For examples of both good and bad siting of speed cameras, see also
The Good, Bad and Ugly of A3 Speed Camera locations — SW London

Government's empty promises

Speed cameras — a betrayal of public trust

The 1991 Road Traffic Act allowed the use of Speed Cameras to gain prosecutions in the UK for the first time. Their introduction was underpinned by extensive and ongoing publicity to link speed with accidents regardless of circumstance based on the simplistic and selective use of available evidence. When assurances were added that they would be sited only at accident blackspots, motoring organisations, the press and much of the motoring public put aside their apprehensions and acquiesced to the increasing use of these devices on the grounds that they would save lives.

Some cameras, sited as promised at junction or traffic light locations, have indeed resulted in localised falls in serious accidents. Taking this together with continued advances in both active and passive vehicle safety, improved vehicle security reducing 'joyriding' by unqualified drivers, continuing road improvements and little increase in road traffic, one would have expected an acceleration in the long term trend towards fewer deaths on the roads.

However, in 1995 UK road deaths and serious injuries fell only marginally. Hampshire, with no speed cameras, mirrored the national trend whereas speed camera laden Oxfordshire suffered a 30% increase in deaths.

The ABD's response

The ABD has always maintained that, despite the assurances, speed cameras would be placed in open road locations enforcing often inappropriate speed limits and serving little purpose other than to move the whole enforcement system away from the education of dangerous drivers and towards the arbitrary penalisation of safe and responsible citizens. These fears have been realised and the consequential undermining of driving skills has, the ABD believes, been a significant factor in this failure to improve Britain's road safety record.

Restrictions on this irresponsible abuse of Speed Cameras are now essential in order to ensure they are used in the manner originally promised and can thus make a positive rather than a negative contribution to road safety.

The ABD is campaigning for an amendment to the 1991 Act which would require clear labelling of all speed cameras with a sign 200yds in advance showing a valid justification for the camera placement and reminding drivers of the speed limit. An example would be — "Dangerous junction — Camera 200yds — 40mph". Cameras where no such justification exists should be removed.

A summary of our supporting arguments is contained in the attached question and answer sheet. We are sure that if these arguments are placed before Britain's motorists, a significant proportion will be justifyably angry that their trust in the authorities has been betrayed by the blatant misuse of speed cameras to the detriment of road safety.

Strategy against Gatso cameras

  1. To make members aware of Trunk Road camera locations by compiling maps.
  2. To highlight to the authorities and the general public specific examples where cameras have been placed in open road locations with no safety justification in direct contravention of the promises made on their introduction. (See A3 locations described below)
  3. To highlight the failure of cameras to significantly reduce overall National accident, injury or death rates.
  4. To demonstrate the negative impact on driver skills derived from an unreasonable enforcement policy perpetrated by whatever means.
  5. To specifically campaign against enforcement of the 70mph motorway limit by cameras.
  6. To campaign for the restriction of cameras to clearly labelled accident black spots.

Speed cameras — Questions & Answers

Q. Is the ABD against Speed Cameras altogether?

A. No. The ABD accepts the argument used to justify speed cameras on their introduction — that they can cut accidents by making reckless or incompetent drivers slow down for specific hazards which generate 'accident black spots'.

Q. How can you say that the authorities have 'abused' Speed Cameras?

Instead of being located in blackspots, the majority of cameras have been placed in open road locations where they serve no purpose other than to catch out drivers who are travelling at an appropriate speed for the conditions. A particularly worrying trend is the recent placement of cameras on the motorway network, currently Britain's safest roads despite almost universal disregard for the 70mph speed limit.

Q. How can you accuse the authorities of irresponsibility when they are just doing their job?

Even those cameras sited correctly are often not clearly labelled, thus denying the target group of drivers the opportunity to be educated into slowing down for hazards. This clearly demonstrates an irresponsible attitude on the part of the authorities - prosecutions are more important than road safety.

Q. But surely a safe driver never exceeds the speed limit?

A. The speed limit is supposed to be the maximum safe speed on that road and it is up to the driver to use his skill and judgement to set his speed appropriately to the conditions within it. On country lanes, shopping streets and housing estates this is usually the case, but on the open road and on many clear urban through roads, limits exist which bring this statement into disrepute. There are several reasons for this:

Q. We hear that 'speed kills', and so why isn't a general slowdown a good thing?

A. The authorities state that 'excessive speed is a contributory factor in a third of accidents'. But what about the other two thirds, and what is the main factor in this minority if speed is only 'contributory'? This missing factor, the real cause of most accidents, is failure by drivers to respond to hazards:

  1. They fail to see them because they aren't looking.
  2. They see the hazard but do not recognise it as such, and so fail to act.
  3. They recognise the hazard but do not know how to respond in line with their own and their vehicle's ability.

Driving at an inappropriate speed for the conditions is simply one consequence of these fundamental failings. To separate it out as a root cause in its own right is meaningless and dangerous.

Q How does this alleged camera abuse translate into more dangerous roads?

A1. Most obviously by distracting drivers' attention from the road. Since a driver cannot rely on keeping her licence by driving sensibly and appropriately, the first use of her senses must always be to locate the camera and then to ensure she passes it at the correct speed. Whilst doing this, she cannot give her full attention to other potential hazards, and may take unpredictable evasive action such as braking which creates a hazard for other road users.

A2 Perhaps more importantly by undermining his skills. A safe driver is one able to judge road conditions for himself. But sensible and necessary speed limits are rarely enforced, presumably because it is more cost effective to collect tickets from safe drivers on roads where the limit is inappropriately low. Such circumstances reward drivers for travelling at the speed they can get away with rather than what is safe, and even the most skilled driver will find himself losing his ability to judge road conditions properly. New drivers stand little chance of developing their skills to a level where they can cope with normal day to day hazards safely and intelligently.

Q. Isn't it wrong to break the law, and shouldn't those who do so be punished?

A. The ABD believes that laws are necessary but that they should be fair to all and serve a clear purpose. Enforcement to the letter of regulations which large numbers of responsible citizens regard as unreasonable and pointless can only lead to widespread disregard for the whole system of law and is a significant factor in the breakdown in standards of honesty in the Western world.

Q. Who are the ABD and why should their views be pulicised?

A.The ABD is made up of responsible drivers who believe the rights of the motorist are being undermined to an unacceptable degree. We all hold down full time jobs in the community and mostly have growing families, and so the time freely given to campaigning on behalf of ourselves and millions of other motorists is both limited and precious. Unlike some of our opponents, we are not inclined to climb trees, storm security offices or paint slogans on our naked bodies.

The published arguments in support of this erosion of rights have, in our opinion, been ill thought out and one sided at best, and have all too often been presented as fact and have gone unchallenged. Whilst we respect the rights of others to promote their views, we believe it is time to redress the balance.

The British public has a right to know that they have been conned into accepting Speed Cameras under false pretences. Join the ABD.

For examples of both good and bad siting of speed cameras, see also
The Good, Bad and Ugly of A3 Speed Camera locations — SW London