UK-Driving-Secrets. Written by a Traffic Policeman with years of on-the-job experience... it gives Legal tips on all aspects of driving... getting stopped... appealing against various tickets... and taking the fight to Court.

Speed Cameras: Life Savers or Cash Cows? 
I
I

Gatso speed camera.

Introduction.
Lies: damned Lies: and Statistics.
Speed Cameras.
The Speed Issue.
The Measure of Success.
The Bottom Line.
A Viable Alternative?
I
I
Introduction.
I
2008: with the introduction of the 'Gatso' Speed Camera in some 47 different countries we suspect they are going to be in the News for quite some time to come.  In Britain their use is already a very contentious issue which is all set to explode over the next couple of years as various factions take up differing positions.  There are two main opposing groups... 
I
Group 1 consists of... the current Labour Government: a number of Police Forces: Local Authorities: various anti-car Organisations: and possibly, the addition of the EU Transport Commissioner: [who wants to halve Europe's annual road death toll of 40,000 by 2010] all committed to a massive increase in Speed Cameras.  
I
Group 2 consists of... the Conservative Party: various pro-motoring Organisations: a few senior Police Officers: and a number of National Newspapers who are committed to having their numbers reduced and their use restricted to places such as Schools: Hospitals: and known Accident Blackspots.
I
Confusion...  Not surprisingly, all the varying Statistics and arguments leave many ordinary members of the public very confused... unsure what to believe or which group to support.  Every sensible person wants to see the Roads as safe as is humanly possible... but more and more people are coming to view this as just a cynical exercise to raise Revenue.  Britain is now heading down a road that other countries have already tried, without success... so, does this Government think that it can succeed where others have failed?  Is it really a bold political initiative aimed at reducing the Fatality Rate?  Or is it simply another New Labour Stealth-Tax?  Is it a straight forward case of Truth v Spin?  Safety v Revenue?  Or something more complicated?  [See blinkx Videos for more Information and News Stories on this subject.]
I
I
Lies: damned Lies: and Statistics.
I
Truth or Spin?  Unfortunately 'Statistics' can be used to 'prove' almost anything... and the British Labour Government further enhanced their dubious reputation for Spin when they started their 'Trial' on Speed Cameras.  Look at any graph showing the number of road deaths in a small area and the line will go up and down quite dramatically... some years are much worse than others... for no particular reason.  
I
So for their 'Trial' the Government picked out 6 different Policing Areas: [5 Counties... Cleveland: Essex: Lincolnshire: Northamptonshire: Nottinghamshire: + Thames Valley] and by some strange coincidence most of the Areas they selected had just had unusually bad years.  With almost complete certainty, you could say that the following year the total for these 6 Areas would be notably better, even if you did absolutely nothing.  [While the trend for England as a whole was clearly down... the overall trend for these 6 Areas was sharply up.]  Surprise! Surprise! the following year the figures were down... their 'Trial' was a complete success... and this 'proves' that Speed Cameras do save lives.
I
Government Trials...  If the purpose of the Trial was to genuinely find out whether Speed Cameras reduced accidents, it would never have been carried out in such a fashion.  A successful outcome could have been due to... normal Statistical variation: general safety improvements in vehicle construction: physical changes in the road environment throughout the Counties: [i.e. speed humps: roundabouts: traffic lights: by-passes: pedestrian crossings: etc. etc.] unusually good weather: changes in Policing methods: some other road safety campaign: or any combination of the above.  And yet, they loudly proclaim that the entire reduction was due to the introduction of their Speed Cameras.  
I
Of course the 'Trial' proved absolutely nothing! [if you compare the figures against the average for those Counties over the previous decade rather than just the previous year, any perceived improvement disappears.]  There is only one reason you are going to conduct a 'Trial' in such a manner and that is if you have already made up your mind about the outcome.  All the indications are that this was a cynical Trial which was just going to be used to justify a cynical Policy.  
I
  • Result: Truth 0 Spin 1.
I
Example... Essex County: for 2003 they had a massive increase in Speed Cameras: issuing 94,537 Fines: which netted them 5,672,220.  And the Result? in 2002 there were 92 Fatalities: in 2003 there were 116 Fatalities: a rise of 25%.  An unbiased conclusion might be that the Cameras were making no noticeable difference... and it was all a waste of Time and Money.  The Authority's Conclusion? the County obviously needs more Speed Cameras!  Strange how any decrease is due to Speed Cameras... but any increase is nothing to do with Speed Cameras!
I
I
Safety or Revenue?  March 2003: saw the results of a research Project which compared the effectiveness of Speed Cameras to an Electronic Warning Sign: [which are about one fifth of the price.]  The Warning Signs also measure the speed of vehicles... and if necessary will flash up a Warning Sign... saying 'Reduce Speed: 30mph' [or similar.]  This was found to be much more effective at reducing drivers' speed than sending them a Fine through the post a week after the event.  So... are Police Authorities queuing up to use the new Warning Signs... which are more effective... but generate no Revenue?  It would appear not!  
I
  • Result: Safety 0 Revenue 1.
I
Feb, 2008.  The Government say that the number of people Killed or Seriously Injured [KSI] reduced from 79.7 per 100,000 to 54 per 100,000 between 1996 and 2004.  A very significant reduction... which they claim is due to the introduction of Speed Cameras.  However, Hospitals also collect Data on road accidents and their figures are quite different... showing an increase from 88.8 per 100,000 to 90.1 per 100,000.  So who should we believe?  Actual deaths have reduced by about 11% since the introduction of Speed Cameras... but if the number of accidents has not been reduced then this means that serious accidents have become more survivable... and the experts put this down to better safety features on new cars.  Basically, the Government are trying to take the credit for work done by other people.
I

