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Department for Transport,
Local Government and the Regions

Cost Recovery System for Traffic Safety Cameras
First Year Report

Executive Summary

comments added in red by Safe Speed. original document here

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1. Background

Enforcement cameras were first introduced into the UK in 1991. A number of research studies have proved that they are an extremely effective mechanism for reducing road casualties. A cost-benefit analysis in 1996[1] showed that cameras paid for themselves five times in the first year of operation alone, once the full benefits to society are considered ~ including to the Health Service.

But without accounting for increased journey times for millions of travellers, and depending upon wildly optimistic accident reduction figures.

There is an established relationship between reducing speed and reducing collisions: research by TRL[2] in 1993 showed that just a 1mph reduction in speed reduces collisions by 5%. This figure has now been validated in a more recent study in 2000 also by TRL[3].

Both reports are seriously flawed.

In December 1998, the then DETR, Home Office and Treasury agreed that fine income from speed and red light cameras could be used to fund additional camera enforcement - a recommendation from the original 1996 report. This process was termed hypothecation, although 'netting off' is a more technically correct term and will be used in this summary.

Because of the complexity of the arrangements needed to make netting-off work, it was decided to pilot the approach in a number of areas. The pilot aimed to demonstrate how best to develop a workable relationship between local partnerships comprising local police forces, highways authorities, magistrates' courts and, where appropriate, the Highways Agency.

In 1999 thirteen areas submitted bids to pilot the scheme and eight were selected reflecting a balance of geographies, casualty problems and also different approaches to enforcement. The areas chosen were Cleveland, Essex, Lincolnshire, Nottingham, Northamptonshire, South Wales, Strathclyde and Thames Valley.

These pilots went live in April 2000 and the pilots have been monitored against a number of criteria. The main criteria are:

    Speed and casualty ~ can the partnerships demonstrate an effect on speed and casualties in camera locations?

    Public acceptance ~ does the public acknowledge that the primary reason for speed and red-light cameras is road safety?

    Red light cameras and speed cameras will be lumped together because we know that public acceptance for red light cameras is good.

    Financial aspects ~ have the financial arrangements worked without distorting operational priorities?

This document is an executive summary of the full report from the first year of operation. The full report will be published in October 2001, once all of the casualty figures have been validated against Road Accidents Great Britain (RAGB) 2000 statistics.

2. Effect on speed

As mentioned earlier, a 1mph reduction in speed equates to around a 5% reduction in collisions. This section reviews the success of the pilot in reducing speed at camera enforcement sites.

But we know that the TRL reports claiming such reductions are flawed to say the least.

In order to monitor the effect of enforcement on speeding, surveys were conducted both before and at various intervals after the introduction of cameras. Data was collected at over 100 of the camera sites and involved over 800 separate speed surveys throughout the year.

These demonstrate that cameras do reduce speed and a consequential reduction in casualties should be expected.

    On average the percentage of drivers exceeding the speed limit at pilot camera sites reduced from 55% to 16%.

    Excess speed (more than 15mph over the speed limit) at camera sites has virtually been eliminated. The percentage of drivers exceeding the speed limit by more than 15mph at camera sites has reduced from an average of 5% before enforcement to just 1% afterwards.

    The increase in enforcement is reducing the average speed at these sites. Average speed at the camera sites has reduced on average by 5.6mph. We would, therefore, expect to see a reduction in collisions in these high-risk sites of around 30% (based on 1mph reduction in speed = 5% reduction in collisions).

We can be sure that there will be no such reduction at typical sites. We can also reasonably guess that all the trial sites have been very carefully selected to ensure the very best effects from the presence of cameras.

3. Effect on casualties

The 1996 cost benefit study, referred to earlier, proved that speed cameras reduced casualties by around 28% (red-light cameras by 18%) at camera sites. The eight pilot areas have been monitored to assess whether or not they could demonstrate a similar reduction in casualties.

The principal measure of the success of the pilots is whether or not there is evidence that casualties have fallen in the camera sites. The camera sites were selected on the basis of their speed related casualty history. All areas collected three years worth of data on the number of personal injury collisions (PIC) and the number of people killed and seriously injured (KSI) in the three years prior to the start of the pilot and subsequently - see Appendix A for definitions. This has been used to compare the number of actual collisions and casualties experienced once the cameras were introduced with those expected (based on an average for three previous years). Results are summarised below.

