London, 3 August 1999.
For immediate release.

Contact the ABD

Press Release

SVDD Cameras Will Not Make Our Roads Safer
New Camera System Kills "Accident Blackspot" Assurances Dead
New "SVDD" cameras, recently given Home Office approval for use on the UK motorway network, will do nothing to reduce deaths and injuries, says the Association of British Drivers. All they will achieve is to accelerate the downward trend in driving standards attributable to the facile "speed kills" campaign, whilst creating a climate of fear for responsible road users.

Unlike the familiar grey box Gatso cameras, the new system works by automatically reading the number plate of every passing vehicle and timing it between two points up to a mile apart. An almost limitless number of tickets can then be issued by a computer linked to the DVLA registration database. It is alleged that they are to be introduced on the M2 in September, but the ABD has received conflicting information from sources within the DETR, the Highways Agency and the Police ranging from outright denial to confirmation.

When speed cameras were first legalised in 1991, assurances were given that they would be used as a deterrent to a minority of dangerous drivers at speed related accident blackspots, not for gaining mass prosecutions on open stretches of road.

The new SVDD cameras kill these already sick looking assurances stone dead. A system which works by measuring average speed over a mile cannot be used in an accident blackspot, only on open, unobstructed, high grade roads.

In fact, this system appears to have been designed with one purpose in mind - the rigid imposition of the 70mph motorway speed limit. Once this has been achieved, the motorway limit can then be reduced to 50mph on entirely spurious environmental grounds - a long term aim of the anti-car lobby.

There are no safety grounds whatever for introducing this system on Britain's roads. Our motorways are the safest roads in Britain and amongst the safest in the world. Most fatalities involve HGV's which are already mechanically limited to 56mph and so cannot be speed related. The ABD would urge the government to abandon any plans for these cameras and instead spend the money on improving the standards of competence of Britain's drivers.

Notes on Safety and Speed

Mark McArthur-Christie, Roads and Traffic Spokesman of the ABD says: "Slower drivers are not necessarily safer drivers. True, if they crash they are likely to do so at lower speeds, but the aim should be to stop them crashing in the first place. To attempt to improve safety simply by lowering speed limits and then enforcing them with cameras will have the long term effect of lowering driving standards and making crashes more likely."

McArthur-Christie continues: "Tackling bad driving with cameras is rather like treating a broken leg with pain killers - it removes the symptom, only allowing the patient to do more damage to himself in the long run."

Observation, anticipation and car control are all vitally important in safe driving, yet they are seldom mentioned in road safety campaigns. Instead the only message drummed into drivers is the simplistic "kill your speed".

Speed is only one factor in safe, effective driving - yet it is emphasised at the cost of all other elements, elements which are actually crucial to a driver's ability to use speed correctly. This obsession with speed and speed limits therefore shoots itself in the foot.

Driver training and education, shown to be far more effective than even the most optimistic "improvements" brought about by speed cameras (which often evaporate on close analysis), are ignored, as are observation, anticipation, car control and hazard management. The factors involved in safe driving are far too complex to be reduced to the simplistic "speed kills" formula.

McArthur-Christie concludes: "The only long-term method likely to improve driving standards and reduce road accidents will be investing in educating and training drivers throughout their driving careers. Money wasted on hardline speed enforcement would be far better spent in this area."


Notes for Editors