If Government Statistics and Spin are not to be trusted... then what do we know with any degree of certainty?
I
Placements.  Where have they sited these Speed Cameras?  Well... we know for a fact that the 10 most dangerous stretches of road in the country only have 4 cameras between them.  From a survey... [Summer 2003,] we know that there are 33 per cent more cameras on Britain's 50 safest stretches of road than there are on the 50 most dangerous... and we also know that there are many cameras which have been placed at sites that are not particularly dangerous... but generate an enormous amount of Revenue.  A recent survey of London's cameras found that 80 out of 400 had been placed contrary to the Governments own guidelines.  There can only be one explanation for these types of placements!  
I
  • Result: Safety 0 Revenue 1.
I
Visibility.  This is yet another area of contention for the Authorities... if they make a camera highly visible... they slow traffic down... but generate little Revenue.  If they hide a camera... they don't slow vehicles down... but they do produce a good Revenue... so on that basis a camera should be highly visible.  However... there is also a broader counter-argument to consider... if drivers know when they are approaching a camera they can slow down and then immediately speed up again... but if they don't know where the cameras are then they will have to stay under the speed limit all the time.  This is one very debatable aspect of their use... but, the Government has committed itself to making cameras highly visible... although there are still countless examples where the responsible Authorities have deliberately obscured cameras in contravention of Government guidelines.  
I
  • Result: Safety 1 Revenue 2.
I
The Right Problem?  When interviewed, senior Police are always careful to qualify their statements on Speed... using such phrases as excessive Speed... or inappropriate Speed... is a contributing factor in 30% of accidents.  These words may reflect the reality of the situation... but they are not what is being targeted... it is Speed pure and simple... exceeding a Speed Limit!  A Speed Camera never qualifies a prosecution... it is basically, an 'Idiot Box'... it only measures the Speed... it will not and cannot take any other factors into consideration.
I
There are a whole range of serious problems on the roads... by reducing patrols and relying on cameras the Police are neglecting such things as Drink-Driving: Dangerous Driving: Tailgating: Illegal Drivers: etc. which are now on the increase.  If they are concentrating all their efforts on this one issue of Speed then you would at least expect them to do it effectively... but as this has been confined to drivers simply exceeding Speed Limits... then even this is being done badly.  However... it is very easy to understand why they would target this one offence... and rely on cameras... if their primary objective was simply to generate Revenue.  
I
  • Result: Safety 0 Revenue 1.
I
The Right People?  Undoubtedly... the most serious and persistent offenders are those that operate at the very edge of the Law and beyond.  Particularly, those that just buy an old Vehicle and... don't Register it in their own Name or Address: have no MOT: no Insurance: pay no Tax: don't maintain the vehicle: don't pay Fines: may not have a driving licence: and completely ignore any driving Bans.  In the unlikely event that they are stopped they will just give a false Name and Address... or claim that they have only just bought the car.  They are also much more likely to... try and flee the scene of an Accident: or dump a broken down vehicle at the side of the road... leaving others to clear up their mess.  [A recent survey concluded that these drivers are up to nine times more likely to be involved in an accident than drivers who have all their documentation in order.]
I
And what does the Government do about them? the worst offenders!  Well, the answer is... not very much!  They require to much effort!  But, ordinary law-abiding citizens are much more compliant... they will pay their Fines: serve any driving Bans: so, they simply go for the easy targets... and ignore the real problems.  Something of a pattern developing here!

I
  • Result: Safety 0 Revenue 2.
I
Revenue?  The Authorities say this is not about Revenue... they don't want peoples' money they want to save lives.  As was recently noted... Avon and Somerset Police have already built 6,000,000 into their annual budget... which they intend to raise by Fining 150,000 drivers for Speeding Offences.  Nearly every driver exceeds the Speed Limits to some extent... so they have every intention of handing out these Fines whether people drive safely or not!
I
  • Result: Safety 0 Revenue 6,000,000.
I
Conclusion.
Welcome to the perverse world of New Labour!  A world where the Government is so weak-willed and inept that they persecute those who try to obey the law... and excuse those who wilfully break it.  They can't catch real criminals so they simply criminalize those that are easy to catch... the law-abiding majority.
I
The Bottom Line... Officials will claim that speed humps save lives: that having thousands of cameras saves lives: that issuing millions of fines saves lives: and yet, they publish the annual Road Toll [2003 = 3,508: up 77] and there is no improvement.  If cameras save lives but the figures are static then they must be neglecting other areas: [like Police patrols... down 11% since '96] or unintentionally creating other problems like increasing the number of illegal drivers [hit-and-run up 62% since '99.]  Road Safety policy must be judged in its entirety... the Bottom Line is the only reliable statistic... and that says they have achieved absolutely nothing!  Read this short newspaper article... Speed Cameras 'pointless', says Top Cop
I
I
Stealth-Tax?  It is openly admitted that much of the Revenue from Fines ends up in Government coffers and is not used in connection with road safety issues... so whichever way you look at it, that means people are being Taxed without being made aware of the fact... i.e. this is a Stealth-Tax!  [See Article: Speed Cameras: the Twisted Truth.  Extract from a book by Christopher Booker and Richard North.]
I


