

    Kevin Tea, Cumbria
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    George Orwell’s 1984 is here, or at least will be in about 2024. Let’s get rid of the law enforcement agencies such as the police etc. [ they cost to much anyway] and have cameras follow our every move instead. They are issued to a miriad of local council officers as it is from dustbin men upwards.

    I hope that I will be long gone before that happens and I hope that those who write in support of increased camera survealance are not put out of a job because of it!!!!!!!!!

    As a PS, I believe that there are some 28 cameras in Blackpool but only 5 in Preston, which has a larger population. These cameras were financially supported by the Government of the day and operated [ well maybe 6 of them and then they were switched from one site to another] by the local council who for about 3 yrs got the revenue, I suppose thats why Blackpool had so many [for the revenue not as a deterrant] Then after that initial period of prosperity the government want the revenue [understandably] with a precept going back to the authorites [presumably to pay for their upkeep, maintainence and annual regulatory checking back with the manufacturers.

    When they were operating the local paper were informed where they would be at that time by the council, funny since the monies now go to government no info whatsoever comes from the authorities to inform the public where they will be operating…. if anywhere?

    I have though noticed that there is an increased use of police and civilians for the use of hand held cameras [I suppose that this costs less than a fixed camera and the monies raised in this way stay with the local authority without any monies generated going to government.

    It’s been at least 12 months since the money pattern changed hand, maybe 2 yrs and we can still see an ongoing reduction in accident stats without the increased use of cameras.

    I further believe that those who have shouted the loudest and protested most may have the most to justify their positions if accidents increase subsequently.

    PPS: the road network is very soon going to be littered with average speed cameras which will record vehicle license numbers and a fine will be automatically sent to the regd. owner for payment, so we will no longer need gatsos as the government will no doubt take all the monies from this initiative for themselves.

    bob craven Lancs
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    Lets not be blinded by the status quo. Just because casualty reduction has come to rely on cameras so heavily in the last decade it does not mean that they are the best way of further reducing casualties in the future. If a review shows that speed cameras have done as much as they can and we need to start putting our resources else where will we argue with it? Exceeding the speed limit is a contributary factor in less and less incidents. Most crashes involve a poor judgement or decision as the route cause or just a poor attitude to road use in general and to begin dealing with that we need to look hard at driver training and education. With funding getting tighter and tighter decisions will have to be made about where money is spent and what will get the best result for the investment.

    Dave, Leeds
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    Recent public surveys undertaken here by the County Council and the Safety Camera Partnership suggest continued high levels of support for the use of camera technology to enforce posted speed limits and importantly, to influence driver behaviour. Our year-long “no excuse” enforcement/publicity project has very positive support from most people. Mobile camera enforcement is an important element of the project. The additional overt and covert policing is also strongly supported. Around 7,000 additional driving offences have been reported since the project started in mid January with around a third of those being mobile phone and seat belt offences. When speaking face to face with the public, many appear to support the development of camera technology to detect these types of offences as well. We are evaluating further whether the additional roads policing (including mobile cameras)in place here is influencing driver behaviour because drivers are starting to believe there is a greater risk of “getting caught”. If the use of camera technology combined with increased roads policing has this effect over the longer term then it would be sensible for the new government to consult widely on the safety camera issue. Many of the offenders here are offered an education referral in lieu of the points and/or fine and not just the speeding offenders. The fees charged for the referral pay for the additional roads policing. Further consultation please, Mr. Hammond.

    Robert Smith, Road Safety Manager, Dorset CC
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    Maybe this was an irrational glib statement that fell off the tongue before thought had gone into the content!

    “War on the Motorist” is a well worn cliche first used by the media and now politician to help gain support.

    The only motorist “Targeted” are those that put there own life at risk and more important show comtempt for the life and safety of other, often vulnerable law abiding citizens.

    Speed limits are often unpopular, but fortunately most rational motorist recognise the need and obey. There are however, those that put themselves above the law and choose to ignore.

    Our roads are too congested and dangerous, the volume ever increasing, to allow individual interpretation of what the upper speed limit should be. Speed cameras are a cost effect, persuasive means to encourage motorists to drive at speeds best suited to our congested road situations, even when they are not actually functioning. Take cameras away and the cost effect deterent disappears.

    Hopefully Mr.Hammond will study all available data and take advice from the experts before making a decision that will effect the life and safety of all.

    Mike Downey. Portsmouth
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    Funny how 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 for the masses, 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 they don’t like it and are having a whinge. Didums!

    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 – good ‘ere innit.

    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 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? Hmmm….

    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 technology is a common denominator for generating these then? Hmmm…

    Before the election a political group expressed the opinion that the governments dependence on fixed cameras has ‘blinded’ the 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 todays 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 safet cameras and stated that they ‘milked millions of pounds a year from motorists’, and how a political party will cut funding for them. I remenber 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 to the time. Ther 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.

    Mark – Wiltshire
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    Mr Hammond would do well to consider the evidence before making any pronouncements, and to identify a strategy which at least maintains the progress made in casualty reduction. To disregard the fact that growth in fixed camera sites has accompanied a general fall in KSI casualties would be a curious kind of logic and it would be interesting for Mr Hammond to explain what else might have caused this. There are clearly questions to answer about the future role of fixed cameras, many of which are wet-film. The value of a shift towards mobile enforcement and the use of digital devices are both to be considered. But where is the strategy? I agree with Robert Gifford’s letter and would urge Mr Hammond to review and publish a credible Road Safety Strategy. The suggestion that encouraging motorists to comply with speed limits constitutes “war” falls somewhat short of this.

    Tim Philpot
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    Clearly Mr Hammond is in the wrong party, I think he will find that apart from the Anarchists most other parties favour the enforcement of laws for the benefit of society. The only people who feel hard done by the safety cameras are those who feel that breaking the law is acceptable! In a civilised society his statement is deeply offensive and I hope he can sleep at night when he sees the latest casualty figures. It seems that the burden on the NHS caused by speed related accidents is of no consequence to him, perhaps the Department of Health should send him the bill!

    Steve, Rotherham
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    There never has been a ‘war on motorists’. This phrase is used to create a sense of victimhood. Motorists have always had a privileged position when compared with all other road users.

    Harry Varty, Sheffield
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    And what exactly does Mr Hammond plan to put in their place? You can’t just remove a proven road safety measure like cameras and put nothing in its place. No doubt councils would not receive further funds for other engineering measures should cameras be removed and again local authorities would have to foot costs that they simply can’t afford. It is likely that Mr Hammond has not been fully briefed on the safety camera situation and this is an effort to drum up support within the motoring community.

    Danny, Gateshead
    Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

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