Cameras can’t go fast enough

The prospect of thousands of speed cameras being removed from their pedestals and recycled into something useful is one that will delight thousands of experienced motorists.

In a typical piece of “unbiased” reporting, my local BBC station, Smug East, reacted to this news by interviewing the partnership leader whose job depends on the cameras (amazingly, he wanted to keep them) and quoting the ubiquitous Brake, who always say the same thing, whatever the question is. I suppose it saves research time.

As usual the strong arguments against cameras remained unexpressed. Here they are, in the words of Safe Speed, which has road safety, and not vacuous slogans, at heart.

“The awful tragedy and awful truth is that speed cameras have made the
roads more dangerous by replacing effective policies, by distorting
priorities, distracting drivers, damaging the public-police relationship, giving us false safety messages about speed, pretending that the speed limit gives a safety limit irrespective of conditions and taking away valuable and important thinking time.”

The disappearance of speed cameras is a good thing for road safety, but it is not the best thing. The best thing would be a complete reassessment of speed limits by people who are qualified to assess them (and not local residents and councillors). Traffic police, for instance.

If speed limits were accurately and realistically set, it would not matter whether there were cameras or not, because we all know that cameras are designed to catch people who are causing no danger at all.

With realistic speed limits – and this would mean increasing them in most cases, sometimes substantially – experienced drivers would be able to concentrate on what they are doing without worrying about being criminalised by people who ultimately have no interest in good driving.

Camera partnership leaders say quite openly that while they are happy
to run speed cameras and criminalise people, they have no idea – and don’t care – if the limits are properly set and appropriate to justify their cameras and their tickets in the first place. “It is not our business,” they say.

Of course not. Their business is raking in fines and getting drivers off the road.

Let’s hope the removal of incentives to install speed cameras is just the first step on the road to real road safety. It is one cut we can be thankful for.