Jason Barlow: Anarchy in the UK as 'safety' cameras drive us all to fury

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Indy Lifestyle Online

How fabulous it was to have John Lydon née Rotten back spreading a little light, four-lettered happiness to the nation.

How fabulous it was to have John Lydon née Rotten back spreading a little light, four-lettered happiness to the nation.

Yet despite his salty language, it seems the original anarchist prefers to stick to the rules these days, at least if his junglist behaviour was anything to go by. Thirty years ago he fired the nation's youth and terrorised the moral majority. Now he's anarchy's loveably loony uncle.

If our most cherished punk has laid down his anti-establishment cudgel, who do we turn to to keep authority on its toes? None other than the motorist.

First, some background. Since the BBC has lately taken it upon itself to act as the official opposition, it's only fitting that Lord Hutton's report should take it down a peg or two. Who did it think it was, asking all those awkward questions? Never mind that that's exactly what journalists are supposed to do.

Then Home Secretary David Blunkett decides it's time to fiddle about with the burden of proof in suspected terrorist cases. Did somebody swap New Labour's party manifesto for a copy of 1984 when I wasn't looking?

Small wonder the masses are revolting. How odd, though, that it's the UK's motorists at the forefront of the charge. On second thoughts, maybe it's not that odd. The Government has turned every driver in the country into a splenetic Johnny Rotten.

Public transport is dismal, so we drive. Our fuel is the most highly taxed in Europe and car insurance is crippling, but still we don't mind because we'd like to get where we're going on time, aboard a vehicle in which we're guaranteed a seat. We even tolerate traffic jams, because we can enjoy the Today programme that way (while we still can).

But there is a limit to our patience, and the spread of speed, sorry, safety cameras has breached it. Now even the policeman who oversaw their introduction admits enough is enough.

I've said it before and I'll say it again -- speed doesn't kill per se, the inappropriate use of it does. Yet there are innumerable, dubiously positioned cameras which can't tell the difference.

Nor does it help when we hear what happens to the vast revenues generated. Last week, Essex police admitted that 10 per cent of the money raised by their camera network was spent refurbishing some of their offices. I hope their new seats are comfy.

Essex police also insists that its cameras are run purely on a cost-recovery basis, and are sited according to strict guidelines. I might even believe them. If only their colleagues elsewhere in the UK were as scrupulous.

The bottom line is that too many otherwise law-abiding citizens are being caught out by cynically located cameras. And because cameras have replaced traffic officers, drivers who genuinely deserve censure are getting away with it.

One of them almost killed my mother just over a year ago (he had no insurance, no tax, and was driving while banned).

Which do you think is more dangerous -- 46mph in a 40mph zone at 5am on a bright morning, or 95mph in the outside lane of the M4 at 6pm, 10ft from the back bumper of the car in front in torrential rain?

It's easy. Improve the driving test. Improve driver education. Get traffic patrols back. Have a sensible review of speed limits which recognises major advances in road car technology.

And position speed cameras only in places where they're genuinely needed. We could use one on the road I live on.

Remember, the last time the public rose up in defiance of a hateful piece of government policy -- the poll tax -- it resulted in full-scale rioting and the ejection of a prime minister who had lost touch with the mood of the nation. Number 10 Downing Street? It's pretty vacant. Again.

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