Fleet News

Speed cameras: fleet scourge or a necessary safety feature?

##SpeedWise--left## SAY cheese – you're on camera. A sudden double-flash in your rear view mirror is an experience that millions of drivers in the UK have experienced over the past few years, along with either anger, or resignation to three points being added to their licences.

But for fleet decision-makers, there is a growing risk that key employees with immense responsibility within their companies will end up banned from the driving seat because they can't stay within the speed limit.

Government figures produced recently show that 58% of motorists exceeded 30mph speed limits last year, with 25% travelling faster than 35mph. On 40mph roads, 27% of cars exceeded the limit, with 10% exceeding 45mph.

A total of 57% of motorists exceeded motorway speed limits, with the number travelling faster than 80mph rising slightly, from about 18% between 1998 and 2002 to 20% in 2003.

The Government view is clear: speed kills. As a result, it has produced adverts showing that even going more than 5mph over the speed limit in towns can mean the difference between life and death for a pedestrian. Consequently, different methods have been given the green light for reducing speed in recent years, from wider use of lower speed limits to the increasingly controversial use of speed cameras.

In one way the approach is working, as more drivers than ever have experienced the sudden surge of adrenalin caused by a Gatso going off. 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.

But are drivers learning not to speed?

Fleet decision-makers don't seem to think so, as they recently dismissed claims that speed cameras are important road safety devices.

When asked 'Do you believe speed cameras, including mobile units, have been effective at improving road safety on your own fleet?', 71% of businesses said 'no'.

Supporters of speed cameras disagree, pointing to significant falls in accidents at accident blackspots and rightly arguing even one life saved justifies the use of a camera (see below – The Case For).

But their indiscriminate use has caused concern at all levels, including among rank and file police officers, who fear it is reducing motorists' 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.'

The case against...

Death crash rise proves that Gatso cameras are not working, says the ABD. THE Association of British Drivers represents a growing number of motorists who are fed up with speed restrictions.

Among their arguments is the fact that road deaths increased last year, despite a massive increase in speed cameras (Fleet NewsNet June 24).

The ABD argues that the amount a driver exceeds a limit by is not the crucial issue. What matters is how fast he or she is driving in relation to the road conditions at the time.

ABD road safety spokesman Mark McArthur-Christie said: 'A driver travelling at 45mph on an empty road at 2am could be causing far less danger than one doing 35mph at a busy time, perhaps past a school or in a shopping area. The same applies to a driver travelling at 100mph on a quiet motorway. Compared to a driver doing 70mph in fog or spray, he may be infinitely safer.'

ABD chairman Brian Gregory said: 'The Government needs to sack the social engineers who are creating these daft ideas and replace them with road safety experts, perhaps from a traffic policing background.

'Then perhaps we could begin to get a speed enforcement regime that would be focused on safety and bear relation to danger caused by the offender rather than being based upon irrelevant numerical values.'

The case for...

Results show that cameras do work

SPEED cameras work. That is the official Government view following investigations stretching back more than a year.

A new report recently released analysed 24 areas that were operating over the past three years (April 2000 to March 2003).

The results were revealing. Vehicle speeds at speed camera sites had dropped by around 7% following the introduction of cameras.

At new sites, there was a 32% reduction in vehicles breaking the speed limit.

At fixed sites, there was a 71% reduction and at mobile sites there was a 21% reduction.

Overall, the proportion of vehicles speeding excessively (ie 15mph more than the speed limit) fell by 80% at fixed camera sites, and 28% at mobile camera sites.

There was a 33% reduction in personal injury collisions (PICs) at sites where cameras were introduced.

Overall, this meant that 40% fewer people were killed or seriously injured. At camera sites, there was also a reduction of more than 100 fatalities a year (40% fewer).

There were 870 fewer people killed or seriously injured and 4,030 fewer personal injury collisions a year. There was a clear correlation between reductions in speed and reductions in PICs. In the third year, the DfT estimated the benefits to society from the avoided injuries were in excess of £221 million, compared to enforcement costs of around £54 million. And it says the public supported the use of safety cameras for targeted enforcement.

This was evidenced by public attitude surveys, both locally and at a national level.

A DfT spokesman said: 'There are frequent media reports that maintain an anti-camera myth about the purpose of cameras being to raise revenue. The DfT routinely takes a robust approach to tackling such misleading coverage.

The one and only purpose of safety cameras is to reduce road casualties.

They are not about raising money – they are about changing driver behaviour. The best camera is one that does not issue a single ticket.'

The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents supports this view. Surveys commissioned around camera sites show 79% of people agree that 'the use of safety cameras should be supported as a method of reducing casualties'.

At total of 68% of those questioned agree that the primary use of cameras is to save lives. Furthermore, 67% of people agreed that 'cameras mean that dangerous drivers are now more likely to get caught'.

However, 40% of people agreed that 'cameras are an easy way of making money out of motorists'. But, alternatively, 82% of people agreed that 'cameras are meant to encourage drivers to keep to the limits, not punish them'.

A spokesman for RoSPA said: 'Ultimately, cameras only catch drivers and riders who exceed the legal speed limit and so endanger their own and other's lives.'

Darling stands by strategy

TRANSPORT Secretary Alistair Darling is sticking by speed cameras.

Speaking after the release of casualty data and detailed lists of camera sites, he said the research justified the use of cameras.

He said: 'These figures prove that cameras save lives. The number of people speeding has come down and there has been a significant reduction in deaths and injuries at camera sites.

