Road Safety News

Cameras reduce speeds in advance of operation

Wednesday 25th June 2014

The installation of average speed cameras on the A9 has slowed drivers down in advance of them being switched on, according to Transport Scotland.

Transport Scotland says that prior to installation one in three drivers were exceeding the speed limit on the stretch between Perth and Pitlochry, but this has reduced to one in 10 following installation of the cameras.

Keith Brown, Scotland’s transport minister, said: “The A9 Safety Group is clear that average speed cameras are effective in saving lives and this is backed up by the facts. 

“Before and after studies of other average speed camera sites in the UK show a reduction in accidents. On average, they achieved a 61% reduction in fatal and serious accidents. Average speed cameras encourage drivers to improve their behaviour and we are already seeing this on the A9.

“The Group is also taking forward measures to improve driver awareness of speed limits and to encourage safe overtaking on the route.” 

In a move to “reduce driver frustration”, the Scottish Parliament has approved legislation which will allow the HGV speed limit to be raised to 50 mph on single carriageway sections of the A9 when the cameras become operational in October 2014.


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Being a regular user of the A9 I can safely say that the cameras lead to increased frustration particularly for those of us who travel on business and have schedules to meet.

Now that the cameras are in action there is a strong tendency for convoys to build up, and not just behind lorries. There are now large numbers of cars that travel well below the speed limit. Most will not overtake as this involves going over the limit resulting in even more queues than there were previously.

The safest way to get past another vehicle is quickly, the cameras both prevent this and limit what few overtaking opportunities there are on this road.
John, Inverness

Agree (0) | Disagree (0)

I agree with Jeremy and it's refreshing to hear another voice calling for proper evidence to be produced. With the A8, 8 routes in/out of London and other roads, average speed cameras seem to be the new fashion authorities are adopting in road safety. The problem is that if the authorities have been unable to completely separate other effects (such as RTM) from those of speed cameras (of any type) previously, how can we expect them to achieve this with the new average speed cameras?

If, otoh, average speed cameras were installed within scientific trials, there would be no need to produce estimates of other effects and then endlessly debate how accurate they are, because the trials would automatically separate other effects from those of the speed cameras.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (2)

In response to Alan, one man's safe speed is another man's unsafe speed, so those that drive below the speed limit on any particular road at any particlar time are not necesaarily 'wrong' or inconsiderate to do so, any more than those who drive at the limit (or above) are 'right'.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (5)

To my surprise I found myself in agreement with Rod King regarding the extremely simplistic task of a split second glance at the speedo and with experience even that can be reduced. Sadly Rod lost me when he mentioned the fact that he drives at less than the speed limit. Had he qualified it by saying that when it is safe he drives up to the limit that would have helped.

Sadly in my opinion speed limits have been imposed by engineers behind desks rather than driving the road to understand a realistic speed for that road. This is then compounded by drivers who seem to feel it necessary to push the limit down by a further 2 to 10 mph when there is no good safety reason for doing it, thus increasing the frustration of those who used to be able to drive safely on a piece of road subject to the national speed limit but are now curtailed by nonsensical limits.

I find it amazing how many of these drivers who drive at 40 on a 50mph road then leave me behind as we enter a 30 limit as I comply with the law and they continue at 40.
Ultimately far better training is the only answer for all drivers and far greater roads policing. Two aspirations that I suspect I shall never see!
Alan Hale, South Gloucestershire.

Agree (5) | Disagree (5)

There are some outstanding opportunities emerging for robust and substantial research into some of the big road safety issues of our time. This scheme is one of them (and in the same ballpark, so is the forthcoming DfT research into 20mph zones and limits). I do hope that a scheme on the scale of that along the A9 will come with the sort of published and peer reviewed research that will make a serious contribution to our understanding of average speed systems.

Further, that that any evaluation looks closely at the interaction between the technology and its supporting measures - such as awareness raising about the limits and safe behaviours within them.

I would encourage RSGB to contact Transport Scotland to confirm that they have invested appropriately in this research, confirm and share the parameters of the study and flag our diaries for a publication date.

