Speed cameras save 800 people a year from being killed or seriously injured on Britain's roads, ministers were warned yesterday, following their decision to scrap road safety grants to councils. Cash specifically intended for road cameras is being heavily cut and will end in 2011. Senior police officers have said they were disappointed by the language of Philip Hammond, the Transport Secretary, who has promised to "end the war on the motorist".

The RAC Foundation mounted a staunch defence of the network of cameras. In a report sent to every highway authority, it argued that scrapping cameras would be a "big mistake" as they have made roads safer.

Professor Richard Allsop of University College London pointed out that a large majority of the public consistently backed their use and dismissed claims that the money raised from cameras was used to swell council or police coffers.

Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: "The current crisis in funding for speed cameras – and road safety in general – leaves road users at real risk."

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