War Memorial Gary Trouton

Letter to the Editor

July 2004

An erudite contribution to the debate on speed cameras

Dear Editor,

I contacted the Stoke Ferry Pump on the Internet the other night and found the subjects about speeding interesting. Perhaps I, as an ex-policeman, can put in my two pennyworth?

Speed Cameras (so-called Gatso cameras)

Do they do what is stated that they do? Apparently according to Government guidelines the cameras should only be installed on roads where there have been at least four fatal or serious collisions in the last three calendar years (not per annum).

However, this appears to be contradicted by an newspaper report that on the M8 (I think it was) in Scotland that a road passing over the motorway came within the guidelines and therefore cameras could be placed on the motorway because that road was within close proximity. That is the only comment I have found on that and if it was Scotland then they do have different laws albeit probably not in relation to speed cameras.

I did hear on the radio that the Chief Constable of Norfolk stated recently that in fact a certain road in Norfolk in which a camera was installed did not comply with the Government guidelines albeit it a Minister stated before that announcement that all cameras in the country were properly placed!

I am sure there are roads over which I have travelled in which there are speed cameras at do not comply with the guidelines. In fact, the A405 between Baldock and Royston, which is a dual carriageway with a national speed limit of 70mph, has a number of cameras. The road is more dangerous with cameras then without because some motorists suddenly decide the road must have a lower speed limit and brake causing others to brake. I seriously wonder if the guidelines are appropriate to that particular stretch of road.

I do a lot of driving. I never go above the speed limit because it is not worth it, but I can understand how easily it is to go a few miles over the limit for that road. However, I am often overtaken by a large number of vehicles exceeding the limit. They then brake when approaching the lines on the road near the cameras and then exceed the speed limit again once over the lines. (These markers are reference points and give the average speed over that distance so I believe). They are the drivers causing the danger, but unless a police car is there they are not the ones who are caught.

I know a person who is law abiding and without any convictions whatsoever who has all the appropriate documents, but was fined and his Driving Licence endorsed because he was travelling at 36mph in a 30 limit. He knew the area and that cameras were there, but for a few yards he was exceeding the speed limit. He always tries to comply with speed limits and is a good driver. When he applies for his next car insurance he must inform the Insurance Company of his conviction which will increase his premiums.

Under the Motor Vehicles (Construction and Use) Regulations a speedometer has to be fitted to indicate to the driver of that vehicle the speed thereof within a margin of accuracy of plus or minus 10 per cent if and when he is driving at a speed in excess of 10 miles per hour. That means in my opinion that in a 30 limit in my view you cannot be prosecuted unless your speed is 33 mph or more. (44 in a 40, 55 in a 50 and so on) The person doing 36 mph could be said to be only 3 mph over the 'enforceable limit' albeit the summons/FPT will read he exceeded the actual speed limit by 6 mph over that limit. Sounds bad does it not!!

A recent newspaper article states that 3 million drivers will be caught by speed cameras and police traps this year. The 'police traps' are those where a camera is installed in a police van and mobile and not officers in patrol cars. I am not against police enforcement, but cameras give the police no discretion. I do not condone anyone exceeding the speed limits. As I have said though we appear to be catching those who are in general law-abiding people and not the really guilty drivers.

Other Offences

It is stated that one in twenty drivers do not have insurance. My view is it could be greater depending what part of the country you live. Enforcement can be greater in some area then others. I read a recent case in which a driver was prosecuted for not having certain driving documents of which one was no insurance and he was fined £100 for that offence. I have no convictions and have not been involved in a road traffic accident in over 40 years of driving and yet for a fully comprehensive motor insurance for our Ford Fiesta, with one named driver, the premium was over £200 this year.

It has been quoted that all drivers who bother to get insurance pay on average £60 more in premiums per year to cover those who drive without insurance. What is the Norfolk Police policy regarding motor enforcement? Has their traffic personnel decreased or increased in the past two years for example. I am pleased to see that there are a number of warning signals at certain locations in Norfolk that inform drivers that they are over the speed limit and in my view they do have the desired result in general.

'Speed is not the main cause of road accidents'. Who said that? Well, no other then the Department of Transport according to a Report just released by the Safe Speed Campaign Group. Speeding is only the 7th most frequent cause of road accidents!

Inattention was the main cause, followed by failure to judge another driver's path or speed. Based on data from Police Forces, the figures also showed that more accidents were caused by motorist looking but not seeing, drivers being careless and drivers failing to look, rather then excessive speed.

For accident purposes 'excessive speed' includes both speed in excess of the speed limit and inappropriate speed for the conditions.

The founder of Safe Speed Campaign Group, Paul Smith, said 'the authorities must now acknowledge that the 'speed kills'road safety policy backed with speed cameras is not benefiting road safety. Speed cameras could only save lives and reduce accidents if we had a significant population of accidents where normal motorists exceeding the speed limit caused or contributed to road accidents. These new figures confirm that we have very few accidents of this type. The policy is wasted or attempting to solve a problem that simply does not exist'.

Name and address supplied


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