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20 December, 2005

Speed cameras work

I'm not naturally inclined to agree with arch-Green George Monbiot, but his article for today's Guardian raises two valuable points.  Though overlapping, I'll treat them as separate topics, and hence blog entries.

The first is to report that the UK Department for Transport has published the results of a study into the efficacy of its speed cameras. Admittedly, it's unsurprising that a report commissioned by the DoT supports the DoT's agenda, but the figures are compelling:

... the number of drivers speeding down the roads where fixed cameras had been installed fell by 70%, and the number exceeding the speed limit by more than 15mph dropped by 91%. As a result, 42% fewer people were killed or seriously injured in those places than were killed or injured on the same stretches before the cameras were erected. The number of deaths fell by more than 100 a year. The people blowing up speed cameras have blood on their hands.
Sorry; that last bit was Monbiot over-emoting, but he has a point. One other statistic: the study claims that speed cameras save the country £258m in medical bills each year.

Of course, there are those who'll claim otherwise, using fatuous arguments about cameras making roads more dangerous, being exclusively and maliciously used for revenue generation (no road safety aspect whatsoever, only revenue), and impinging on people's 'freedom' to drive fast.
It's often said that when one sees a camera, one glances at the dashboard speedometer, taking one's attention from the road. For a fraction of a second. Far less than, say, adjusting the heater or radio. By that argument, speedometers should be banned.
I won't even address the conspiracy theory about cameras not being remotely intended to improve road safety, only government budgets. And they're installed by agents of the Illuminati, right? The same ones who killed President Kennedy?
The third, libertarian point leads into my next posting; for now I'll just remind people that there is no inviolable 'right' to speed; speeding penalties are fines on illegal actions, not taxes on legitimate activities.

The thing that always frustrates me about the anti-camera lobby is that they argue that cameras aren't 'the answer'; that money should be spent on driver education instead. Of course cameras aren't the one single panacea for all aspects of road safety, but how could anyone deny that speeding is an aspect? A small proportion of accidents can be solely attributable to excess speed, but those with other causes are exacerbated by the speed of vehicles involved. There isn't one single factor which will solve everything, in which all resources should be invested. It's not a matter of cameras or greater driver education, it's cameras and education, and police issues, and other factors.

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