Note that by selecting sites for speed related accidents they are giving themselves the best chance of success. Of course the results will be completely invalid if applied to general sites in the future

3.1 Effect on casualties in the immediate vicinity of the cameras

All areas were required to identify the total number of KSI's and PIC's in the three year period in the immediate vicinity of the cameras. The number of casualties and collisions has been monitored over the first full year of the pilot. Before and after casualty data has been analysed for over 250 sites.

We should be extremely cautious about the meaning of "immediate vicinity". This is an easy area for adjustment of the figures.

Results for the camera sites have been very positive.

    On average there were 35% fewer collisions at camera sites (compared to 28% in 1996 report). This means there were 379 fewer collisions at the selected sites as a result of increased enforcement. This represents a reduction in the number of collisions of 1.5 collisions per site. (implies approximately 570 sites)

    Since minor accidents do not need to be reported, how do they claim to have counted "collisions"? With only 1.5 collisions per site, we need to know how many sites showed an increase in collisions too. We can be quite sure that some did.

    On average there were 47% fewer people killed and seriously injured at the camera sites. On the basis of historical trend data it is estimated there were 109 fewer people killed or seriously injured as a result of increased enforcement. Evidence from South Wales and Cleveland also indicate that the initiative has been particularly successful in reducing casualties among those most at risk from road collisions - children and pedestrians.

    Wait a minute. "those most at risk"? What weazel words are these? Many more vehicle occupants are killed and seriously injured than pedestrians.

    If this is real evidence, why does it only come from 2 out of 6 trial areas?

    "On the basis of historical trend data" means they are following the upwards curves of recent years in the trial areas. We don't know why those areas showed upwards curves when the rest of the UK showed slightly downwards curves. It isn't fair or reasonable to make the extrapolation with properly explaining why the trial areas are exceptional.

    Why are they quoting 47% and not a number of people? Just how many people is this? Obviously a small number or they would be quoting it.

    Using DTLR figures it is possible to estimate that £27m has been saved by the reduction of casualties and collisions at safety camera sites.

    Without accounting for delays as usual

On the evidence collected to date, the cameras are having a substantial impact - particularly in those areas that have a particular speed and casualty problem. This strengthens the accepted wisdom that cameras should be located in high-speed, high-risk sites and the importance of getting the enforcement strategy right at the start.

3.2 Effect on casualties in the wider partnership area

It was not expected that a crackdown on speeding at certain casualty black spots would have an immediate effect on casualties in the partnership area as a whole (as opposed to specific camera sites). However, taken together, the pilot areas demonstrate a decline in both casualties and collisions. Not all of this should be claimed as a direct result of the additional camera enforcement ~ most areas had a strategy that comprised education and engineering as well as enforcement. However, at least some of the decrease is likely to be attributable to cameras and associated publicity.
    In total, the number of people killed and seriously injured in the eight pilot areas is down by 18%

    This is one area where they are cheating even more than usual. The Northamptonshire, Linconshire, Essex and Cleveland had very bad figures in 1999. It's a good guess that these figures would have improved due to statistical variation in 2000 anyway.

    The total number of collisions in the eight pilot areas is down by 6%.

    Initial comparison with published RAGB data on the first nine months of the pilot (April to December 2001) suggests that the pilot areas are showing a reduction in fatal and serious injuries which is twice that for the rest of the UK.

    Which isn't surprising since these areas happened (by an amazing coincidence of course) to have bad figures in 1999.

There is some evidence that the cameras are having a positive effect beyond the immediate areas where the cameras are operating, although this should not be overstated. i.e. the evidence is so weak as to be unsupportable.

However, it is certainly clear that camera enforcement is having a substantial positive impact on the collision black spots targeted. 

4. Local reaction to increase in enforcement

We are pretty sure that the acceptability survey lumped together both speed and red light cameras. This is a bizarre move intended to make us believe that speed cameras are acceptable.

In 1999 a DETR research paper was published that measured public perception to speed cameras (Road Safety Research Report No.11: The effects of speed cameras: how drivers respond). This included a self-completion questionnaire that asked a number of questions regarding drivers perception of speed cameras. They were asked whether or not they agreed with a number of statements.