I
I
Speed Cameras.
I
The Speed Camera experience is not a new one... they have already been used to extreme in other countries so the effects of over-use are not just predictable they are known.  The negative effects are many... while the benefits are few!  This is how we would expect this latest British attempt to breakdown... and ultimately fail... based on experiences elsewhere.  
I
I
Revenue Raising.  
Many drivers come to the conclusion that it is just a cynical exercise to raise more Revenue... and not without some justification.  If you see Police operating a mobile speed camera... booking hundreds of drivers on a busy road... which is straight and wide... and where the traffic is flowing at a nice steady even pace: [an ideal situation] but slightly over the speed limit... it's very easy to reach the conclusion that this is more about Money than Road Safety.  Senior Police will say that their aim is not to raise Revenue but to make drivers slow down... but if they have been promised a share of the Revenue... and on this basis have 'Invested' a lot of their budget in expensive Speed Cameras... they'd probably be rather disappointed if their little 'Investments' didn't pay off!
I
The Speed Camera gravy-train...  Many groups and individuals have now jumped aboard the Speed Camera gravy-train... they have become an industry in their own right... and many of these people will continue to support their use even if it is proved beyond doubt that these cameras have little or nothing to contribute.  This is probably the biggest single factor that will lead to a breakdown in relations between the Police and the general law-abiding majority... the belief that they are out raising 'Taxes'... instead of fighting Crime!  
I
I
Professional Drivers.
It is a known fact... those who are most at risk of losing their licences are those that drive for a living... [either directly: i.e. Truck Drivers: or indirectly: i.e. Sales Reps. or anyone who spends a lot of their time on the road.]  These may be some of the best drivers around... good experienced drivers who haven't had an Accident... or been Fined for anything in years... but by virtue of the fact they drive such high mileages each year they will be at serious risk.  In the course of driving 30: 40: 50,000 miles a year... a driver will pass Speed Cameras, literally, thousands of times... and they only need to be caught in one per year and they'd be on the point of losing their livelihood.
I
Speedtraps UK. RoadPilot. Snooper. Road Angel GPS.
I
Driver Interaction...  Even being the safest driver in the world will not save you from the Speed Cameras... because safety is primarily, about how you 'Interact' with other road users... it means concentrating on what is happening all around you and altering your speed as circumstances change.  It is much safer for drivers to stay within the main body of traffic and just 'go with the flow' than it is to drive around obsessively watching their speedometer and 'resisting the flow' even if this means slightly exceeding a speed limit.  An experienced driver should be able to drive around all day long... in every kind of road and traffic conditions... and in perfect safety... without ever needing to look at their speedometer.
I
I
Local Drivers.
Many drivers [doing an average 10-12,000 miles per annum] do the same few journeys over and over again... home to work: trips to shops: family: friends: clubs: etc. and rarely venture out of their local area.  They soon get to know the exact location of every fixed camera in their area.  If you take the example of a very high-risk driver who... drives to fast: jumps red lights: is aggressive: tailgates: overtakes in a dangerous way: etc. etc. etc. what difference will a few cameras in the area make to this type of individual?  
I
Officials will give out some dubious statistics about how cameras have "reduced accidents at the locations where the cameras are sited".  Even if this is so... the only effect they have had is to slow down local drivers for 1-200 metres and then they immediately return to their usual way of driving... they will not have reduced the chances of this individual from having an accident one iota... instead of driving 12,000 miles in a high-risk style... they drive 11,900!
I
Regression to the Mean.  One of the conditions for installing new cameras is that there must have been 3? or 4? accidents along a stretch of road in the last year.  If there wasn't a camera there already it's because there weren't that many accidents in previous years... and unless something has changed... there probably won't be that many accidents in coming years either.  It is just a 'statistical blip'.  'Regression to the Mean'... is an expression used to describe this phenomenon.  Meaning that you would expect those statistics to 'Return to the Average' in the coming years.  It is possible to identify many such 'statistical blips' around the country each year.  But, the Authorities choose that moment to place a Camera... then claim that this was the reason for the reductions where cameras have been sited.  It isn't!
I
I
Illegal Drivers.  
It may be that one of the 'unintended consequences' of handing out millions of Fines is that there is a dramatic rise in illegal drivers.  The most serious and persistent offenders will very quickly find that they lose [or are on the point of losing] their licences.  Initially, they may try and get Family or Friends without previous convictions to accept the blame for them.  Often, their solution is to join the growing ranks of drivers who just buy an old vehicle... don't Register it... and run it into the ground.  Then they don't need to worry about it being... Unroadworthy: Untaxed: Uninsured: etc. and any Parking Tickets: or Speeding Fines: will never catch up with them.
I
You may even find... that many drivers who have never contemplated breaking the law before will consider the option when faced with these circumstances.  Lose their job or take a chance: buy an old car, don't Register it and pray they don't get stopped.  Yet another set of laws that are very effective against the law-abiding majority... and totally useless against the habitual law-breaker!
I
I
Increases Stress.
For many people driving is already a fairly stressful experience... having to contend with dozens of Speed Cameras on a daily basis only makes this worse.  Drivers should be concentrating on other traffic around them... keeping their eyes on the road, not looking out for Speed Cameras and obsessively watching their speedometer.  There is also the extra stress associated with being Fined: having to appear in Court: being banned from driving: and the fear of losing their jobs.    
I
This problem becomes very noticeable when a driver has clocked up quite a few points... they know that just one more slip and they could be off the road for months.  Their only course of action is to be extra careful and keep well under the speed limit at all times... regardless of the conditions.  Of course... this is also stressful and can be very disruptive for other traffic... a driver should be encouraged to 'go with the flow' of the majority... to try and 'Interact' with other road users in a smooth, even way... this is the most important thing!
I
I
Disrupts Traffic.  
In moderate-heavy traffic the ideal situation is to have traffic evenly spaced... all travelling at a similar speed... and as little braking as possible.  These cameras actually create a situation that ensures this never happens.  When travelling down a road that has permanent cameras every few miles the most noticeable effect is that there is a 'wave' of brake lights coming towards you as some drivers check their speed to make sure they are under the limit... and everyone else has to brake as a consequence.  
I
Those drivers already on a high points total will often drive slightly slower than the main body of traffic... just to make sure.  Meanwhile... 'Local' drivers, who travel these routes daily... come to know the exact location of cameras... so will Speed between cameras... brake as they approach them... and then immediately speed up again: [a practice known as 'surfing'.]  And finally... the most serious offenders who haven't registered the vehicle in their own name can Speed with impunity... which all seriously undermines the whole concept of 'Safe Interaction' as individuals just drive according to their personal circumstances and create a critical disparity between vehicle speeds.
I
Vandalism.  As Fines and Bans are increasingly handed out in their thousands... or millions... more and more drivers who are feeling aggrieved and hard done by are likely to take their frustration out on these 21st Century "Dick Turpins".  Speed Cameras are easy targets and will increasingly be subjected to a campaign of destruction, including being... burnt out: knocked down: pulled over: locks broken: paint being sprayed over the lenses: etc. etc.  