Big ticket items like this can only help to improve our collective understanding of how effective these measures are and, whatever side of the speed and speed management debate we stand, that can only be to the good.

Never be vexed about an absence of evidence for projects like this, or an insufficiency or lack of clarity to decide the argument one way or another. But always be concerned by any opportunity missed to add to the evidence base. I look forward to learning something from this project.
Jeremy, Devon

Agree (10) | Disagree (0)

I am not sure that the issue is one of "ideology". Certainly, on my own part I don't have any particular ideology. I use and appreciate the use of my car as much as most. But I suspect what differs from myself and some "tennis players" is a difference in values and perspective.

Speaking for myself I value the ability to act responsibility in a car or on a bike or just walking. I "value" others doing the same in a benign manner that provides convenience and safety for us all. My "perspective" is also as a walker, cyclist and motorist, and one who happily transfers and selects appropriately between the three.

I also believe that the many millions of people (parents, children, grandparents, officers, politicians and all) who aspire to lower speeds in residential roads and where they wish to walk and cycle, or even stand and chat, similarly have no ideology that they invoke but simply citizenship and a yearning for making their places better places to be.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (15) | Disagree (4)

Perhaps now you know how I felt when you suggested on this forum that I would willfully induce risk onto the highway. I have to say your argument seems to boil down to "anything I say is ok is ok, and anything I say is not ok is not ok".

I have revisited the "paper" you kindly forwarded to me recently about the unintended consequences of cameras. It continually states conjecture as fact. Referencing to research is almost completely absent. Considering you expect unequvocal proof from the Authorities it is odd you don't apply the same standards in this case. That the paper fails to imagine by the same process any positive consequences marks it as endemically biased. I am waiting, perhaps in vain, for any response to the information I sent you in response to your challenge.

The tragedy is that I firmly believe there is a value in the challenge and scrutiny that people with differing viewpoints bring. But I think this is discredited when it is taken to extremes of ideology and results in the seemingly inevitable "tennis match".
Tim Philpot, Wolverhampton

Agree (24) | Disagree (3)

In Nick's defence, on the page Eric has referred to, the writer - Paul Smith - does use the phrases '..very dangerous...' and '...extremely dangerous...' in the context of the effects of drivers looking down at their speedos in the vicinity of cameras and it might be reasonable to assume Eric concurs with that view as he has urged us to view the page more than once.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (21) | Disagree (3)

That is not a balanced summary. It is a gross exaggeration and serious misunderstanding to state that I consider looking at a speedo to be "dangerous". What I, and Paul Smith, say is that checking your speedo takes your eyes off the road (Paul estimates for about a second, including refocussing) and that inevitably increases risk, albeit only marginally, but it is an increase.

This is compounded when cameras cause the speedo check and they are supposedly placed at accident black-spots when keeping your eyes on the road is wise.

Please correct your summary to remove the, honestly ludicrous, suggestion that I believe checking a speedo is DANGEROUS. Have you looked at the
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (5) | Disagree (23)

I am amazed by people who feel that they cannot be aware of the speed they are driving at without perpetually spending time looking at their speedo. After all it's the largest instrument on the dashboard and in most cars is positioned just below the normal line of sight. Add to that the constancy of engine noise and the observation of the rate of stationary objects passing and it really is easy.

Contrast that to the task of the vulnerable road users when trying to cross the road. There is no large dial on the front of cars warning you of speed, just your own experience in judging the distance and looming of an unfamiliar object approaching. And of course they come from both directions.

May I remind them all that part of the licence that allows people to use motor vehicles on the roads includes adherence to speed limits. Those who don't have the capacity or commitment to do so would do a service for road safety by handing in their license.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (20) | Disagree (4)

Thanks Hugh and Eric.
We probably ought to wrap up the speedo debate now. To summarise, as I see it Hugh thinks looking at the speedo is something drivers should be able to do safely, while Eric thinks that it is dangerous and can lead to accidents. Readers can use the agree/disagree function in the discussion thread below to indicate who they think is correct.
Nick Rawlings, editor, Road Safety News

Agree (12) | Disagree (3)

For the record, I have been driving safely since 1972, and underwent RoSPA Advanced Driver training in the early 1990s, passing their test with two Bronze and a Silver.
You clearly do not appreciate that the process of checking your speed is quite different to checking your mirrors, for two specific reasons.

