Expert hits out at Hertfordshire speed camera policy

A SPEED camera expert from St Albans has hit out at the county council over its decision not to reduce spending on cameras in the wake of financial constraints.

Safety engineering manager Eric Bridgstock, of Evans Grove, St Albans, has spent the last three years conducting independent and unfunded research into the effectiveness of speed cameras.

As a result he has built a national campaign to remove them on the basis that there is evidence that they have a net negative impact on road safety despite claims to the contrary.

Last month the county council revealed that it would be reducing the number of street lights and the current bus provision in a bid to save money.

But funding will continue for the Herts Safety Camera Partnership with Cllr Stuart Pile, the executive member for highways and transport, claiming that the latest figures show that there is a reduction in the number of people killed or seriously injured in collisions at camera sites.

But Mr Bridgstock, who advised both Swindon and Oxfordshire councils before they switched off their cameras, maintains that Cllr Pile’s comments are misleading.

He pointed out that the 64.4 per cent reduction in fatalities and serious accidents promoted by Cllr Pile was not an annual fall as it appeared but the apparent reduction since cameras were installed – anything up to eight years ago.

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He explained that cameras were always installed immediately after a high number of crash/injuries which meant the incident rate had to fall and that other factors, including under-reporting of injuries, improvement in vehicle design and drivers choosing alternative routes to avoid cameras, influenced the numbers and gave the impression that they were much more effective than they were.

Mr Bridgstock has also discovered that there were 49 deaths on the roads in the county in 2001 – the year before the Herts Safety Camera Partnership was formed – and that number was exceeded in four of the following six years.

The decision to continue funding cameras was taken at a panel meeting early last month at which Mr Bridgstock was present.

He said there was no debate about funding, even though he had sent clear evidence of its failure to councillors.

He was also critical of the county council’s late recognition of the value of Vehicle Activated Signs which independent reports had shown to be as effective as speed cameras which cost 50 times more.

Mr Bridgstock said that despite the evidence he had produced, he had been consistently ignored by the county council and what answers they had produced were weak.

He added: “Refusal to debate is an admission that they have lost the argument and a reason to continue hounding them.

“Their position is ultimately unsustainable.”