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Camera capers….

August 26, 2011

 

Bridlington, England – Love them, hate them or love to hate them….

Safety cameras, aka speed cameras, are again hitting the headlines in the UK media.

It seems only a few months ago, well actually it was, when Hon Philip Hammond, UK Secretary of State for Transport, announced an end to the “war on motorists” and the withdrawal of funding that supported UK safety cameras. Well as expected that turned out to be complete and utter bo****ks.

I can’t work out who is the more stupid, Philip Hammond for mouthing that rubbish or the people who actually believed him. It would have been much easier, even honest, to have simple announced a change in the camera funding regime. Mind you the way it was done did give some strength to the notion that, when it comes to getting some publicity at least, Hammond and his posse down at the Department of Transport actually know what they are doing. They don’t! These are the same clowns that have wrecked the UK rail industry, by giving a multi million pound contract to an overseas company, and then of course blamed European Union legislation for “making” them do it.

So after a summer break the cameras are back, why we can even look forward to a few more as mobile systems are to be deployed in northern parts of England which up this point had been camera free. Yes happy days are here again for those ex police officers who have the onerous task of manning the mobiles. Its tough!. Taking early retirement from or redundancy pay from the force, nice little finally salary pension. OMG then made redundant from the Safety Camera Partnerships, aka Road Safety Partnerships (RSP), aka Road Safety Groups, nice bit of redundancy and final salary pension. Then back again in the new slimmed down ultra efficient RSP, with another round of redundancy to come when the next Government “in” decides on ending the “war on motorists” again.

What you might call a nice little earner, in fact a very nice little earner if figures given to BRR are true. Some of the people sitting in the back of camera vans are knocking up 60 grand a year plus.

Do they, the cameras, work. Ah ha the debate continues. This week, after a dictate from Road Safety Minister Mike Penning, 75 English local authorities, out of the 147 told to do so, published data showing accident and casualty rates at their static speed camera sites. Unfortunately Penning does not have the powers to make authorities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland publish similar data. Nor did his Department pay the costs, estimated at £100,000 per authority, to gather and publish the data. Maybe that’s the reason 72 English local authorities are dragging their feet on the issue. Still its part of the Government’s drive to increase transparency, isn’t it!

What does the data show. Well that really depends on your point of view on safety cameras . A view would be that data is inconsistent. Hardly surprising considering the variables involved and the affects of random variation. Thus cameras seem to work at some sites and not at others. It would appear that we simple are not getting the whole picture data wise. Leaving the field open to any pundit with a view to offer it. Oh that must be me!!

One interesting fact that has emerged is that a number of cameras have been installed where no crashes had taken place. It appears that some of these cameras have actually caused crashes. It’s the see camera hit the brakes and crash syndrome.

So why were these cameras installed in the first place? The strict criteria for installation of camera sites is based upon the Handbook of Rules and Guidance for the National Safety Camera Programme for England & Wales and things like the 85 percentile, a methodology for working out the average speed and number of vehicles speeding past a fixed point. Could it be a clause in the rules which allows cameras to be installed to “closely meet local need” that’s the issue here?

What’s that mean “closely meet local need”?  Actually it’s where politics, road safety and self-interest meet. It’s when a local councillor in a nice little rural village gets an earful about perceived speeding from the local worthies with indications about who is going to vote for who at the next election. Post haste the councillor uses his/her “influence” and  one of our yellow box friends on a pole appears. The fact that it may cause crashes and the fact that most people nicked live in the same postcode area as the camera installation.

Well…… perhaps more people should practice what they preach road speed wise.

Ride safe, ride free, have fun and remember speeding is not compulsory. But without it road safety officers would be out of a job!

© Back Roads Rider 2011

 

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