1 Checking mirrors does not require refocusing your eyes.
2 Checking your mirrors gives you information that improves the safety of you and also of other road users.

Checking your speedo confirms if you are driving legally but its safety benefit is minimal (this is supported by the fact that you can drive safely indefinitely with a broken speedometer) for the reasons explained by Paul Smith, and it can actually reduce your safety and the safety of other road users.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (27)

Speed cameras will prevent some collisions while contributing to others, that is patently obvious (just like seatbelts, drink drive laws, mobile phones etc). The question is what is the nett effect? Take the A14 average speed cameras (SPECS) mentioned earlier. There was 69% KSI reduction due to:

• Trend (including the recession)
• Other features installed (including additional signing ... and warning signs)
• RTM (Regression to the mean)
• Removal of fixed speed cameras
• Diversion of traffic to avoid SPECS

Had SPECS not been installed, a substantial reduction due to RTM would be expected followed by a further substantial reduction due to trend. We therefore have no evidence whether the 69% KSI reduction would have been greater or smaller without the SPECS average speed cameras.

The authorities been unable to separate speed camera effects from other effects therefore, since lives are at stake, we need scientific trials.
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (7)

I don't know how long you've been driving Eric, but are you seriously saying that you need 'evidence' from somebody else before you will accept that you yourself can drive your own car safely whilst occasionally averting your gaze from the road ahead whilst you glance at the speedo or rear-view mirror or door mirror etc?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (24) | Disagree (2)

You have still not provided anything of substance to underpin your position. Except to put a lot of weight behind a man who prefers us all to drive at no more than 20mph.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (2) | Disagree (20)

Evidence? Are you kidding? You don't need the 'extensive published detailed engineering assessments, trials, tests, papers, etc' Eric - this is elementary 'learning to drive' stuff that doesn't even warrant a debate. Rod's earlier response is the more sensible, credible one and I'm sure would be supported by the majority of readers.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (19) | Disagree (5)

What makes you think Rod's "real-life every day driving" is more honest or valid than the late Paul Smith's was, when Paul's view is supported by extensive published detailed engineering assessments, trials, tests, papers, etc? You have offered no evidence or argument of your own, just stated your general leaning.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (17)

I don't believe cruise control was introduced to prevent drivers exceeding speed limits! Unfortunately some drivers see that as its purpose and will even blame the system if caught, as if they are then somehow absolved from any responsibilty for what the vehicle does! I hope you weren't encouraging such use Honor.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (6) | Disagree (4)

Might be worth remembering that increasing numbers of modern cars are now fitted with cruise control.
Honor Byford, Chair, Road Safety GB

Agree (6) | Disagree (1)

I would still go with Rod's more honest assessment, which is actually based on real-life everyday driving.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (18) | Disagree (3)

Not "reasons not to like" but 40 negative unintended side effects of speed cameras, which is rather different...

Paul Smith's scientific/engineering safety assessment versus Rod's mixture of wishful thinking and personal belief.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (18)

I believe the impartial calculation of how much we supposedly watch our speedos, which Eric has helpfully referred us to, was by the same person who once listed 40 reasons not to like speed cameras. On balance therefore, I'd be inclined to go with Rod's more reasoned observations.
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (18) | Disagree (3)

No need to have a go at me (on this occasion) - I was quoting from the HA report. Now check this out to find out what proportion of the time you are not observing the road...
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (3) | Disagree (19)

Goodness Eric.

I didn't realise that myself and the millions of other drivers who actually comply with speed limits were acting so dangerously. Monitoring my speed to stay below the limit seems such a natural process and with the speedo mounted very close to my normal line of sight just glancing at that seems very easy. In fact far easier than glancing at the radio, or other road users, or traffic lights, or signs, or the road and junctions ahead. Of course its also unnecessary because I, like many others who do keep below (rather than at) speed limits, am quite used to judging the consistency of my speed from the noise of the engine.

