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PostPosted: Fri May 28, 2004 14:15 
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http://www.herts-essex-news.co.uk/mercu ... ?id=116931

A mixed message of safety on our roads

ONLY half the residents of East Herts believe speed cameras cut accidents, according to a poll.

Yet 64 per cent still support their use to reduce casualties on the roads.

The mixed findings came in a survey of public attitudes by the Hertfordshire Safety Camera Partnership, which quizzed 700 people across the county.

Just a quarter of those polled in East Herts felt there were too many cameras in the district.

And 65 per cent agreed that cameras were meant to encourage drivers to keep to speed limits and not to punish them.

But bosses at the safety camera partnership ? a joint county council, police and courts body ? will have been puzzled to learn that only 50 per cent thought they would actually reduce casualties on the roads.

Cllr Derrick Ashley, Herts County Council?s executive member for the environment, remained upbeat.

He said: ?We are very encouraged by these results. It seems that the people of Hertfordshire can see for themselves that speed kills and cameras can save lives.?

A spokesman for the Association of British Drivers was more sceptical.

He said: ?Yes, it reflects a general consensus in opinion, but quite often these surveys lead the participants into a certain answer.

?A lot of people aren?t bothered by speed cameras now, but this is due to the work we have done. We forced the Government into making the cameras visible.

?If they weren?t visible, a lot more people would be caught and people?s attitude may be a lot different.?

The number of speed cameras in Herts has risen by almost 40 per cent to 89 in the last year. Motorists in Hertford and Ware alone have seen four new cameras installed at accident blackspots.

Revenue from speeding fines is ploughed back into the safety camera partnership as the county council aims to reduce the number of people killed or injured on roads by 40 per cent by 2010.

And casualty figures are falling, as the Mercury reported last week.

In 2003, there were 38 fatalities on the roads, compared with 58 in 2002. There were also 106 fewer serious injuries, and minor injuries were down by more than 300.

The results of the survey came after the Government announced a tightening up on the effectiveness of cameras. Transport Secretary Alistair Darling is set to order the removal of 5,500 cameras that are incorrectly positioned or no longer of any use.

There is also a possibility that penalties will be reduced. Currently a driver caught speeding faces a £60 fine and three points added to their licence, but this may be reduced to just two points.

THE CASE FOR

Clair Hill is spokeswoman for the Hertfordshire Safety Camera Partnership, which is made up of Hertfordshire County Council, Hertfordshire Police and Hertfordshire Magistrates? Courts. She argues in favour of having more cameras.

SPEED limits are there for a reason ? the safety of road users. Safety cameras are there to catch people who break the speed limit ? if you break the speed limit, you are breaking the law. It?s as simple as that.

Pedestrians hit by a vehicle travelling at 20mph have a 95 per cent chance of survival but only a five per cent chance at 40mph. Yet some drivers seem obsessed with the idea that they should be able to drive at whatever speed they like.

Safety cameras are intended to force people to slow down through the simple deterrent of penalising those who drive too fast. The myth that they are there to raise money will easily be disproved by figures from Hertfordshire ? which will be published after an audit in September. The partnership can only claim its running costs back from the Treasury, so no ?profit? is made.

According to strict rules laid down by the Government, the partnership can only place the static cameras where there have been at least eight personal injury collisions, of which four must be fatal or serious, within a three-year period. Mobile camera sites must have seen four personal injury collisions within three years, of which two must be fatal or serious.

For instance, in Ware Road in Hertford, where the cameras were put up in October last year, there were seven people killed or seriously injured in a three year period and 22 accidents, all relating to speed ? hardly surprising as more than 85 per cent of drivers were going above 40mph in a 30mph zone. The camera in London Road in Ware was installed after six people were killed or seriously injured in three years.

In 2003, the number of people killed on Hertfordshire?s roads dropped to 38 from 58 the year before, and although it is too early to say for sure that this is due to the cameras, in pilot camera schemes a reduction of 35 per cent in deaths and serious injuries was reported.

The cameras that are most successful are those that catch no-one at all because people are slowing down. When you see a camera, you are in an area where there have been accidents in which people have been killed or seriously injured. The sole aim of the partnership is to reduce those accidents.

Safety cameras and all other road safety measures are there to save road users? lives.

THE CASE AGAINST

Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign, believes that speed cameras have not added to already successful road-safety policies in Britain.

SPEED cameras are a poor solution to a problem that barely exists.

Latest Department for Transport figures show that just 12.5 per cent of accidents involve ?excessive speed?, but closer examination of the figures soon reveals that just 30 per cent of those accidents also involve exceeding a speed limit. The other 70 per cent involve speed that was excessive for the conditions but within the speed limit.

So we have less than 4 per cent of all accidents involving vehicles exceeding a speed limit, and this is the only accident group that cameras can address.

So perhaps we can hope that cameras will deliver a 4 per cent reduction in road accidents? After all, any reduction is obviously worth having. But unfortunately speed cameras come with side effects. For example, when travelling along Ware Road in Hertford, drivers look out for cameras and check their speedos time and again, when they should be looking for danger ahead. Every single speedo check is another precious second of distraction from the road ahead.

Hertfordshire Safety Camera Partnership admits that it does not yet have the data to prove speed cameras have saved a single life, and no work nationally has been done to evaluate the overall effects on road safety of these distractions.

Looking at national roads fatality statistics, in the speed camera decade we have seen no significant fall in road fatalities, yet in the previous 25 years fatalities were more than halved. Traffic growth has been consistent, and vehicle safety has been improving very steadily year after year. So why haven?t roads fatalities continued to fall?

After 5,000 hours studying the effects of speed cameras on UK road safety I am absolutely certain that the speed camera policy is primarily responsible for this deadly loss of trend in fatal accidents.

We should be down to about 2,000 road fatalities a year by now, and without speed cameras I am certain that we could have achieved it. Instead fatalities are stuck at 3,500 and more than 6,000 lives lost on the road in the last decade are officially unexplained.

I don?t give a fig if a specific speed camera saves a few lives. Because of the policy that enables the camera, more lives are lost elsewhere. And we can?t get them to work by putting in more, because the more we put in the greater the distraction effect.

Instead we need an urgent return to the excellent road safety policies that gave us the safest roads in the world in the first place ? something we achieved a decade before speed cameras.

_________________
Paul Smith
Our scrap speed cameras petition got over 28,000 sigs
The Safe Speed campaign demands a return to intelligent road safety


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