Burnt out Gatso.

I
British Drivers.  Going on a trip or just want to check out the location of Speed Cameras in your area?  Click Here: and the link will take you to the website of SpeedCamerasUK which contains an extensive database where visitors can... find out where cameras are located in any UK county: add missing camera sites: and change current speed camera location details.
I
I
Deteriorating Relations.  Most ordinary law-abiding citizens have very little contact with the Police.  The most common point of contact is out on the roads when being pulled over for a relatively minor traffic offence.  If drivers start to develop the view that the Police are spending their time 'harassing ordinary people... instead of catching real criminals'... are more interested in filling Quotas... or raising Revenue... then relations between the Police and the Public can start to deteriorate very quickly... and when it does it is not confined to this one area... it affects the whole relationship.  Police may become viewed as anything from glorified Tax-Collectors to Highway Robbers!
I
Peace of Mind... If things are working properly the ordinary citizen should feel pleased and reassured at the sight of a Police car rather than apprehensive... but this is the case in some countries where the Police Force is viewed as something which is there to enforce the will of the State... rather than serve the people... the whole concept of 'Policing by Consent' starts to evaporate.
I
I
Police... setting up 'mobile units' will find that drivers will flash each other to warn of their presence.  In effect... the general public [who are all in favour of safer roads] will openly conspire with each other to undo the work of their own Police Force.  Once this happens it is safe to say that the Authorities have completely 'lost the plot'.  Eventually... Police Chiefs will find themselves becoming increasingly isolated... little support from the general Public... even less from their own rank and file Officers... and finally a change in their Political Masters... who will be more than happy to attack them and their discredited policies.  
I
I
Conclusion.
Compared to the human brain the Speed Camera is nothing more than an 'Idiot Box'... it is capable of doing one thing... and one thing only... measuring the speed of a moving object.  While it may have a role to play it is certainly not worthy of having an entire 'Road Safety Policy' bestowed upon it... which is what Group 1 seems intent on doing.  Our conclusion is that drivers should support the position of Group 2... the use of Speed Cameras in places where there is a clear need to keep Speed under control such as near to Schools: Hospitals: and known Accident Blackspots: and cameras should be clearly signposted in order to slow drivers down rather than generate Revenue.
I
Public Support...  Any scheme such as this is absolutely reliant on the support of the general public for whom Police officers are employed to serve.  It is quite probable the Authorities [Group 1] will never get wide spread support for this scheme... simply because their whole strategy is based on a simplistic lie... i.e. their great slogan 'Speed Kills'.  There is no doubt that there is a problem with Speed... but it is a far more complex problem than just drivers exceeding Speed Limits... and even the most inexperienced drivers know it.
I
I
The Speed Issue.
I
Of course there is an 'Issue' with Speed... but it is a complex issue and cannot possibly be reduced to a single catchy slogan of 'Speed Kills'.  If that were true you would only need to know the speed of a vehicle to know how dangerous it was... and quite clearly that would be nowhere near enough information to make a judgement... in some circumstances 30 m.p.h. might be too fast... and in others 90 m.p.h. might be perfectly safe.  Or as the Police might have it... 'Exceeding a Speed Limit Kills'... possibly a little more accurate... but still a long way from the truth of the situation.  It is quite possible to drive dangerously within a Speed Limit... and it is equally possible to drive safely in circumstances where a Speed Limit is being exceeded.  
I
In effect... their 'Road Safety Policy' comes down to this one simple strategy... slow all Traffic down and the Accident Rate will fall: [you don't really need to be a genius to work this one out!] and if you follow this line to its logical conclusion... why not just make Traffic go slower and slower and slower... then eventually the Accident Rate would be reduced to virtually zero.  It's certainly a much easier solution to slow Traffic down than it is to raise the standard of driving... although this would rather seem to defeat the point of having vehicles in the first place.
I

