Speed Cameras - it's all over bar the shouting
If vehicle activated signs are three times more effective, why do we need any speed cameras?


Less than a year ago we believed that speed cameras could be used "properly", to improve UK road safety. But what a year it has been. The public has turned against cameras in large numbers, confidence in the Police has been damaged, and an important TRL report tells us without any doubt that there's a cheaper more effective alternative to cameras in areas of danger.

Speed cameras have no future in the UK. They all have to go, and they all have to go soon. We set out why below.

Speed Camera policy has failed

After a decade of speed cameras on UK roads, the overall road safety results have been terrible. The fatal accident rate has had by far its worse decade ever. (click here) Vehicle speeds are virtually unchanged. (see the DfT "VSGB" reports (click here)).

It is not inconceivable that speed cameras could have been used in a way that would have improved road safety - but they have not been. The results are crystal clear. 

Distraction Effect

One major problem with speed cameras that Safe Speed has brought to the fore in the debate is the distraction effect. Whenever a driver is looking out for a speed camera he is paying less attention to the road ahead. This happens even where no speed camera is present - there only has to be a risk of a speed camera before driver are distracted in this way. Since driver attention is at the very core of our road safety system, it's hardly surprising that any distraction can produce dangerous effects. We don't any longer believe that it is safe to allow a single speed camera to remain.

Read more about: (driver inattention) and (speed camera effects).

Public Support

Despite official claims that there's huge public support for speed cameras, we simply don't believe it. It's almost impossible to visit a pub these days without hearing someone having a jolly good moan about speed cameras and speed camera policy. It's high time that the Government admitted that there's a full scale public revolt not far away.

Such public support as still exists is largely built on lies and misinformation. Some members of the public may believe that one third of roads fatalities are caused by "speeding motorists", but too many people are finding out that it was just a lie.

There's no better way to destroy confidence than to be caught lying. This is just what's happened.

Confidence in the Police

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that speed cameras have badly affected the relationship between the public and the Police. That's one hell of a price to pay, when there's no visible road safety benefit (quite the opposite in fact). Chief Constables are backing away from the system and so they should.

Our Police have long been the envy of the World - are we really going to give that up for the sake of a fatally flawed road safety policy?

A great deal of damage has already been done. It may even be irreparable. It is extremely urgent that we act to stop the damage and restore confidence. 

Flawed Concept

Very few accidents have ever been been caused by normal motorists exceeding a speed limit so, it's hardly surprising that efforts to enforce speed limits are not reducing accidents. Read what the Chief Constable of Durham was reported as saying:

Mr Garvin explained: "I actually believe in casualty reduction and trying to make the roads safer but, having looked at the accident statistics in this area, we find that if you break down the 1,900 collisions we have each year only three per cent involve cars that are exceeding the speed limit. Just 60 accidents per year involve vehicles exceeding the speed limit. 

"You then need to look at causes of these 60 accidents. Speed may be a factor in the background but the actual cause of the accident invariably is drink-driving or drug-driving. Drug-taking is becoming more of a problem. In 40 per cent of fatal road accidents in this area one or more of the people involved have drugs in their system." 

Many accidents were caused by fatigue, although one of the most common causes of crashes was the failure of drivers to watch out for oncoming vehicles when turning right. "The cause of accidents is clearly something different than exceeding the speed limit and we ought to be looking at those other factors," Mr Garvin said.

If normal motorists speeding isn't causing accidents, then it has clearly been utter folly to base a road safety policy on a problem that does not exist. But that's exactly what we've done. We have done it because people in and around Government have a series of oversimplified and mistaken beliefs. (click here)
Superior Alternatives

If there was something that was proven to be three times more effective than a speed camera at slowing vehicles down in an area of danger, what possible reason could we find for installing a speed camera?

The fact is that vehicle activated speed warning signs have been the subject of a large scale study and were found to be three times more effective. Who needs a speed camera, when there's a better alternative?

Don't just take our word for it, read it in the TRL's own words, and in great detail. (click here)

If vehicle activated signs are three times more effective, why do we need any speed cameras?

Addicted to cash

We have camera partnerships set up all over the country. Technically they are Quangos (Quasi Autonomous Non Governmental Organisations). They have local authority style management ,and we should not be surprised to learn that many are expanding their operations to absorb the entire available budget. These quangos are addicted to the income from speed cameras, and will put up one hell of a fight to maintain their own existance. This is completely against the sound principle of making impartial judgements about road safety. Even though cameras are failing to cut the road toll, it is impossible to get a camera partnership to admit the possibility that they themselves are part of the problem. Any impartial commentator would consider the possibility impartially.

The camera partnerships have our road safety in a stranglehold, and they must be disbanded to break their grip.

Confidence in road safety policy

If the

False messages

If the

Vested interests

If the

Summary and conclusions

Speed cameras have had terrible effects on overall road safety, and public confidence has been destroyed. Presently they are thought to be issuing some 8,000 speeding tickets each day, and many of those tickets will be a lost vote for any political party that does not pledge to put the system right.

The final nail in the speed camera coffin was probably setting up the Camera Partnerships. Something like 75% of the public now apparently believe that the system is about revenue not safety.

The greedy partnerships routinely lie about road safety results by quoting selected and small areas statistics in an attempt to delude the public that their jobs are worth preserving. These lies have further destroyed public confidence in the system. A particular problem with this is that the Police are seen as being a part to the lies.

Most drivers who are caught in these traps are fully aware that their speed was safe and appropriate at the time of the so-called offence. Is it any wonder that they feel they have been mugged?

What political party would dare to go into the next election, due in mid 2005, without trying to restore public confidence?

The partnerships must be disbanded and the cameras must be removed. No exceptions. They have had their chance and they have failed. They have no future. It's simply a matter of time. It had better be quick.

Camera Meltdown Countdown

Safe Speed maintains the speed camera "doomsday clock". We regularly assess the state of speed camera public acceptability (based on knowledge and on press reports) and we forecast the length of time that UK motorists must continue to endure flawed and dangerous speed camera operations. We call our clock the "Camera Meltdown Countdown" and it is always visible on the first page of the Safe Speed web site. (click here) The number of days is not particularly literal, but over the last 6 months the meltdown has clearly moved very much closer. 


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We have also set up an opinion poll asking the question:

How many speed cameras should we have?

  • Many more than at present
  • More than at present
  • we already have about the right number
  • Fewer than at present
  • Very few at special sites
  • None at all
(click here) to see the poll or to vote. (simple forum registration required to vote)

Let's make speed cameras as unacceptable as drink driving

We have a strict editorial policy regarding factual content. If any fact anywhere on this web site can be shown to be incorrect we promise to remove it or correct it as soon as possible.
Copyright © SafeSpeed 2004
Created 15/03/2004. Last update 9/04/2004