AA causes fury by publishing its first-ever map of speed cameras

Safety experts say motorists will be encouraged to break the law by a new atlas that identifies where the traps are set

A controversial decision by the AA to publish its first map of speed traps has provoked a storm of protest from safety experts, who accuse the organisation of encouraging motorists to break the law.

A controversial decision by the AA to publish its first map of speed traps has provoked a storm of protest from safety experts, who accuse the organisation of encouraging motorists to break the law.

Thousands of camera locations are included in the association's 2006 Road Atlas, published on Wednesday, a move prompted by the huge proliferation of speed traps.

But while the map will please many motorists, it has enraged leading campaign groups including Transport 2000, which branded the AA "irresponsible" for publishing it.

Deaths and serious injuries have been reduced by 40 per cent at sites where speed cameras are in operation. But the cameras have been a source of angry debate since they were introduced on a widespread basis.

Motoring organisations such as the RAC Foundation have accused the police of using the cameras to generate revenue rather than to prevent accidents.

Police forces have already been forced to make the cameras more visible, by painting them yellow, and pressure from the new freedom of information laws has obliged the authorities to reveal details of their location on the internet. But this is the first time that an atlas showing speed cameras will be available in the shops.

Breaking the speed limit or using inappropriate speed for the driving conditions is a factor in 40 per cent of all fatal road crashes. Figures released last week showed that the number of crashes had fallen at 730 of London's 800 speed camera sites.

Steve Hounsham from Transport 2000 said of the AA atlas: "They are in effect warning drivers where they need to slow down to escape speeding. It is encouraging illegal behaviour."

Mr Hounsham said it was now time for the Government to consider making speed cameras less obvious. "No one needs to know the location of speed cameras. Drivers should be within the speed limit at all times."

The rising number of speed traps has led to a booming industry in gadgets that can help drivers avoid getting caught. Motorists, including Prince William, are paying hundreds of pounds for systems that sound an alarm when a laser-operated camera is nearby. Many of these will become illegal when the new Road Traffic Act becomes law.

RoadPeace, the national charity for road traffic victims, said the decision by the AA to inform drivers where speed cameras are would make the roads more dangerous. Zoe Stow, who chairs RoadPeace, said: "We are very disappointed that a road organisation that represents so many motorists should be providing a tool to the non-law-abiding motorist to break the law."

Nicola Atkinson, a spokeswoman for the AA, denied that the motoring organisation was behaving irresponsibly. "We are launching the atlas in order to alert people to dangers on the road," she said. "Cameras are located where there have been serious or fatal crashes in the past four years. We are making drivers more aware of where the accident hot spots are."

She added: "We are not encouraging people to speed. Motorists should drive within the speed limit and avoid hot spots on their journey."

The AA has received backing for the atlas from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents. A spokesman for the organisation said: "If people do consult the atlas, they will know that it is a dangerous road and hopefully they will drive accordingly."

Additional reporting by Malcolm Weir

DASHBOARD DEVICES THAT HELP DRIVERS BEAT THE TRAPS

GPS (GLOBAL POSITIONING SATELLITE)

Cyclops £369.95 + £45 per annum

Micro Road Pilot £379.99 + £50 per annum.

WHAT IT DOES

Uses satellites to locate your car on a map of UK speed cameras and sounds alarm when you approach one. Can also warn of accident blackspots.

FANS SAY

Alerts drivers to any fixed camera - radar, digital or laser-activated.

SCEPTICS SAY

It requires regular renewal charges and fails to spot or disable hand-held police speed traps.

LEGAL?

Yes. The government encourages GPS.

LASER

Road Angel 2 £389.95 + £49 annual subscription (as used by Prince William)

Snooper S3 Neo - £124.99 + £4.95 monthly subscription.

WHAT IT DOES

Detect lasers targeted on your vehicle, typically from hand-held devices.

FANS SAY

A help in avoiding hand-held guns. Has the Royal seal of approval. And the laser detectors often come free with GPS.

SCEPTICS SAY

They don't work. By the time you pick up the beam, you've already been nicked.

LEGAL?

Yes, but not for long. The Road Traffic Safety Bill now in parliament will ban them.

RADAR

Bel Euro 550 - £449.99

Snooper S1 - £79.99

WHAT IT DOES

Detects radars used by fixed speed cameras, such as those made by Gatso.

FANS SAY

They alert you up to 400 yards in advance of the camera.

SCEPTICS SAY

Automatic shop doors set them off, so a trip down the high street can drive the detector to meltdown. GPS systems are more than adequate. Cannot pick up mobile speed cameras, which now use laser.

LEGAL?

Yes, but not for much longer

LASER JAMMER / DIFFUSER

Target Laser Track 400 - £349.99.

WHAT IT DOES

Sends out a signal to confuse laser guns, which then display an error code. Laser diffusers are normally sold under the guise of "remote garage door openers".

FANS SAY

The only true weapon against laser guns for those who struggle to stick to the speed limit.

SCEPTICS SAY

You don't get much for your money. You still need GPS to alert you to Gatsos and the many other digitally operated speed cameras.

LEGAL?

Definitely not. Although the "garage door" function remains a grey area.

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