|London, 29 July 2000.
For immediate release.
These devices are claimed to be effective at catching all speeders, but they are not - they are selective in a particularly divisive way if used in an urban environment, and cannot deal effectively with accident backspots. They only make sense as mass revenue raisers under the new recycling of fines rules.
They work by taking a picture of the front of the vehicle and then recognising the registration number when it passes the second camera. To be caught, a motorist has to pass both cameras. So if there are any junctions or access points to property between the cameras, those using them to leave or join the "speed control zone" will not be caught however fast they drive.
"This is a devisive and worrying development," says the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "At the moment, when local residents demand action against "speeding motorists", it is usually the same residents who are then caught by the police. With this hypocrites' charter, only through traffic is prosecuted - any resident living between the cameras can pass one at 100mph on the way home and have nothing to fear. And, when they realise they can, they will - it's only human nature."
The ABD unreservedly condemns a system that allows some people to enforce a law against others, but then permits them to ignore this law themselves. Such a situation is unjust and divisive. And, of course, if someone is actually involved in an accident in the zone, they won't reach the other end and be prosecuted, either!
This system is also fundamentally flawed from a safety point of view. A conventional speed camera can, at least in theory, be used to get drivers to moderate their speed appropriately for a specific hazard. These new ones work on average speed over a certain distance, and so are completely useless for accident blackspots.
"These cameras only make sense to someone with a "bowling alley" mentality to road safety. This assumes that drivers just set one speed and then stick to it for miles, mowing down pedestrians who just stand there like skittles," continues Humphries. "All that matters to this way of thinking is trying to reduce the impact speed a little so that the "skittle" is less damaged."
In reality, people moderate their speed continually according to the conditions and avoid most accidents altogether. Most pedestrians look before they step out, and so do not get run over.
These new digital cameras will actually CREATE the bowling alley! They will force people to drive at exactly the speed limit without taking conditions into account or paying proper attention - the bowling ball. Meanwhile, pedestrians will be lulled into a false sense of security and get more careless - the skittles.
Other problems will also result - some people will be stopped in between the cameras by traffic conditions and will realise they can speed up for the rest of the zone. Others will realise they have exceeded the limit at some point because they were actually concentrating on the road not their speedometer (shame on them) and will stop before the second camera. A recipe for disaster.
These problems can only be avoided by using these cameras in free flowing traffic where there are no houses, no bends, no junctions and no pedestrians - but there aren't any speed related accidents in such places, either!
Nottingham Council and the police have spent a lot of money on public relations in an attempt to sell this scheme to an increasingly sceptical public. They have resorted to the usual emotional blackmail - dedicating the scheme to a child road accident victim. But was this accident caused by speeding, or was it really caused by the sort of behaviour that these cameras will encourage - inattentiveness and aggression? Most likely the latter - it's happened before. In 1997, the DETR used a child who had been knocked down on a pedestrian crossing in an anti speeding campaign.
The £300,000 spent on these cameras would have been more usefully spent on properly trained police officers dealing with bad and dangerous driving. This would save more lives and retain public goodwill. But, of course, it wouldn't satisfy the current macho desire to bully motorists and it wouldn't raise any money. No chance there, then!
See also PR 280