Fleet News

Speed cameras: all flash and cash

Graham Hurdle, managing director of risk management and driver training specialist Pro-Drive, argues that speed cameras are doing little to make our roads safer.

'Most drivers slow down for speed cameras. After all, no-one wants to receive a fine, add penalty points to their driving licence, or face a speeding conviction.

##Graham Hurdle--left## If the impact of a camera is to reduce speed, one might conclude that they are a resounding success. Indeed, in a Government pilot study across six counties, it was claimed that speed cameras delivered a 47% reduction in casualties at their locations, reduced average speeds by 6 mph and that the percentage of drivers who exceeded the speed limit fell from 43% to 16%.

But the Government's approach to 'speed management' is severely lacking. While speed cameras are an effective control measure at their specific locations, they have no impact on improving safety elsewhere.

Instead they create a camera-conscious society which remains ignorant of some of the basics of safe driving in relation to types of road, other road users, general visibility, weather conditions, time of day or night, the driver's own ability and the capability of the vehicles they are driving.

With too many unnecessary cameras on open roads, and at locations where there is excellent visibility, drivers become cynical and question whether the cameras exist to create safer roads or to generate revenue.

A camera-conscious culture then emerges with drivers focusing on not getting caught rather than travelling at a speed which is safe for the conditions in which they are driving.

Ambiguities in the way speed limits are set also serve to confuse and this creates resentment when cameras penalise in areas where the speed limit is unclear.

Urban areas need specific attention. Drivers are often confused as to how fast they should be travelling and the Government should be re-aligning its spending to develop an effective strategy of education and enforcement in these areas where the dangers of speeding are so much greater.

After all, the 30mph limit is only sign-posted as you enter the zone but not repeated within it and awareness of safe driving speeds should be significantly raised in areas of increased vehicle and pedestrian traffic.

Another area for debate is the Government's justification for the increasing number of cameras, which comes from on-going monitoring of traffic and speed levels at 130 locations across the UK.

These 130 sites are mainly situated away from obvious hazards such as junctions, brows of hills and sharp bends. The data is, therefore, being gathered away from areas where drivers tend to slow down below the speed limit.

Is the objective to gather data which proves drivers' speed, even if this is on stretches of safe open road, or is it to identify hazardous areas in order to reduce accidents?

After all, drivers speed for a number of reasons – ignorance of the speed limit, not seeing the relevance of the speed limit, an over confidence in their or the car's ability to stop, peer group pressure and, in some cases, a simple disregard for the law.

Collisions happen for different reasons – poor observation and hazard perception, lack of concentration, inappropriate vehicle positioning, lack of driver skill and impairment through alcohol, drugs or fatigue.

The problem is that there is far too much Government focus on speed and not enough education about the causes of accidents, and I believe it is high time we saw a shift towards education rather than enforcement.

Firstly, I would like to see the 30mph speed limit clearly and frequently displayed in urban areas.

Secondly, I would like speed cameras to appear only at locations which pose a genuine threat to safety, removing those which are needlessly positioned on clear stretches of open road and only contribute to public disapproval of the system.

Thirdly, there should be more consistency in the way speed limits are set. This would avoid the often ludicrous situation whereby a dual carriageway is limited to 50mph but a driver turning off it on to a narrow country lane can resort to the national limit of 60mph.

Fourthly, where there is justification for an extraordinary speed limit (such as 40mph on a dual carriageway), I suggest additional road signs should state why that speed limit has been set to avoid drivers ignoring it by not seeing the relevance.

Finally, there should be far more focus on enforcing slower speeds in built-up areas. After all, in relative terms a driver travelling 10mph over a 30mph speed limit is significantly more dangerous than a driver doing 80mph on a motorway.'

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