River Wissey Lovell Fuller


September 2001

Speeding and Speed Cameras

As I may have said before, there is no greater devotee of the motor car than me. It has been a great liberating force over the last 100years and has brought about an enormous change in lifestyles. I am not unaware, however, of the disadvantages that are associated with its widespread use, one could write a long list of those, but I would argue that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Advancing technology has helped to reduce some of the disadvantages and will continue to do so. Undoubtedly, however, injuries and deaths on the road remain a serious problem. It may be true that there are fewer deaths due to motor vehicles than there were due to horse transport at the end of the nineteenth century, it certainly is true that there are fewer road deaths annually now than there were fifty years ago, and that was at a time when there were far fewer vehicles on the road. Nevertheless the number is still far too high. There are approximately 3500 deaths a year on our roads and more than ten times that number of serious injuries. That is roughly ten deaths every day of the year and the depressing thing about it is its predictability, there will be roughly ten deaths today and another ten tomorrow and so on.

You may console yourself by arguing that, with a population of 56million the chances of you being killed this year are only one in 16,000 (mind you, that is a thousand times more likely than finding a winning line on the National Lottery). But, if you like to play with figures, consider the position of the rest of your close family of, say, just 6 people. The chances of one of them being killed in the next year is only 2600:1 and, over the next 40 years, the chances are just 67:1. Similarly a young child, who might expect a life of eighty years, has a one in two hundred chance of being killed in a road accident before reaching that age. Of course, if we talk about the chances of serious injury those odds are further reduced by a factor of ten, that is to say the chances of a member of the average close family being seriously injured in the next forty years is just 6.7:1. To my mind these are frightening odds and it behoves us all to do what we can to reduce this waste of life.

The police argue that excessive speed is a major factor contributing to deaths and serious injuries and I would agree. It is nonsense to argue otherwise. What is often not appreciated is that the forces experienced by a victim in a collision are related to the square of the speed, an accident at 60mph will be four times more severe than a similar accident at 30mph. It is clear that speed is a major factor in determining the likelihood of an accident occurring and the severity of any injuries. Speed limits were introduced to remove the subjective assessment by the driver of what is a suitable speed and to try to ensure that excessive speeds were not used within certain areas, they should be adhered to. I will admit that some speed limits might be reviewed but, once again, it is not down to the individual to decide that a given limit is not appropriate in a particular location.

Enforcement of the law relating to speed limits has always proved to be difficult and it seems to have become acceptable to many that to exceed the limit is OK providing you don't get caught. When one sees the consequences of excessive speed, however, one must conclude that such an attitude is morally indefensible. The introduction of speed cameras has completely changed the ability of the police to enforce the law but, rather than their introduction being welcomed, there has been howls of protest from many quarters with protests that they are just for raising money for the Treasury. This I find difficult to understand. Some people are claiming that cameras are sneaky and that they are not sufficiently obvious and, to my amazement, some police seem to agree and they are now talking of painting the cameras bright orange. Why? It is pointless getting drivers to obey the speed limit only when approaching a camera. If that is to be the situation we will need cameras every few hundred yards in order to ensure that limits are obeyed at all times. Surely the idea should be that a driver knows that he might be caught on camera at any time, in that way there is a chance that the speed limit will be observed all the time rather than just when approaching a camera. Perhaps there should be a warning that cameras are in operation but, apart from that, I see no good reason to make the cameras very visible, to my mind to do so is defeating the objective.

Ron Watts

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