The Origin b2 is a multi award winning, unique and state-of-the-art Driver Safety and Information System using GPS satellite technology

I
Their Strategy for defending this Policy on 'Speed' generally comes down to two things.  Firstly... to prove what a good job they are doing by producing some dubious statistical evidence... [about Accident Rates being down... and *Fines massively increased.]  Secondly... they try to stifle any debate on the effectiveness of their Policy by making an immediate rush for the moral high ground... i.e. "We're doing it for the victims" [and anyone that disagrees with them doesn't care about the 'victims' and are only interested in themselves.]   
I
Victims...  As we look towards the next decade none of us can know which of us will be the 'Victims' [to take the example of a young male riding a high-powered motorbike... his most likely 'Victim' is himself.]  'Victims' are not a separate group of people... they are our Friends! they are our Family! 'Victims R Us'!!  So... message to Police 'Spokesmen'... "get off your moral high horses!" anyone should be entitled to express an opinion about their Road Safety Policy without having their motives questioned!
I
*A couple of problems with this...  One: handing out millions of Fines to your own Citizens is not something to be proud of... it is not a 'Measure of Success'.  Two: at best, figures will only go down for a few years.  Accidents happen for a whole variety of reasons... you cannot have a continuous reduction by targeting one single offence... so the reductions [even if they are 'genuine' reductions] will quickly tail off to nothing... but the Fines go on... and on... and on. 
I
I
A Safe Speed...  When deciding on an 'appropriate speed' the factors that drivers need to take into consideration are... their own capabilities as a driver: their state of mind: the type of vehicle being driven: the prevailing road conditions: weather conditions: visibility: traffic density: vulnerable road users: and any other potential hazards.  Drivers should be prepared to adjust their speed as and when these conditions change... 'Interacting' with other traffic in a smooth, even way: leaving a good margin of error: and always able to stop comfortably, on their own side of the road, within the distance that they know to be clear.

Sign in deep snow.

I
Many Drivers... manage to do this very well... and can literally cover hundreds of thousands of miles over many years without ever having an accident... though in the process they might have exceeded Speed Limits on countless occasions.  The problem is not simply 'Speed'... it is the 'Inappropriate use of Speed'... or Speed combined with other offences... like Tailgating... which is something very different.
I
Although an... 'Inappropriate use of Speed' many be hard to define: [and impossible for an 'Idiot Box' to recognise] it is relatively easy for experienced drivers to identify... and it is their skills that need to be harnessed.  Technology on its own is not the answer... it needs 'People and Technology!'  The Internet now makes it possible to bring these two elements together.
I
I
If 'Speed' were the only issue... then it would be fair to conclude that those countries that drive the fastest would also have the highest 'Fatality Rates'.  Probably, the fastest roads in the world are in Germany.  When travelling on the German autobahns [i.e. Motorways: Freeways: mile for mile the safest type of roads in the world] at 100mph. [160kph.] there will often be a continuous stream of traffic passing by... when conditions allow.
I
A look at the 'Fatality' statistics will show that Germany by no means has the worst figures... which is because they have good Roads: a high proportion of cars in the 'Luxury' bracket: [Audi: B.M.W. Mercedes: Porsche] capable of travelling at high speeds: and most importantly, very disciplined drivers who comply with the Rules... and operate with a good margin of error.  Which means that although you might be travelling very fast you do not have the feeling that you are in a dangerous situation because you are 'Interacting' with other traffic in a smooth, even way.
I
What is an everyday occurrence for many Germans is considered by some in Britain to be almost a hanging offence! [although that may change shortly if the E.U. has its way.]  In many countries which do not have these conditions... travelling at such speeds would be nothing short of suicidal!
I

[Read... BMW Report. by... Frank Detlef: Joachim Sumpf: Stephan Bujnoch: (they conclude that drivers exceeding speed limits are responsible for 4% of accidents.)  This Report was originally entitled... "Prerequisites to Improving Traffic Safety"... done for the BMW Group: Germany.]

