Unsafe cameras

SIR, — I write with regard to the speed camera thread in letters column. Mr Eric Bridgstock s letter (Herts Advertiser, February 28) lays a case against speed cameras.Herts County Councillor Stuart Pile s reply (March 6) quotes percentages of killed or se

SIR, - I write with regard to the speed camera thread in letters column.

Mr Eric Bridgstock's letter (Herts Advertiser, February 28) lays a case against speed cameras.Herts County Councillor Stuart Pile's reply (March 6) quotes percentages of killed or seriously-injured accidents at camera sites as having reduced by 64.4 per cent. We should therefore applaud the work of the speed camera in saving lives.

But just how do they achieve this, how is this figure arrived at when most accidents happen at speeds within set speed limits, and exceeding the limit is not a causal factor? If we look at the prime cause of accident collisions, the greatest single percentage are down to inattention (25.8 per cent), seconded by failure to judge path and distance.

Speed of vehicles will undoubtedly play a part in any accident as it indicates movement, whatever speed it may be. To suggest a reduction of average speed by 1mph will cut accident rates by five per cent, is pure fallacy, a fabrication of faith based upon statistical models. Where in reality is the proof?

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In claiming that speed cameras have reduced accidents, we must look at the criteria for their emplacement.

To qualify for emplacement, four KSI (killed or seriously injured) accidents must have occurred within five-eights of a mile (one kilometre) over the preceding three years. A fixed camera will be able to oversee just a very small part of that distance - barely 100 yards. It is not hard to calculate that accidents occurring in those 100 yards will be few. If it is so, and it's quite likely, then the camera is held to be a success in reducing accidents, despite being able to affect less than one tenth of the "site" criteria. Those speed cameras that are not fixed are there to catch people exceeding a limit and who may not even know when they were detected. This type of camera has little to do with safety and everything to do with remuneration.

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Furthermore, accidents seldom happen with regularity. They are rather like buses, you wait ages for one, then three come along. If three come along during the period within the camera emplacement criteria, and nothing turns up thereafter, should we claim a success for the life-saving camera or accept that what has occurred is nothing more than Regression To The Mean - a return to an interim period of "waiting"? Also, if traffic moves past a camera more slowly, it may not necessarily be safer. Traffic moving slowly tends to induce complacency, leading to inattention - the prime cause of the majority, if not all, accidents.

There is every reason why cameras cause a distraction as they are like all other distractions, taking the drivers attention away from the road. There is only one way in which a driver can tell his/her speed - the speedometer. It needs to be read even to check that one is within the limit. Since the inception of speed cameras on our roads in around 1993, the former strong downward trend in road-accident fatalities has levelled off markedly. No other factor can be apportioned to the reason than that single factor of speed-camera introduction. Statistics taken over a 50-year period show that, had the ongoing trend continued after 1993, another 1,000 people may not have been killed on the roads.


Woodland Drive, St Albans.

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