Hoon Wrong about Average Speed Cameras
Reports over the weekend suggested that Geoff Hoon is considering widespread replacement of fixed speed cameras with average speed ones, measuring speed over a long distance.
He claims that he understands why people dislike fixed cameras and that average speed cameras are "fairer, and encourage safe driving", but we say they are just bigger, nastier bullies and will utterly destroy safe driving in the long term.
"Fixed cameras had some logic behind them, in that they could be used in specific accident blackspots (like dangerous junctions) to make dozy drivers think about what they were doing," said the ABD's Nigel Humphries. "But average speed cameras will just make drivers switch off their brains and turn them into cruise control missiles - only a government that has given up on accident prevention and thinks that making people crash at the speed limit is the way forwards could support them."
The reason the ABD has been so critical of fixed cameras is that they have been badly misused, to the extent that their effect on road safety had actually been counter-productive. Reasons for this include:
- Cameras are seen as a panacea, so have been used instead of the correct safety solutions
- Many cameras are placed on roads with limits that are too low and are therefore mostly penalizing safe behaviour
- Camera partnerships have used them to raise revenue and the public inevitably sees a cynical motive in this
- The criteria for cameras to be used do not require the accidents to be speed related
- Public disapproval of cameras has led to drivers being unreceptive to all safety messages
- The need to justify unpopular cameras has led to the real causes of crashes being covered up
- Cameras distract drivers from the task of observing the road for genuine hazards, especially in urban areas
- The widespread use of cameras underpins the false safety message that speed setting by numbers is important and so undermines the ability of drivers to recognise and respond correctly to hazards such as children running out.
Average speed cameras do all of these things to a much more pernicious extent than fixed cameras. Their only positive is that they reduce the incidence of sudden braking caused by the misuse of fixed cameras on roads like the A14 in Cambridgeshire and in motorway roadworks, which has actually been shown to increase accidents!
"Overall, average speed cameras are a terrible nightmare for motorists, who hate travelling on roads equipped with them," concludes Humphries. "They are the ultimate embodiment of the late Auberon Waugh's great quotation that "speed cameras are fatuous instruments of oppression designed to exercise power for its own sake and impose subservience" and their use should be confined to motorway roadworks where they have a marginal benefit and do little harm."
If Hoon thinks these devices will be popular he is living on another planet.