Road Safety News

Councils keep the cameras rolling

Tuesday 10th July 2012

Two years after the Government announced major cuts in road safety funding, figures obtained by the RAC Foundation suggest that fixed safety cameras continue to be used in most areas of England.

The RAC Foundation has welcomed this, saying that if all cameras were switched off, the number of road deaths and serious injuries would increase by around 80 and 700 respectively.

Data obtained by the RAC Foundation following Freedom of Information (FOI) requests reveal that, in England, there are currently 2,331 fixed safety camera sites; 3,026 fixed safety camera housings; and 487 operational fixed cameras.

Of the 38 organisations approached with FOI requests, four refused to answer questions, while Durham, Darlington, North Yorkshire and York have never used fixed safety cameras.

Of the remaining 32, 10 said they had made no change to the level of provision of sites, housings and cameras since 2010, while several others registered only small changes in provision over the past two years.

The biggest changes have been in Avon & Somerset and Wiltshire & Swindon where all operational cameras have been switched off.

Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Many people believe there has been a mass switch-off of cameras over the past couple of years. But the data shows that, overall, this is simply not true.

“The RAC Foundation’s best evidence is that if all speed cameras were turned off around 80 more people would be killed on the roads each year with 700 others seriously injured. Therefore, we welcome these figures which suggest the majority of fixed cameras have been retained and housings are being kept in place to act as a deterrent.

“We are concerned funds won’t be available to purchase new equipment to replace increasingly antiquated film cameras. There is a lack of money for all aspects of road safety and we urge councillors to allocate adequate budgets to protect people on the roads by whatever means is appropriate.”

For more information contact Philip Gomm, RAC Foundation, on 020 7747 3445.


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Surely the main point about the speed camera fiasco is that - contrary to good practice in this or any other sphere - there were no proper, detailed accident studies of the sites at which they are used, and so no opportunity to apply more socially acceptable solutions. They were "rolled out" as a matter of policy - and have probably suppressed the rate of reduction by dint of their relatively poor effect (about a 20% reduction in accidents).

It seems that we simply do not want to expend resources on more ingenious solutions. We seem to enjoy the culture of blame which appears to motivate the pro-camera lobby. Isn't it time we opened our eyes to what is possible today - without resorting to the camera - or that other crude measure - the road hump?
Andrew Fraser

Agree (3) | Disagree (3)

In my opinion there are not enough cameras, and they are not the right type. Average speed cameras should be deployed on every major road, and mobile camera's should be deployed on inner city and suburban roads.
Jim, Aberdeen

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)

In answer, I only know of 1 official report in which KSI had “gone up at exact locations where cameras are installed”, and that report is TRL595 (the largest UK report on speed cameras on motorways). The report doesn't actually state what effect the cameras had but the data is in the report so readers can work it out for themselves. KSI went up at average speed camera sites and went up even more at Gatso sites.

The RAC report only provides (p32) an "...indication of the possible scale of the contribution of RTM" (and suggests RTM is the largest effect).

The problem seems to be that no official report has measured site-selection effects, or excluded them from the results, therefore the effects of speed cameras (positive or negative) remain open to speculation.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

Can anyone tell me if KSIs have gone up at exact locations where cameras are installed? There could be a lot of factors why KSIs have risen city/borough or town wide. Cameras do not give blanket coverage of cities etc and are only deployed in specific areas when there is a casualty problem. There are a lot of people on here that give negative views of a measure introduced to reduce KSIs, but never offer anything in return - and most have also been quite lucky to never have to experience a loss on the roads due to negligence of other people - I would like to hear their views then.

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

Just have a drive around Stoke-on-Trent. There are literally hundreds of cameras, on some roads every 200 yards or so. A grotesque overprovision, and must be contributing to the degradation of S-o-T as a centre of employment. You can lose your licence in 5 minutes here! What next, cameras in the home no doubt.
Fraser, Crewe

Agree (9) | Disagree (10)

The RAC Foundation's "evidence" is spurious and does not have a sound foundation. It was repudiated in a commentary which is here:

But the RAC seems to believe that by repeating their claims incessantly, sooner or later people will believe them.
Roger Lawson, London

Agree (7) | Disagree (5)

The biggest changes have been in Avon & Somerset and Wiltshire & Swindon where all operational cameras have been switched off. Both areas showed a reduction in serious injuries with Swindon named as the safest town in the UK!

Agree (13) | Disagree (5)

There is a mistake in the sentence beginning "The RAC Foundation’s best evidence…". The word "evidence" should of course be "guess". It is fundamentally impossible to have evidence of something that hasn't happened.

Agree (13) | Disagree (0)

To my knowledge, speed cameras have triggered at least five deaths (listed by me previously on this website). A Highways Agency study in 2008 found that average speed cameras introduce hazards (distraction, sudden braking, bunching and sudden lane changing) and do not reduce collisions or casualties, and added that they were better than fixed/mobile cameras in this respect!

It is inconceivable that cameras can magically save lives or lead to increased KSI if they are decommissioned.

The RACF report estimating hundreds of KSI that would result from a switch-off was based on non-validated models and assumptions (based on wishful thinking, ignoring all negative effects).
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (11) | Disagree (21)

The RAC report conclusion that if speed cameras were to be decommissioned across Great Britain then there could be 800 more KSI per year, relies on "the power model".

Earlier this year my report found that the power model doesn't actually work in practice when speeds are reduced using speed cameras.

We really do need to run scientific trials to find out what effect speed cameras are actually having.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (10) | Disagree (14)