I
Speed Limits.  In general... even if it was safe to raise some Speed Limits we do not believe it would not be worth the effort.  This may rather seem to contradict what we have said earlier... but there are a couple of reasons for this.  
I
  • Firstly: it can be a major undertaking to re-examine thousands of Roads... and put up new Sign Posts.
  • Secondly: if you were to raise the Speed Limit on [for instance] a British Motorway from 70mph to 80mph... your fundamental Situation... and Problem... would not have changed one little bit.
  • The 'Situation' is... that a 'Safe' Speed varies enormously with the different Road and Traffic conditions.
  • The 'Problem' is... that some drivers fail to take into account these ever changing circumstances... and/or combine a multitude of other offences with Speed to create dangerous conditions.  
  • If you only raise the Speed Limits then the same bad drivers carry on with the same bad habits... but are even less likely to be pulled over by the Police... and when they are they will inevitably protest... "but I wasn't breaking the Speed Limit".
  • What you need is a system that targets dangerous drivers rather than those that just exceed the Speed Limits... such as a kind of Road Supervisor Network.
I
Speeding Offences.
Clearly not all Speeding Offences are equally bad.  A Government could issue a set of guidelines so that Speeding Offences could be placed in a number of different categories.  As a rough example... let's say there were 5 different categories... with Group A being the worst.  Police could just tick boxes on a Penalty Notice concerning... the Driver: Vehicle: Road Conditions: Traffic Density: Visibility: Weather Conditions: Hazards: etc. plus any other poor driving/offences [i.e. tailgating: no signals] and then calculate which Group the offence fell into.  Perhaps Groups A-B would require a Court appearance... but Drivers should be able to agree with the assessment and pay a fixed penalty on Groups C-E: [or contest it in Court and risk a bigger penalty.]
I
Group A: would be the very worst offences where nearly everything was bad: i.e.  Excessive Speed near a School: Young Driver: Poor Vehicle: Children Crossing: Parked Vehicles: Heavy Traffic: Raining: Wet Road: Poor Visibility: etc.
I
Group E: would be the least serious: only Exceeding the Speed Limit... but, Experienced Driver: Good Vehicle: No Pedestrians: No Hazards: No Traffic: Dry Road: Good Visibility: etc.
I
Category.

Group A. Group B. Group C. Group D. Group E.

No leeway: Heavy Fine: 100 and 10 points for every 1 mph over the limit. No leeway: Fairly Heavy Fine: 50 and 5 points for every 1 mph over the limit. 10% leeway: Moderate Fine: 25 and 3 points for every 1 mph over the limit. 25% leeway: Moderate Fine: 25 and 3 points for every 1 mph over the limit. 50% Leeway: Moderate Fine: 25 and 3 points for every 1 mph over the limit.

Example... caught doing 40mph in a 30mph zone near a School: [under a new 100 point system.]

1000 Fine. 500 175 50 No Fine.
100 Points. 50 Points. 21 Points. 6 Points. No Points.
I
[Note... this is just an example and could easily vary if policy was to Fine wealthy individuals at higher rates.  Something which already happens in some European Countries.]
I
I
The Measure of Success.
I
Changing laws can save lives but the major problem is drivers flouting existing laws... effective 'Enforcement' is what is really required.  When enforcing Legislation... what should be considered a 'Measure of Success'?  Each measure that is imposed has the potential to do something good... or something bad... for each individual... so a balance needs to be found.
I
Below we lay out six different categories... as an individual you would not wish to become a 'Statistic' of any of them, because they would all have an adverse affect on your life.  So... the view we are taking is... there are no real Measures of Success... only varying 'Degrees of Failure'.
I
Six Categories of Failure... Accidents: Injuries: Deaths: Fines: Driving Bans: and Imprisonment.  As a driver looking to the decade ahead... can any of us say for sure which of us will be affected by each of these six categories?  Would you be happy to trade a slightly lower chance of having an Accident for a much higher chance of losing your driver's licence: [and possibly your livelihood with it?]  Whatever the Authorities say... handing out millions of Fines to your own Citizens is not something to be proud of! it cannot be considered a 'Measure of Success'... a low rate of Fines: Driving Bans: and Imprisonment: should be a goal... just as low rates of Accidents: Injuries: and Deaths are... and that means finding ways to make everyone comply with the rules we already have!  
I
Year. Fines. Fatalities.

1995 206,900 3,213
1996 262,200 3,440
1997 336,700 3,222
1998 403,800 3,036
1999 498,600 3,113
2000 699,400 3,084
2001 1,014,600 3,096
2002 1,235,500 3,127
2003 1,784,500 3,177
I
I
The Government dish up statistic in every way conceivable... invariably, proving what a good job they are doing.  But, the bottom line is... Fines are going through the roof... the Fatality rate remains steady.  For all the misery they serve up... their achievement is Zero!!  The true 'Measure of Success' should be in creating a more 'Law-abiding Society'... rather than handing out more and more 'Punishments' of every kind!
I
Fines...  When you hand out a Fine you are saying to that person that Society finds their behaviour unacceptable and that they need to be Punished in some way.  If you are just in a long line of Traffic, doing the same speed as everyone else then quite clearly your behaviour is acceptable to all those people around you that you are sharing the road with... drivers should never be Fined in such circumstances!  We have now reached the point where the Authorities no longer seem to consider themselves to be the Servants of the People... wielding power on behalf of its citizens.  It would appear the 'Servants' now consider themselves to be the 'Masters'.
I
I
A different perspective... The Government might, as an example... claim that they have saved 100 lives with their actions... but unlike a straight forward Rescue... they can never positively identify the individuals which have been saved.  In fact it is not straight forward at all... if you just interfere with the Traffic flow by slowing it down, then relatively, all vehicles end up travelling in a slightly different place.  It is a bit like shuffling a pack of cards one more time... everyone now gets dealt a different hand.  There will still be a similar number of good hands and bad hands... but the bad hands [Accidents] will now be dealt to different People... in different Places... at different Times.  For a Country like Britain... Road Fatalities might be reduced from 3,500 to 3,400 [which of course is a good thing] but they are not all going to be the same People.  To take this example to its extreme.... 3,500 People might be saved... and a completely different 3,400 People might be killed. 
I

Beat the Speeding Ticket. This ebook gives Legal Advice to those who are specifically fighting various kinds of Speeding Tickets... comes with a range of Template Letters.