In my experience those who seem to complain most about the distraction of speed compliance are those who are the least experienced in doing so.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (28) | Disagree (5)

Yes the reports are by a supplier but many (e.g A14) have independent reports. In any case accident data is supplied by highway uthorities to the suppliers and therefore is validated. And in passing, what is not to like about cameras that are far superior to the much maligned spot speed systems? The cameras are normally enforcing the national speed limit so what's the problem?
pete, liverpool

Agree (18) | Disagree (4)

You are being disingenuous. The report is quite clear that all four of those hazards are linked to the presence of the TOD cameras. As an example "the need to monitor one’s speed between camera points is essential to ensure compliance and hence the driver may have to make a number of continued checks on (and thereby be distracted by the need for increased observance of) their speedometer". The cameras themselves are also a distraction, simply by being there.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (17)

You are again misquoting. The report did not say these hazards were created by TOD systems. The report suggested that these issues should be investigated.

But these "hazards" as you call them are associated with having a speed limit which is complied with rather than a specific form of speed monitoring. Many, such as headway and lane changing are associated with reduced number of lanes, reduced width of lanes, reduced limits and congested sections of roads which are particular characteristics of road works.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (15) | Disagree (5)

Vysionics are suppliers, so items posted on their website cannot be considered independent. The missing words around my extract referred to "to potentially be more beneficial as an enforcement system at roadworks" - nothing about the effect on safety.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (14)

The report found that the TOD cameras created four hazards - reduced headway (bunching), sudden braking, distraction and sudden lane changing. It is inconceivable that increasing risk through these hazards could lead to improved safety. Your reference to speed limits is weak - these hazards will be evident at any average speed camera deployment, although they will be more acute where the speed is artificially low.
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (4) | Disagree (15)

Your quote is from a single report (related to roadworks not normal operations) and the extract you pasted excludes surrounding words that report benefits of average speed cameras. There are many reports into successful safety outcomes from averege speed cameras.

A selection are at:
pete, liverpool

Agree (13) | Disagree (3)

There is no good evidence that “average speed cameras are effective in saving lives”.

Despite the failure of other types of speed camera to demonstrate any safety benefit, I believe average speed cameras should be trialled but they must be deployed within scientific trials. Without scientific trials, I suspect we'll have another 20 years of pointless argument and potentially many more people dead and seriously injured.

If scientific trials find that speed cameras do save lives, who could argue against that?
Dave Finney, Slough

Agree (7) | Disagree (9)

I think your comment could misinform.

In the abstract the author justified the research into roadwork speed control by saying that he had not found any previous research on Time over Distance (TOD) systems. The exact words were:-

"A literature review (detailed further in Section 3) found very little scientifically significant research has been performed into the differential effects of these two systems, particularly the newer TOD approach. This situation is changing however with increasing TOD deployment and experimentation within Europe."

It is important to recognise that if no research exists then it is obvious that no statistically significant evidence would have been identified. That does not imply that the benefits do not exist, merely that research has not been conducted. In fact the report did say "TOD systems are generally viewed positively by those involved with Traffic Management at Roadworks as well as the public"

In any case it does seem that using results from roadworks where the limit is artificially dropped below the national speed limit may not be appropriate for maximising compliance where the limit is the national limit.
Rod King, 20's Plenty for Us

Agree (16) | Disagree (5)

"....and to encourage safe overtaking on the route.” Is it a race?

Overtaking may sometimes be necessary, but the above phrase makes it sound like something to aspire to. Do they mean "we encourage overtaking, but do it safely" or "if you must overtake, do it safely"?
Hugh Jones, Cheshire

Agree (2) | Disagree (6)

I have been in correspondence with Transport Scotland for a year regarding this ill-conceived project.

Their case is based on misinformation, wishful thinking and, crucially ignoring research into average speed cameras by the Highways Agency in March 2008, which concluded there are still "safety issues potentially arising from reduced, and more consistent, headways (gaps between vehicles), as well as complex driver distraction issues".

That report found no "reliable, detailed or above all statistically significant evidence regarding the impacts of time over distance systems".
[report available here...]
Eric Bridgstock, Independent Road Safety Research, St Albans

Agree (7) | Disagree (16)