Re-branding aims to make drivers love the camera

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The Independent Online

As makeovers go, it's not quite as audacious as Michael Jackson's nose job or even Sven Goran Ericsson's transformation to sex god, but Britain's growing army of roadside speed cameras are being re-branded as "safety cameras" in a bid to sell their virtues to a sceptical public.

Part-traffic warden, part-taxman, part-snooper, the speed camera – or "one-eyed monster" as some have christened it – has had a terrible press since it was unleashed upon unsuspecting motorists in the mid-1990s.

Now the Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, famed for its spin skills in the wake of Jo Moore's notorious e-mail about September 11, has decided that it is time the cameras got the respect they deserve. Instead of seeing them as devious agents of the state, the department wants us to view them as society's little helpers.

As a result, all government and police literature, websites and policy documents have been altered to accommodate the name change and latest plans to use them in targeted areas have been termed the Traffic Safety Camera Initiative. The cost of the re-branding, the pet project of Transport minister David Jamieson, has not yet been quantified. The changecomes after new figures showing that cameras have cut dramatically the number of accidents.

Extensive research by the department has found that in eight pilot areas with accident blackspots, the number of people killed or seriously injured fell by 47 per cent compared to the average over the previous three years. Overall, the number of drivers speeding at camera sites dropped from 55 per cent to 16 per cent.

The Government aims to cut the numbers killed and injured on the roads by 40 per cent by 2010 and Mr Jamieson wants to show the cameras can make a big difference.

"Safety is what they are about, so calling them safety cameras seems to make much more sense," he said.