Magazine article The Spectator

Speed Cameras Are Good for You

Magazine article The Spectator

Speed Cameras Are Good for You

Article excerpt

I am beginning to feel a bit lonely among fellow columnists. I do not have a speeding conviction upon which to vent spleen. Maybe one of these days I will notice a flash in my rear-view mirror, followed by a brown envelope in the post, and I will be ranting with the best of them: Simon Jenkins in the Times, Alan Judd in this magazine and almost everyone, every day, in the Daily Telegraph. But somehow I doubt it. I don't seem to have a great deal of trouble adjusting the speed of my Peugeot to limits which, if anything, err rather too much on the liberal side.

The above-mentioned gentlemen represent the civilised end of the anti-camera lobby. There is a more sinister end. Last month Mary Williams, who founded a roadsafety pressure group Brake after her mother and boyfriend were killed by speeding motorists in separate incidents, received death threats via a motorists' website, Pistonheads.com. One user of the site posted a note suggesting that her brake cables be cut; another described her as a witch who should be burned at the stake. Her crime was to appear on television to defend speed cameras. Invited to denounce the comments, Paul Smith, the founder of motorists' pressure group SafeSpeed, remarked, 'Mary Williams is a dangerous character because she supports a fatally flawed policy. The comments made about her are mild reactions, quite frankly.'

Sadly, as with Northern Irish paramilitaries, the government has melted in the face of intimidation from the militant motorists' lobby. Two years ago it ordered police forces to paint their speed cameras bright yellow, thus allowing a reckless motorist the opportunity to slow down for the few yards where the camera is sited before pulling away once more on his murderous passage. Now it is considering another way of appeasing speeding motorists: a Tory suggestion not to put points on the licences of those caught speeding by a camera, which would allow wealthy motorists to treat speeding fines as just another motoring expense. In addition, the government has subjected all new speed cameras to a 'fourcoffin rule'. Under new guidelines, police forces are allowed to use some of the income generated from speeding fines to set up new cameras, but may do so only on stretches of road where there have been at least four deaths or serious injuries within 1.5 kilometres of the site of the proposed camera during the past three years. It is reassuring to know that if little Johnny gets mown down on his way to school, it will take only another three of his classmates to perish before the police are allowed to enforce the motoring laws.

The main arguments of the anti-camera lobby are these: speed cameras can't prevent accidents because, as the Transport Research Laboratory's research paper TRL 323 proves, only 7 per cent of accidents are caused by excessive speed. Speed cameras are really about raising revenue. Worse, the crusade against honest middle-class motorists is diverting policemen from the business of catching 'real' criminals like burglars.

The first argument is fallacious. The purpose of TRL 323 was not to discover how many accidents are caused by speeding but to analyse the way in which policemen had filled in accident report forms. While 'excessive speed' accounted for 7.3 per cent of the factors blamed for accidents, many of the other factors, like 'behaviour - in a hurry', 'aggressive driving' and 'reckless behaviour', were simply speeding by another name. The anticamera lobby chooses to ignore other statistics by the Transport Research Laboratory, which show a 35 per cent reduction in the number of people killed and seriously injured close to the sites of speed cameras. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.