I
The Point being... for the 3,400 people who are killed: [and all those injured] your policy has failed... there is still the same level of misery as far as their Family and Friends are concerned.  The 100 lives that you have saved [statistically] are blissfully unaware of their escape.  In fact... as we look to the years ahead, the only thing a Government can offer to each of us as individuals is a slightly better statistical chance that we will not become a Road Fatality... in effect, they achieve something very small for millions of people... rather than something great for 100 unidentified individuals.    
I
For each of us... the chances of being killed in a road accident might be reduced from something like... 5.89 deaths per 100,000 people to 5.72 per 100,000... hardly a Statistic which will make you sleep more soundly at night!  On the other hand... people have to contend with Speed Cameras on a daily basis... with Fines being handed out by the millions... and Driving Bans currently running at about 268,000... they are certainly going to cause a lot of sleepless nights for a lot of people.  In other words... the positive effect of this policy does not improve one single person's life to any noticeable degree... but the negative effects are clearly there for all to experience.
I
Using the Roads... always involves a certain amount of risk... none of us can be 100% safe... but all the major risk factors are already under your own control.  If safety is a real priority, then make sure you are a low-risk driver... choose a vehicle with a lot of safety features, such as a Volvo: [second-hand Volvos are not that expensive] take an advanced driving course: learn defensive driving techniques: refrain from high-risk driving practices: maintain your concentration: keep a good margin of error: and avoid getting involved in personal conflicts with other drivers.  If you actively take control of your own personal safety then anything the Government has to offer you with their Speed Camera campaign will become [statistically] inconsequential and irrelevant!
I
I
The Bottom Line...
I
When Speed Cameras were first introduced it was not just about the Money... it was a Road Safety Strategy that had some Financial benefits... but now it seems to have developed into a Financial Strategy that might also have a few Road Safety benefits.  There are a lot of reasons why people might continue to support this Strategy... some may actually believe the Spin: some are anti-car and want people off the roads: some believe it is better than doing nothing: others are desperate to give the appearance that they are doing something: while others are direct beneficiaries of the Speed Camera gravy-train.  At the end of the day there is only one Statistic that people need to look at... the total number of Fatalities for the year... and despite all the Fines and Driving Bans... that figure is not likely to improve very much... and even if it does you cannot say that it is simply due to the introduction of Speed Cameras... there could be many other reasons for a reduction. 
I
Our conclusion... is that public support will inevitably drain away.  Their promise is that they will provide us with a better service... i.e. safer, less congested Roads: [you can always get support for better Services: or lower Taxes] but this means paying higher Taxes... a Stealth-Tax through Fines... major disruption to Lives... and a service that to all intensive purposes appears exactly the same.  For all their effort, the Government will never be able to produce one single person who's life has been noticeably improved.  If it wasn't for the fact that these Statistics were being publish... people would be completely unaware of any improvements of any kind.
I
Speedtraps UK. RoadPilot. Snooper. Road Angel GPS.
I
The Authorities have dug themselves into a hole... those who have backed this scheme must continue to do so otherwise this gravy-train will hit the buffers... they will have to admit that they have spent millions... disrupted innumerable lives... and achieved absolutely nothing!  So... we can expect them to keep spinning the figures in any way they can to try and protect their own interests and justify their existence.
I
A few more Statistics... the number of people killed or injured by hit-and-run drivers on Britain's roads grew to 14,897 in 2003... and increase of 62% in just 5 years.  And the reason? up to 2.0 million vehicles with no tax: insurance: MOT's [a roadworthy certificate] unregistered: and drivers without licences or serving driving bans.  Meanwhile traffic police patrols have dropped about 11% since 1996: if stopped, illegal drivers are often just given a ticket: inevitably, they don't pay them and they don't turn up for Court appearances.  If the Police seize a death-trap vehicle these drivers will just go out and replace it with some other heap of rubbish within days and at minimal cost. 
I
I
They have neglected a whole range of other serious problems in order to concentrate on the single issue of Speed... trying to justify their decisions with a few dodgy Statistics.  Having made the decision... they proceed to deal with this Issue in an extremely ineffective way... they target drivers who exceed Speed Limits: [which are not necessarily a problem] rather than drivers who use excessive or inappropriate Speed: [which is always a problem.]  They have entrust their entire Road Safety strategy into the hands of an Idiot Box... something which should never have more than a very minor part to play has been given the starring role.  Time and again they chose something that generates Revenue over something which would increase Safety.  There is no prospect of this strategy making the roads significantly safer... it is by any definition little more than a cheap Money Grab!
I

