First it was Swindon. Then Oxfordshire. Now the movement against speed cameras is spreading throughout the Kingdom. While councils spend money on the cameras the fines collected go to central Government – so they are certainly not a money spinner for Town Halls. But the pressure to save money is prompting a rigorous look at whether they reduce accidents. My view is they don't.

The Daily Mail reports:

Northamptonshire has also switched off eight of their 42 cameras and Somerset is to axe nine of its 26 traps in coming weeks. Buckinghamshire has also said it is ‘very likely’ to switch off its cameras, while Bedfordshire, Suffolk and Derbyshire have launched reviews.

Kent is "reviewing their effectiveness", Gloucestershire has already stopped spending money on new cameras.

In Surrey they "may be scrapped." In Essex they could be "switched off for good." In Lancashire they are also under review. As they are in Chester.

What are the politics of speed cameras? Councils will make their own evaluation of the evidence – although they should be careful of leaving the decision to those whose jobs depends on keeping the cameras going. Many Conservatives will be instinctively more sceptical of the cameras due to our trust the people philosophy – while Labour and the Lib Dems with their nanny state outlook will be more reluctant to see them go. However this is not entirely a party political issue.

The Express and Star reports:

Councillor Ian Jones, Labour-led Sandwell’s transport chief, said: “We have 25 stationary speed cameras in the borough. We’re having to look at the cameras because of the knock-on effects of the budget cuts.”

Councillor Tom Ansell, transport chief at Tory controlled Walsall Council said: “I don’t think they do a good job. They don’t catch drink drivers and they provide an excuse for the police not to be out
doing the job.

“We’re looking at this closely and will consider switching them off. However, it costs £5,000 to remove a speed camera and we would not get any extra funding to do that.”

While the Western Mail reports support even from the Lib Dems for cutting speed cameras in Wales:

Cardiff Central AM Jenny Randerson, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on transport, said yesterday that some speed cameras did little to reduce road accidents.

“There are some that are completely irrelevant and not serving a useful purpose and there are others that have been put into place at major accident black spots and have done a very good job,” Mrs
Randerson said.

On the other hand there some some Conservative Councils that have made a firm decision to keep speed cameras. They including Northamptonshire and Leicestershire. Labour run Coventry has also decided to keep them.

I hope Councils reviewing the cameras will look at this interesting new piece of evidence from car insurers LV. Their press release is as follows:

New research from car insurer LV= reveals that many motorists admit to behaving erratically in front of speed cameras with thousands confessing to slamming on the brakes or looking at their speedometer as soon as a camera comes into view.

This erratic behaviour could be leading to the number of accidents which occur around speed cameras with the research showing that at least 28,000 [1] road accidents have been triggered by speed cameras since 2001, as motorists slow down ahead of them and then speed up once they are clear.

Among all motorists, eight in ten (81%) said they instantly look at their speedometers instead of the road when a camera comes into view and one in twenty (5%) admitted to braking suddenly, risking losing control of their vehicle or causing a rear-end shunt from the vehicle behind.

Rear-end shunts are the third [2] most common type of car crash and blame is nearly always attributed to the driver who hits the rear of the car behind. Nearly one in three motorists (31%) said they had witnessed an accident or near miss as a result of other drivers’ erratic behaviour when faced with a speed camera.

Despite over 6,000 speed cameras across the UK [3] , more than nine in ten drivers (91%) admit to going over the speed limit, with one in seven (15%) speeding on a regular basis. Motorways see the highest proportion of speeding drivers, with close to three quarters (69%) of motorists travelling at an average speed of 81 miles per hour. Less than one in ten (9%) motorists said they never speed.

Many drivers are sceptical as to the impact of speed cameras on motorist behaviour. Close to half of motorists (46%) believe they divert attention away from other areas of their driving, while one in ten (11%) claim that speed cameras increase their risk of an accident.

Motorists are also cynical about the reasons for speed camera implementation, with close to half of drivers (46%) believing them to exist only as a revenue raiser for the Government.

John O’Roarke, managing director of LV= car insurance, said: “Speed cameras have been a feature on UK roads for almost 20 years, yet the feedback from drivers is that while they may reduce speed they also appear to impair driving ability or at the least concentration on the road. As this report shows some drivers behave erratically and at worst dangerously around speed cameras.

“When driving it’s important to maintain a constant speed within the legal limits on the road. Excessive speed contributes to 12% of all injury collisions, and we’d encourage drivers to stick to all speed limits and not wait for a camera to reduce their speed suddenly.”

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