'Up to 10 people are killed on our roads each day. We owe it to them and their families to do everything we can to improve road safety even further.

'Most camera sites have achieved good results. We will be asking the partnerships where results were not as good as other sites to see what more could be done to achieve the greatest casualty reductions.

'We've published the location of every site where a camera may be used.

These show why the cameras were installed and the effect they have had on casualties. The vast majority have delivered real benefits in safety and prove that the cameras are justified and they're effective.'

  • The table below shows estimates of the combined effect on Killed and Seriously Injured (KSI) of cameras operating under cost recovery for at least 18 months, by partnership area.

    Effect on KSIs by county

    Cambridgeshire - 55%
    Derbyshire - 17%
    Lancashire - 58%
    Lincolnshire - 18%
    Norfolk - 56%
    North Wales - 68%
    Northamptonshire - 46%
    Nottingham (City) - 33%
    Staffordshire - 30%
    Strathclyde - 34%
    Thames Valley - 43%
    Warwickshire - 42%

    *Although Cleveland and Essex had reductions in the frequency of KSIs at camera sites, there was insufficient data for the model to produce reliable estimates for these areas

    Speeding: the facts

  • Two out of three accidents where people are killed or injured happen on roads where the speed limit is 40mph or less

  • Seven out of 10 drivers admit that they regularly break the 30mph speed limit

  • An average family car travelling at 35mph will need an extra 21 feet (six metres) to stop than one travelling at 30mph

  • If you hit a cyclist or pedestrian at 35mph rather than 30mph, the force of the impact increases by more than a third

  • A change in the mean speed of traffic will affect accident risk and each reduction in mean speed of 1 mph will reduce accident frequency by about 5%

  • Slowing the fastest drivers will yield the greatest safety benefits

  • It is not safer to drive faster at night. Casualty rates are double that during daylight hours due to higher speeds because of less traffic, higher alcohol consumption, tiredness and darkness

  • Every driver can make a difference just by slowing down a few miles per hour and observing speed limits
    Source: DfT

    Your questions answered

    The DfT answers some of the most pressing questions fleet drivers might ask:

  • Why are some cameras placed too close to the change in speed limit sign?
    Speed should be modified by the time a vehicle reaches the posted limit. All camera sites are visible from a distance. Once past a speed limit sign, you are required to drive at or below the speed stated.

  • I did not see any camera. How have I been caught?
    The offence may have been captured by the police conducting regular speed checks in unmarked vehicles or using hand-held equipment.
    Local parish councils may have raised a concern regarding the number of drivers speeding in their area, then requested the Police Authority to take some action.
    Not all locations are required to comply with the high visibility enforcement regulations, nor do they have to have a history of people being either killed or seriously injured to be eligible for enforcement action.

  • The photograph was taken from the rear of the car. How do you know I was the driver?
    Once the vehicle has been identified, the law requires the owner to identify the driver. If you were not the driver it is your responsibility to say who was.

  • As the Human Rights Act is now law in England, will it make it impossible for people to incriminate themselves when asked by police who was driving the speeding car?
    No, under section 172 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, the keeper of a vehicle can be required to provide the police with information on who was driving it when certain road traffic offences are committed. It is an offence not to provide the police with such information unless the keeper can show that he or she could not with reasonable diligence have found out.

  • Why don't police forces set their cameras at the same speed threshold?
    It is an operational matter for each chief officer of police to decide at what threshold cameras are set.

  • What if I didn't know what the speed limit was?
    All changes of speed limit must be signed. Drivers must therefore assume the prevailing speed limit does not change unless and until they pass another speed limit sign. Local authorities have a responsibility to ensure speed limits are correctly signed or run the risk of being challenged in the courts.

  • Shouldn't the police enforce speed limits without relying on cameras?
    The police may enforce speed limits using any equipment that has been approved by the Home Office and frequently stop drivers to offer advice about their speed without prosecuting.

  • What is the SPECS system?
    These cameras measure the speed of vehicles between two fixed points and can cover large distances. They are usually suited to urban high-speed roads with serious accident histories. This camera system is the most expensive in terms of initial capital outlay and was first used by Nottingham in the first year of the pilot scheme.

  • Why are some cameras hidden and some not?
    It is not in the interests of local authorities or the police to place cameras that have no effect on reducing casualties.

  • How many accidents are needed at proposed sites for enforcement in order for cameras to be placed?
    Partnerships should use the guideline of four accidents resulting in people being killed or seriously injured over the previous three years at sites they propose to enforce using cameras. This does not preclude cameras being placed at sites that do not meet the guidelines if they contribute to the overall strategy aimed at reducing road accident casualties.

  • Why were cameras coloured at all? Surely if someone is committing a criminal offence they deserve to be caught?
    The purpose of cameras is to dissuade drivers from exceeding speed limits, not to catch them speeding.

  • What are the rules for mobile units?
    Fixed and mobile cameras do not operate under identical visibility rules. Mobile camera units should have a sign placed at the beginning of targeted routes and vehicles associated with mobile enforcement should be in a livery that makes clear they house speed enforcement cameras.

  • Numerous press reports confirm that cameras are placed to raise revenue.
    Media reports on safety cameras are often inaccurate or selective. All relevant research indicates very clearly that where cameras are placed at sites or on routes with a history of speed related accidents, the reduction in collisions resulting in death and serious injury is very substantial.
  • Next week: Is speeding worth it? Testing the limits on important journeys

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