PUBLISHED: 11:51 28 February 2008 | UPDATED: 13:01 06 May 2010
SIR, — Herts County Councillor Stuart Pile is desperately trying to bolster the failing speed camera policy by claiming it saves lives (Herts Advertiser, February 21). I challenge him, or anyone else, to provide evidence, which would survive scrutiny in a
SIR, - Herts County Councillor Stuart Pile is desperately trying to bolster the failing speed camera policy by claiming it saves lives (Herts Advertiser, February 21). I challenge him, or anyone else, to provide evidence, which would survive scrutiny in a court, proving that cameras have saved a single life.
There were 51 fatalities on Herts roads last year, up from 43 in 2006. I am in contact with several Camera Partnerships across the country and know that this trend is being repeated nationally. Deaths on the roads in the North of Scotland, for example, have increased by 30 per cent a year since 2005 (20, 26, 34) and are at their highest level since 2000; their Camera Partnership was formed in July 2004. My research has taught me that these Partnerships are masters of massaging statistics to suggest that they are successful, but the overall results speak for themselves - they are a disaster.
As a safety professional, I have long struggled to understand how a camera on a stick can make our roads safer. It may slow most of the traffic for a very short stretch but speed is the contributing cause of only a very small proportion of collisions - possibly seven per cent according to national research and Herts Council's own reports. Speed in excess of the speed limit - the only offence a camera can detect - accounts for an even smaller number of collisions. So cameras may be influencing a tiny number of "possible collisions" at selected sites. But every junction, every overtaking opportunity, every slippery surface is a potential accident.
Driving is a process of continuously dealing with hazards from other road users, the road layout and the weather conditions. Cameras - and the need to look out for possible cameras - introduce an extra hazard, distracting attention away from genuine hazards and also causing drivers to spend more time checking their speedometer than is healthy. Since distraction is a cause of many accidents it is inevitable that distraction by camera has been responsible for some collisions. Indeed, there have been at least two fatal collisions this year where a camera was cited as the cause - one in Arizona and one in Kuwait (where three died). The tragic fatal collision in Smallford on Boxing Day was within half-a-mile of a pair of cameras.
The Herts Camera Partnership's latest Annual Report shows £2.5 million from fines and £2.5 million spent on running costs, including self-promoting publicity. Yet they are not competent to operate all the cameras legally. It is time to admit that speed cameras are not working as safety devices and to start dismantling the programme. We need to return to traditional methods of road safety which get the support of drivers and have positive effects on all measured performance.
Evans Grove, St Albans.