ROAD SAFETY - SPEED CAMERAS
There are now thousands of speed cameras across the UK, with the numbers still growing - for example average speed cameras are being installed on a number of arterial roads in London such as the A13, A2 and A40. There is little hard evidence of any real benefit certainly in relation to the installation and running costs versus other road safety measures (see below for some of the evidence on that). But with the invention of Speed Awareness Courses, there was a strong financial incentive to put in more cameras - see the AMPOW campaign for more information here: Speed-Awareness-Courses . The articles below have been published in the last few years on road safety:
The following article was published in June 2003 (later articles are at the bottom of this page).
Cutting Excessive Speed and Warning of Road Hazards
Much emphasis has recently been placed on reducing vehicle speeds on British roads. So, for example, over 3 million speeding tickets are likely to be issued this year, and speed humps have been sprouting everywhere. And yet these expensive programmes have had a negligible effect on road accident statistics. All that has happened is that an army of people (police, court staff, and the manufacturers and installers of speed cameras and road humps) have been deployed to achieve very little.
At present we have a regime where minor infringements of speed limits result in severe punishment, as if we were all naughty children who needed severe disciplining. In the case of speed humps, we are actually chastised with corporal punishment, when it has long been abandoned in our courts and schools.
However, it is still recognised that reducing vehicle speeds at known danger spots would clearly be advantageous. How to achieve changes in driver habits, or warn drivers of temporary oversights, at an economical cost and without unnecessarily criminalising large swathes of the population is the issue. Perhaps education is a better approach?
Well recently the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) have reported on the use of electronic warning signs. These can warn drivers of excessive speed, or alternatively be used to indicate that dangerous bends or junctions are coming up. You may have seen some already in Bromley or other London boroughs and more extensive use is anticipated. An example is shown below.
The picture above shows a sign that lights up to display a vehicle's speed when it is above a certain level (yes the van was actually doing 38 mph on Leesons Hill, Orpington before braking).
Now the really interesting thing about this report is that it conclusively shows that these devices are not just effective at slowing down drivers, but that they are also much better than speed cameras at reducing accidents. At the sites studied, where these devices have been installed over a number of years, average speeds were reduced by 4 mph, and by 7 mph for junction and bend warnings. Accidents were reduced by one third!
Another major advantage was that the effects did not seem to wear off over time, and the initial installation cost and running costs are a fraction of those for speed cameras. These devices can also be used as a good alternative to speed humps on minor roads.
SIDs Do Work (article published December 2008)
Speed Indicator Devices (SIDs) actually do work to slow drivers according to a recent study at 11 sites around south-east London by TRL.
On average they slowed by 1.4 mph and accidents could be reduced by as much as 5 per cent according to the report. The London Borough of Bromley has 75 of these electronically activated signs which warn drivers of hazards or display vehicle speeds. They are much cheaper than speed cameras.
Speed Cameras (published December 2009)
Speed cameras of the digital type (Monitron) have been popping up all over London in the last two years. They are easy to miss as they are placed at the top of a tall pole and must have caught many people unawares, rather than their visible presence deterring speeders.
Speed cameras in London are operated by The London Safety Camera Partnership (LSCP) which is dominated by the bureaucrats of TfL, has no constitution and holds meetings in secret. They claim to be a road safety initiative designed to reduce speeding and the number of vehicles running red lights in the capital, but they don’t produce any evidence as to how effective they are.
Postscript: LSCP used to have a web site but that has now disappeared.
Speed Display Devices v. Cameras (published October 2010)
There has been a vigorous exchange of letters on the merits of speed cameras, and the alternative of using speed display devices in the pages of Private Eye. Your Editor joined in the debate to point out that speed display devices were much more cost effective in terms of accidents or injuries prevented. The following is a brief summary of the information present on the Safespeed web site which was produced by Idris Francis and others), based on the original TRL report on the subject and scientific analysis of the relative costs and benefits:
The original TRL548 report said that speed display devices reduced accidents by one-third in their study and that they were very effective at reducing speeds. Indeed they are more effective than speed cameras are at reducing accidents and casualties.
Speed display devices initially cost about £5,000 (or less) with very low maintenance costs, whereas speed cameras cost about £50,000 per year to operate.
The relative cost-effectiveness of display devices versus cameras is therefore about 50 to one. This is an enormous difference and yet even after this figure was well known, speed cameras were still being advocated by central Government and politicians.
The key point is that for the same amount of money (and budgets are always limited), you can save many more lives and injuries by spending the limited resources that are available on speed display devices and not cameras. In addition you avoid the criminalisation of large swathes of the population (over 200,000 people banned from driving now annually due to getting too many points on their licence, thus threatening their livelihoods). In addition, thousands of people are involved in the totally unproductive activity of issuing speeding tickets, and collecting the fines, including of course the police and courts staff who would be better occupied on real crime.
RAC Foundation Report on Speed Cameras (published January 2011)
In November 2010 the RAC Foundation published a report on "The Effectiveness of Speed Cameras", authored by Professor Richard Allsop. In our view the analysis contained therein was defective, and a rebuttal was published therefore in this PDF document: Speed-Camera-Effectiveness (click on to read). It also covers some of the contrary evidence and argues that expenditure on speed cameras actually costs lives rather than saves them because the money expended could be better spent on alternatives.
Thames Valley Speed Cameras (published February 2012)
This article was published on one of the few independent analyses of the effectiveness of speed cameras. It shows they have negligible impact on injury accidents: Thames Valley Speed Cameras. Postscript: Mr Finney's full evidence is now present on his own web site here.