Fleet News

Speed camera detectors: fleet friend or evil foe?

THE number of speed cameras on UK roads seems to be mushrooming at an alarming rate, with new sites appearing on a daily basis.

With speed claimed to be accountable for more than a third of all accidents, it is no wonder the Government is constantly giving its support for the introduction of more and more cameras.

Of course, the vast revenue, opponents claim, has as much bearing on their proliferation. Britain currently has 5,000 cameras which are expected to result in three million drivers being fined around £60 this year, totalling £180 million.

Placed at locations known to be accident hot-spots, the Government claims speed cameras have helped slash fatalities and reduce the number of serious accidents.

However, almost in unison with the increase in speed camera sites comes a surge in the production of speed camera detectors, which has provoked conflicting views from some of the leading road safety organisations.

Detectors plug into the cigarette lighter socket and alert drivers as they approach speed camera locations, which can be either permanent or temporary sites used by the police.

Manufacturers of such products tend to promote them as road safety devices, preventing people from speeding. But some industry observers contend this view, claiming they encourage drivers to speed in areas void of cameras.

Road safety organisation Brake is one of the groups which condemns the use of such devices. Simon Collister, campaigns officer at the organisation, explained Brake's disapproval of speed camera detectors. He said: 'Our view is that they are completely immoral and should be made illegal. Speed limits have been set because speed kills and anyone who tries to evade this is totally irresponsible.'

The organisation goes so far as to say that fleet managers should take a more active role and ban the use of them across fleets.

Collister said: 'One way to ensure that these devices are controlled is for fleet managers to ban the use of detectors.'

However, despite Brake's resistance, the popularity of detectors continues to soar. Cyclops, one of the product manufacturers, has seen a huge growth in demand, with sales increasing four-fold in the last three months alone.

Peugeot has added the Cyclops GPS Driver Safety System to its approved accessory list and MG Rover has agreed to add Cyclops to its options list.

Steve Wreford, managing director at Cyclops, is adamant its device is a means of improving safety rather than increasing the number of speeders on the road. He said: 'Our system works as an electronic signpost. It shows accident hotspots and the maximum speed limit, making sure drivers go through at the correct speed. We help slow people down. Our research has shown that almost 80% of people using the system are more aware of speed and are driving more safely – it has a strong safety benefit.

'If someone is going to speed they will do it anyway, regardless of whether they have a safety device. It is useful, you feel more secure and know in advance that hazardous areas are coming up.'

Surprisingly, it is not speed crazy petrol heads who are flocking to install Cyclops devices, but more often than not company car drivers, according to Wreford.

He said: 'Our main buyers are business drivers. It is not young people driving flash motors, it is the businessman that relies on their licence for their job. Our number one buyer is someone who drives for their job.'

Roger Vincent, spokesman for the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), believes fleet executives need to address the issue of speeding before it becomes a problem.

He said: 'When we pass our driving test we know there are speed limits and we are breaking the law if we go over them. Employers have a responsibility to manage the safety of their employees. Employers need to plan safe routes and set realistic schedules for employees.

'We can now look for the characteristics of habitual speeders. Rather than firms looking at introducing such devices, they need to look at the way employee's drive, so they do not break the speed limit.'

RoSPA believes drivers should already be adhering to the current speed limits without the need for speed detectors.

Vincent said: 'These devices are quite expensive and I can't understand why people would spend money on them. If you don't habitually speed then you shouldn't fear speed cameras. The disadvantages are that people will drive faster in areas where there are no cameras – people may see these as foolproof devices.

'Speed cameras are only in a place where there is a proven accident problem. One of the advantages of these devices is that people may be reminded of a potential accident situation but they should already be looking for hazards. Just because there is no history of an accident it is not to say a problem will not occur.'

Most road safety organisations hate the concept of speed detectors, but the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership backs their use.

Chris Scroxton, project manager at the Partnership, said: 'They are a useful safety device. Cameras are at locations with accident histories, so anything which advises where you are is an assistance.

'There are two principal camera systems. We are supportive of GPS systems, where they provide the location of the camera site and give an 800-metre warning that you are approaching it. With the laser detectors, the laser has already got you before, so it's just a warning that you have been caught.'

However, the way companies providing these systems advertise their use is a grey area.

Scroxton said: 'There are very few who promote them as road safety devices and I am uncomfortable with the attitude of them being promoted as 'cop busters'.

'But any aid in a car which reduces the amount of people dying is a good thing.'

As for their legality, the Government is currently consulting on the issue. The Department for Transport (DfT) states: 'Drivers who purchase speed enforcement detection devices (SEDDs) do so to avoid being caught speeding. It is our belief that drivers should stay within speed limits at all times, not just in areas where they think they will be caught.

The DfT has conducted a consultation exercise on whether to ban the installation and use of speed enforcement detector devices in vehicles.

Officials are currently considering the responses to the consultation and an announcement will be made when ministers have decided how to proceed.

'It is our belief that a SEDD could only be described as a road safety device if it contained details of speed limits, thus enabling the driver to stay within speed limits at all times and not just in those areas where there is a likelihood of being caught.'

The debate of whether devices curb speeding drivers, or if they encourage speeding in areas void of speed cameras is bound to continue until the Government publishes new legislation or guidelines.

Until then fleets need to ensure their drivers are maintaining current speed limits at all times, with or without the use of a speed camera detector.

  • What do you think? Email fleetnews@emap.com

    Types of speed detector

    GPS Speed Camera Detector

  • Uses GPS satellite positioning technology to alert drivers of speed camera sites and accident blackspots
  • Compares the vehicle's current location with a database of information which can be updated online
  • Audio and visual warnings alert drivers up to 800 metres ahead of danger areas
  • Speed limiters can be set to prevent the vehicle from speeding at all times
  • Unit usually self-installed in the vehicle

    Radar detector

  • Picks up radar beams emitted from police speed radar guns
  • System sweeps airwaves in front of car to detect laser beam
  • Alerts driver within seconds of approaching laser site
  • Some systems pick up fixed Gatso sites but majority only detect mobile laser guns
  • Unit usually self-installed in vehicle

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