Should ordinary citizens support the Authorities in this campaign?
I
Our assessment is that they are...   
I
  • Targeting the wrong offence.
  • Rely to heavily on Speed Cameras.
  • Will never achieve any significant reductions.
  • Are using simplistic Strategies.
  • Are persecuting the law-abiding majority.
  • Are failing to tackle criminals.
  • Encouraging even more law-breaking.
  • Are destroying the relationship between the Police and the Public.
  • And are generally motivated by the desire for a quick fix.
I
The whole thinking behind this campaign is totally perverse... the Government and the Police do not deserve any support whatsoever from ordinary law-abiding members of the Public.  In fact... the sooner this sorry episode is brought to a close the better... ordinary citizens should do everything in their power to ensure this Policy is discarded!
I
I
Political Developments.
As expected this issue is becoming a Political football at the National level.  At the end of December 2003 the Conservative Party said... if elected they would review the current speed camera policy... assess which cameras reduced accidents and which simply generate Revenue... and only carry a Fine plus Points at the most dangerous locations.  The Labour Government quickly responded by saying that they would consider the Conservative proposals and in the meantime would be writing to all local authorities telling them that cameras must contribute to road safety or be removed... simply using them to raise Revenue was not allowed.
I
It remains to be seen what the outcome will be... but anyone with an ounce of cynicism in their bones will suspect that this is nothing more that a bit of Political manoeuvring by Labour and the end result will be the publication of more dodgy statistics proving that nearly all the cameras do contribute to road safety... rather than their removal.
I
Post script... Labour have since reported in a very low-key way that all speed cameras have been sited in places which prevent accidents and no changes will be made... surprise! surprise! surprise!
I
I
At the local Government level... as an example, Lambeth council in South London are increasing their cameras in order to target drivers who stray into bus lanes on minor roads that they control, predicting a ten-fold increase in Fine-Revenue... while at the same time cameras targeting the same offence on major roads through the Borough will be generating Revenue for the Greater London Authority.  When the Government's new force of 'Super Wardens' comes into force they will be able to issue Fines of up to 100 for a whole range of moving offences generating even more Revenue for local councils.  Again, the explanation is that it will improve safety and traffic flow... but even if that is the genuine intention of the Government, the end-result will inevitably be 'Super Wardens' being given quotas as a means of measuring their effectiveness and in order to generate Revenue for local councils. 
I
Meanwhile: the European Union... is planning a blitz on drivers with a massive network of speed cameras right across the Continent.  Britain already has about 5-6,000 cameras but could be ordered to install even more if it fails to meet safety targets set by EU transport commissioner Loyola de Palacio.  She wants to halve Europe's road death toll of 40,000 by 2010 and has called for an even greater network of sophisticated electronic devices, with speeding offenders and drunk drivers facing prosecution in any EU country as part of a pan-European enforcement plan.  Britain already has one of the toughest enforcement regimes in Europe and one of the lowest fatality rates... so depending on how reduction targets are worked out Britain could find itself being unfairly targeted with even more cameras of every kind.
I
At every level of Government... Local: City: National: or International there are plans to target drivers and punish them in one way or another.  In many cases it is just a blatant money-grab... and even when it isn't the Revenue issue usually becomes a major part of the equation.  The pattern has been established... targets are set: minor infringements get prosecuted: the law-abiding pay up: and serious offenders are allowed to slip through the net.
I
I
A Viable Alternative?
I
Many people will support the use of Speed Cameras if the only alternative appears to be... doing nothing!  But clearly there are other ways of using modern Technology to prevent Road Accidents particularly if you are prepared to engage drivers in a pro-active way.  It is our belief that the Road Safety issue could be dealt with far more effectively than it is at present by developing a sophisticated Information based system of Law Enforcement which uses modern Technology to harness the Skills: Knowledge: and Experience: of those drivers who use the road network on a daily basis. 
I
Social Interaction v Stricter Regulation.
I
We believe a significant reduction in road accidents is a real possibility... but, [and it's a very large but,] you will have to approach the problem in a radically different way.  Just changing the odd law: increasing fines: concentrating on single issues: or trying to use Technology in simplistic ways in order to solve complex problems: will make little difference.  Road Safety needs to be an integral part of the system, from start to finish: and that means engaging drivers in a pro-active way.  Drivers may be our biggest problem, but they are also our greatest asset!  They have a depth of knowledge and understanding that no 'Idiot Box' could ever start to replicate... and it is this asset that we need to utilise. 
I
Read this Article... 'The Road Supervisor Process' which looks at one single issue... Drivers going too fast past a School.  It looks at the effectiveness of having a Speed Camera... compared to having a Road Supervisor type system.
I
I
Every sensible person... is in favour of  safer roads... but we are now in the 21st Century so it is about time the Authorities packed in their patronising lectures and put some effort into developing a Plan which is a little most sophisticated than some of the garbage they are peddling at the moment.  You cannot develop a higher standard of driving for a whole country by simply Punishing people in ever greater numbers... their strategies are ill-conceived... simplistic... and unworthy of public support.
I
I
I
Back to the Top. Articles Home. Site Plan.

Drink Driving Facts Kit. If you've got a Ticket for Drink or Drug-Driving... have a look at this website.