By and large, results then indicated that the public was generally supportive. One of the risks of the increase in enforcement was that public reaction could change and some pilot areas carried out public surveys to monitor whether or not this was the case. To make comparisons between the pilots and the original research, partnerships included a series of standard questions.
Previous survey
Thames Valley
Average of new surveys
"Fewer accidents are likely to happen on roads where cameras are installed" (% agree)
"Cameras mean that dangerous drivers are now more likely to get caught" (% agree)
"Cameras are an easy way of making money out of motorists" (% agree)
"Cameras are meant to encourage drivers to keep to the limits, not punish them" (% agree)

These surveys do not reflect other surveys. Unless we know the exact questions and the context we should treat the results with extreme caution. It also seems that these surveys included red light cameras.

    In summary, there has been little adverse reaction locally to the fact that the partnerships were retaining the fines from cameras to reinvest in their operation. In fact, most people presumed this was the case already.

    The number of requests received from the public for cameras to be introduced in their area has substantially exceeded the number of complaints about their operation.

    Of course we've spent millions on lying to the public about the dangers of speed, so this is to be expected.

    Local press coverage has been monitored in terms of the number of inches of positive, negative and neutral coverage. Partnerships have been proactive in informing the public about the camera locations and as a result around 90% of press coverage has been positive (4% negative and 6% neutral).


On balance the majority of the public in local partnership areas appears to be supportive of cameras, especially if the reasons for their use are well communicated and they are highly visible.

Really? How many of these cameras were highly visible?

5. Financial aspects

It was important when setting up the systems for 'netting off' that arrangements were put in place to prevent potential abuse. Detailed rules about participating in the scheme were developed and these have been adhered to throughout.

In summary, the rules for the pilot were as follows:

    Pilots should be made up of the local highway authorities, the courts and the police.

    Only the cost of enforcing speed and red-light cameras was considered to be an allowable expenditure at this stage - the rules were set out in a handbook which detailed what was considered to be allowable expenditure.

    See that: "red light cameras".

    No organisation is allowed to make a 'profit' out of the scheme. Any surplus of fine income over costs incurred has to be returned to the Treasury.

    Thereby ensuring that the government gets the largest cut.

    All cameras should be located in casualty black spots with a history of speed-related collisions.

    Thereby making the chances of "success" of the pilot scheme far greater.

    Speed surveys should be conducted prior to camera operation to prove that speeding is a problem at each site.

    i.e. Proving that there is income potential.

    At the end of the year partnerships are subject to a full audit by the district auditor. This will examine how the money has been spent. Failure to receive a clean audit certificate could result in removal of the privilege to retain the funds.

    And who gets the money in this case? The Government.

    Three trial audits have been conducted to ensure that the rules are being adhered to. District auditors are currently reviewing the end of year accounts for the eight areas. Any lessons learned from this exercise will be used to inform any further partnerships joining the scheme.

There is no evidence to suggest that operational priorities have been distorted in any way (eg. that the scheme has been used to 'make money' from the motorist). Mechanisms are in place to identify any abuse and the lessons learned from the pilot areas will be used to inform any subsequent rollout of the scheme. As a result of experiences in the pilot areas, the rules for national rollout have been refined and it is expected that this will help build on the successes achieved to date. 


Appendix A - Definitions

Personal Injury Collisions - A crash involving personal injury occurring on the public highway (including footways) in which a road vehicle is involved and which becomes known to the police within 30 days of its occurrence. One crash may give rise to several casualties. Damage-only crashes are not included in these figures.

Killed - Human casualties who sustained injuries which caused death less than 30 days after the crash.

Serious Injury - An injury for which the person is detained in hospital as an in-patient, or any of the following injuries whether or not the casualty is detained in hospital: fractures, concussion, internal injuries, crushings, severe cuts and lacerations, severe general shock requiring medical treatment and injuries causing death 30 or more days after the crash.

Slight Injury - An injury of a minor character such as a sprain, bruise or cut which are not judged to be severe, or slight shock requiring roadside attention. This definition includes injuries not requiring medical treatment.

[1] Hooke A, Knox J and Portas D (1996). Cost Benefit Analysis of Traffic Light and Speed Cameras. Police Research Series Paper 20, Police Research Group, Home Office, London.

[2] Finch D J, Kompfner P, Lockwood C R and Maycock G (1994). Speed, Speed Limits and Accidents. Project Report 58, Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), Crowthorne.

[3] Taylor MC, Lynam DA and Baruya A (2000). The effects of drivers' speed on the frequency of road accidents. Report 421, TRL, Crowthorne.

Published 13 August 2001 
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