Road Safety News

Cameras becoming more acceptable

Tuesday 28th August 2012

82% of people now say it is acceptable for local authorities to use safety cameras, but 45% think that raising income is still a main reason for their use, according to an IAM survey.

The survey results are presented in a report titled ‘Speed cameras: a snapshot of public opinion’.

The annual survey also reveals that 72% of respondents think that speed awareness courses are a good idea, and 85% think that cameras have helped to contribute to the fall in road deaths since the 90s.

The results do, however, vary from country to country.

Cameras are least popular in Wales where 32% of respondents think they are unacceptable. At 27%, Wales also had the highest number of respondents who had either been caught speeding or knew someone in their household who was caught speeding.

Cameras are most popular in Scotland where only 15% think they are unacceptable, and just 14% of Scottish respondents or a member of their household had been caught speeding.

In England, 20% of respondents think cameras are not acceptable, and 19% of households had someone who had been convicted of speeding.

Simon Best, IAM chief executive, said: “Simply catching and fining drivers does not change drivers’ awareness of the hazards of excessive speed. The popularity of speed awareness courses show that the public think training is the best option.

“Speed cameras are an essential part of the policing toolkit and are becoming more and more accepted, but it’s clear that some people need reassuring about their purpose and funding.”

For more information contact the IAM on 020 8996 9777.


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I stand by every statement I have posted here, and my integrity is in tact. The public have been fed on a diet of "speed kills" and "cameras save lives". They are then surveyed with loaded questions such as "do you think accidents fall at camera sites?" (they do fall, but because of site selection, regression to the mean, etc, and not due to some magical camera effect). Results of such surveys tells us nothing about the actual effect of cameras.

I work as a safety professional and look for evidence and argument - that is what matters. The public think that Concorde should still be flying - does that make it safe? Of course it doesn't, any more than the IAM proves that cameras are effective.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (1) | Disagree (5)

“As ever, it matters not what the uninformed or misinformed public THINK or BELIEVE.”

“The views of people who know little or nothing about a subject should be ignored when making safety related decisions.”

A couple of not unreasonable quotes from earlier in this thread. I wonder who they are attributable to? Why, it’s Mr Bridgstock!

Sort of puts his own and certain others' views on this subject into context really.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (3) | Disagree (1)

I believe you have fallen into the wishful thinking trap. There is more evidence of cameras contributing to deaths than there is of their "bit by bit" removal from the road (not even the authorities claim that as an effect).

Any assessment of effect must consider the negative consequences as well as the positive. Increasing collisions as a consequence of attempting to slow some vehicles, especially when the limit is set well below the 85%ile (which is always the case at a camera site) is not acceptable.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (1) | Disagree (4)

Speeding doesn’t have to lead to collisions for people to be bothered by it. Statistics are of less importance than what people witness with their own eyes (and with their own ears in the case of speeding motorcyclists) on a daily basis in their communities. Those who support enforcement of traffic laws – and it is speeding offences that usually come to mind – do so because they are so fed up with the annoying anti-social behaviour of speeders along their road, that they understandably would support anything to curtail it.

Show me a persistent speeder and I’ll show you someone who is a liability on the road and where automatic speed enforcement really scores, is not by reducing collisions on one particular road but cumulatively, in that bit-by-bit, by acquiring points, these troublemakers eventually get taken off the road, or in an ideal world, they learn and become more responsible.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (4) | Disagree (3)

Neil, of course "injuries at camera locations have dropped since the cameras were installed", this is to be expected simply due to the effect of your site selection.

The question is, did the speed cameras increase or decrease the number of those injuries? The authorities have refused to perform the tests or analysis required to answer this question so I decided to do it myself. I investigated the speed cameras in Thames Valley and found that the entire reduction in injury collisions was due to other factors, the speed cameras had produced no reduction at all. In fact, at mobile speed camera sites, injury collisions had increased after speed enforcement started.

