An exclusive Fleet News survey has shown that 71% of fleets do not believe speed cameras, including mobile units, have had a positive impact on road safety.
The influential fleet panel of more than 150 fleet decision-makers was asked: Looking at your own fleet experience, do you believe speed cameras, including mobile units, have been effective at improving road safety?'
Their negative response comes as an increasingly angry debate rages about the future of traffic policing and controlling speed.
Last week, the Government acted to calm drivers' nerves by suggesting speeding fines could be tiered according to the seriousness of the offence, but even that attracted criticism (Fleet NewsNet, May 20).
There are fears the Government is expected to award two points to drivers travelling at one or two miles per hour over the limit.
The penalty could increase to four points if drivers go 5mph to 30mph over and six for those exceeding the limit by more than 30mph.
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling argued that speeding must be reduced, although he recognised that the 'punishment must fit the crime'.
However, he may have spoken too late, as millions of drivers have already been hit with speeding penalties from fixed and mobile speed cameras.
Since speed cameras started being used in greater numbers, the number of speeding fines issued each year has more than tripled, from about 300,000 to well over one million.
Yet accident statistics showing the number of car drivers killed and injured on Britain's roads do not seem to provide evidence of any significant fall over the past few years.
Figures from the Office of National Statistics show that in 1992, a total of 212,764 were killed or injured in car accidents, but by 2002, this had risen to 217,900.
The figures do show a fall in deaths and serious injuries, and compared to the rise in traffic volumes, this could count as a percentage decrease in terms of road users, but it doesn't suggest speed cameras are having a dramatic effect.
Supporters of speed cameras disagree, pointing to significant falls in accidents at accident black spots and rightly arguing even one life saved justifies the use of a camera.
But the indiscriminate use has caused concern at all levels, including among rank and file police officers, who fear it is driving motorists away from their support for the work of the police.
Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, recently told a police conference: 'Speeding is a serious offence, and there is no doubt that cameras have a role to play in reducing accidents at dangerous junctions and accident blackspots, but the camera should be one weapon in the police weaponry rather than the entire arsenal.
'Many police officers feel that public confidence in them is being undermined by an over concentration on camera enforcement.'
Looking at your own fleet experience, do you believe speed cameras, including mobile units, have been effective at improving road safety?
'They cause erratic driving, people slow down and then speed up when past the camera, they are supposed to be situated in accident blackspots but in my experience few actually are.'
'I don't have any hard and fast evidence, but my belief is that speed cameras are there because they generate income.'
'I do not think speed cameras have improved road safety in my fleet. On a personal note, I do not have a problem with speed cameras. In certain locations eg: schools etc, they have a serious part to play. However, all these speed-reducing ideas are only treating the symptom.
'In every walk of life, one is given training, which continues throughout one's life. In the driving field, however, once you have passed a very basic test at 30mph, you are tossed out into the real world with no further training required.
'My opinion is that training should be improved with a compulsory, post L test until a suitable level is attained such as the Institute of Advanced Drivers test. If we keep simply fining people, the problem will not go away, nor will the situation improve.'
Transport & Ground Equipment Manager, Channel Express (Air Services)
'In the majority of cases they are still sited to maximise revenue and in areas where there have been few reported accidents. The reduction in the number of police patrols has also prejudiced road safety as dangerous driving in most cases is not picked up on cameras.'
Group Accountant, CPiO
'Yes, but but I would like to see them advertised, rather than used covertly. Admittedly, speeding is breaking the law but this sort of tactic is destroying the relationship between the driver and the police.
'What about the scenario, say on an unfamiliar road, where a reduced speed limit has been enforced and the signs enforcing it have been covered by the hedgerows or a tree? You just don't stand a chance.'
'They have contributed nothing and only served to create a 'concertina' effect in built up areas.
'On the open road, drivers who are driving safely for the conditions, leaving safe braking distances and who may be exceeding the national limit by only a small margin are being punished for doing what virtually every police officer, magistrate, judge or MP has done on a regular basis.
'The fact that these cameras are generating substantial sums of money does make drivers question their true purpose. The failure of the cameras to effect any meaningful reduction in the number of serious accidents only serves to reinforce the perception that they are being installed in the wrong locations, for the wrong reasons.
'Some recently published research suggested poor statistical correlation between the investment in cameras, and the reduction of accidents.
'However, this may well have been the result of a supposed earlier policy of selection of camera locations to maximise prosecutions.
'If location selection criteria could be changed so that cameras are sited only to guard known danger spots there is, in my opinion, a fairly good chance that the return on investment in terms of accident statistics will improve.
'Unfortunately, in the case of speed cameras, political thinking seems as usual to be negatively aligned toward punishment. Assuming that no one really wants to be involved in an accident, would it not be better if all known accident blackspots were to be properly identified by way of suitably powerful road signs so that we'd all know that extra care was appropriate?'
'We have a few company car drivers who have several points on their licence due to speeding offences. However, none of them have ever been involved in an accident. Although I realise this does not make them good drivers, it proves that speed is not necessarily the main cause of road traffic accidents.'
Fleet manager, King UK
'Although we operate a strict manner of dealing with speeding drivers, the speed camera situation does seem to have grown out of control. Traffic calming measures are a better way of limiting speed.'
'An emphatic no. Road safety is the excuse tendered to collect more money from the poor motorist – probably more a personal opinion rather than company but I don't know many that disagree.'
'I believe they would be far more effective if safety was the paramount consideration and not potential revenue. We have a number of examples in the vicinity of our offices which endorse this belief.'
Company secretary, Seco Tools (UK)
'All they are doing is having an adverse effect on road safety as we are now looking for speed cameras instead of concentrating on driving.'
Company Secretary, Lancaster Partners
'No. The vast majority of our fleet accidents, and we run a large fleet of commercial vehicles, are not speed related. They're mostly due to parking and manoeuvering errors, the kind which are almost inevitable when large vehicles are involved in inner city multi-drop activities.
'In my view speed cameras certainly would work if they were used as they were designed to be used.
'Ask yourself when was the last time you saw a speed camera on the approach road to a hospital or school or old peoples' home. We have all noticed the severe reduction in numbers of traffic police on the motorways and this is having a detrimental effect not only with driver attitude but also with increased time spent queuing because of accidents.
'The solution is simple, site the cameras as they were designed to be used. Then significantly increase the penalties and get the police back onto our roads and motorways and let them do what they are paid to do.'
Telewest Broadband, Fleet Services (South)
'Drivers are becoming paranoid about picking up speeding offences and consequent penalty points to the detriment of their general driving.
'Unfortunately, as a result of the siting of more than 5,000 cameras around the country, the relationship between the ordinary motorist and the police has deteriorated and will only get worse unless some action is taken to address the situation.
Business services manager, LEO Pharma