Vince Yearly: Speed cameras: safety devices or money boxes?

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Indy Lifestyle Online

If you want to liven things up at your next dinner party, try defending speed cameras, espceilly the one in Norfolk currently gatherng £6,000 an hour in revenue.

The chances are that four out of ten guests around the table will have had at least three points on their license from Gatsos. And I would be very surprised if any of these victims of automated justice turn out to be fans of the "flash and fine" regime.

It would take a brave guest to explain how speed cameras are the best way of improving road safety. We at the IAM believe that nearly every car is equipped with two safety devices for dealing with speed cameras - your eyes. Driving at the correct speed for the conditions has to be done within the speed limits, posted or not. And if you are driving at an inappropriate speed when you encounter a speed camera, and you choose to ignore it, then I am afraid we have little sympathy.

That may seem a little harsh - not least because even advanced drivers sometimes struggle to know what the speed limit is on any given stretch of road. And it does feel at times as though the cameras seem to outnumber the signs telling you what the limit is.

That's why we were so pleased to see the fresh thinking on safety cameras from the Department for Transport (DfT).

Road safety minister Dr Stephen Ladyman is no stranger to points on his licence, and I can't help but feel that we may all have gained as a result of his experience. Such is the polarity of views on speed cameras (or safety cameras as they should really be called) that the IAM commissioned a survey last year. The results showed that the majority of Britain's drivers want more warning signs about cameras and speed limits on roads where cameras are sited.

Nearly nine out of ten drivers say every roadside speed camera should carry a sign on it advising motorists of the speed limit. And more than eight out of ten also want vehicle-activated signs ahead of cameras to provide an early reminder of the limit.

More than seven out of ten drivers want all roadside cameras painted yellow, including traffic light and yellow box cameras. And more than six out of ten would like to see the money left over after covering the cost of speed camera enforcement used to pay for more traffic police.

Speed cameras should be about compliance, not capture. Posting limits on cameras and putting up more early warning signs would leave drivers in no doubt about what maximum speed they should be doing.

So how can the Government persuade us that safety cameras are there for our benefit? That's not easy. But it would be a good start to make all cameras conspicuous, not just some.

We also need a national review so that speed limits are set at levels that are sensible, understandable and acceptable. This genuine review of A and B roads has now been promised and we look forward to it. Speed limits in some places should go up as well - this should not be another excuse for blanket speed reductions.

Finally, as your host pours you your last glass of white, try this: which is more unacceptable - drinking and driving, or speeding? The DfT has said that it wants to see speeding in the same category as drink-driving.

The chances are that the same guests who are prepared to admit to being flashed would no more drink and drive than fly in the air. Yet that wouldn't have been the case 30 years ago, when drinking and driving was accepted, even if illegal.

So attitudes can change. The public will support a law when they believe it is sensible. We all want to see fewer deaths and injuries on the road. If Government can do more to ensure that the speed limits themselves are seen as appropriate, and that money raised from fines is used for road safety, then the day may come when the majority of motorists will see safety cameras as a welcome method of controlling the irresponsible minority.

The writer is a spokesman for the Institute of Advanced Motorists

motoring@independent.co.uk

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