If the results of the IAM survey are genuinely representative of public opinion, perhaps campaigns of mass deception can fool most of the people most of the time?
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (4) | Disagree (6)

Duncan's astute question is a variation on "can drive safely all day if your speedometer is broken?"
Not necessarily legally, but safely?
The answer, of course, is yes.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (5)

How would you manage road safety if the speedometer had never been invented?
Duncan MacKillop

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The results of the poll aren't that surprising. Here in Sussex, we are regularly asked to install speed cameras by local community members as they see that cameras do have a significant effect on speed. Our data also shows that injuries at camera locations have dropped since the cameras were installed.

In the last 4 years, I have witnessed a real turn-around in local public opinion regarding camera installation. Whereas we used to get lambasted at shows/events by those who were not in favour of speed enforcement, we now get far more praise and interest in how the cameras work than ever before.

Cameras are only one part of the puzzle. But it's good to see that research backs up our experience of a turn in the public opinion tide.
Neil Hopkins, Sussex

Agree (8) | Disagree (6)

Eric, a senior aerospace safety engineer, rightly points out that the views of people who know little or nothing about a subject should be ignored when making safety related decisions.

The technique of wording the questions to get the desired answers is as old as the polling industry itself. The vast majority of the respondents in this case will have known little if any of the detail, and what they will have come across, as Dave Finney rightly points out, is 20 years' propaganda, much of which is demonstrably false. To take one common example - Partnerships and others have for years have routinely claimed that their cameras (which typically cut speeding by only 1/3 or so) cut accidents by 10 times the proportion ever involving speeding in the first place - an utter impossibility.

Quite where the IAM finds these supporters I do not know. For an alternative assessment just read the comments on any newspaper website report about cameras!
Idris Francis

Agree (4) | Disagree (11)

In response to Dave of Leeds - as always, it is necessary to look very carefully at data before drawing conclusions. In this case there is a big difference between drivers who now pay fines and those who now go on awareness courses - in general awareness courses are available only to those who breach limits by modest amounts and in any case not more frequently than once every 3 years.

Fines are now mostly paid by those who drive faster or have more penalty points already, and who are therefore inherently more likely to be caught again.

Unless the study somehow allows for this - and it is not clear to me how it could - the results mean nothing at all.
Idris Francis

Agree (4) | Disagree (8)

As ever, it matters not what the uninformed or misinformed public THINK or BELIEVE.
What matters is the effect that speed cameras have had on road safety - and that is indisputably negative. Bodies and individuals who say they support cameras have admitted to me that cameras can lead to collisions/casualties that would not have happened had the camera not been present - but they are unable to argue that cameras prevent more crashes than they cause.

If 82% believed in Santa Claus ...
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (15)

Saw a presentation by Dr Cris Burges yesterday which suggested that offending drivers / riders who just get a ticket and fine are less likely to change their behaviour than those who go on a RIDE or speed awareness course. Education over punishment seems to be the way forward, perhaps those caught by camera could be offered courses too?
Dave, Leeds

Agree (7) | Disagree (3)

Keith - fair point. Elsewhere in the story we do refer to 'respondents' but for brevity used 'people' in the opening para.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety GB newsfeed

Agree (5) | Disagree (2)

An interesting opening and catching line.
"82% of people now say it is acceptable..."
Is this referring to 82% of UK people or the worlds people. Or is it actually 82% of respondents to the survey.
Keith Doyle - London

Agree (5) | Disagree (1)

The results of this survey should not surprise, at least not initially.

Road safety policies in the last 20 years, and speed cameras in particular, have been the subject of one of the most continuous campaigns of public misinformation by the authorities. The deception has been all the more effective as the media have, for the most part, gone along with the PR without checking their facts. It should not be surprising that most people have been taken in by it.

One of the questions was about factual information and only 50% knew the correct answer.

The IAM report itself is quite good in that it asks the same questions each year, so results can be compared for different years, but the IAM is clearly biased stating “The IAM supports the use of speed cameras ...”. Also there are some misleading statements and some of the questions contain negatives.
Dave Finney - Slough

Agree (5) | Disagree (12)