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Bromley Borough Roads Action Group

Speed Cameras

The following is an article on speed cameras published in one of our previous Newsletters.

The Speed Camera Debate, Published February 2004

The national press have been running a series of articles recently criticising speed cameras for simply being revenue raising devices. Typically they point out that speed fines are now running at more than one million per year, which is likely to rise to two million soon, with little apparent effect on overall accident rates.

The local Newsshopper paper in Bromley has also run a campaign under the banner “Stop the Stealth Tax on Motorists”. They had road safety expert Kevin Delaney from the RAC pointing out that a speed camera on Glebe Way in West Wickham (the A232) was pointing away from a danger spot and was apparently sited more to catch motorists out rather than for safety reasons.  

Councillor George Taylor then wrote a letter to the Newsshopper saying that Glebe Way was the site of a fatal pedestrian accident and “we were not going to stand by and do nothing”. He also said that the “cameras we installed have cut accidents at sites in this borough”.  

So what is the truth? Have speed cameras reduced accidents in Bromley? There was some data published by Bromley Council in the ILIP/BSP report in 2001. It gives 3 year “before” and “after” accident counts for the 8 fixed camera sites in the borough (total cost £130,000). The figures were 69 before and 63 after, ie. a reduction of 9%. Is this statistically significant (in other words unlikely to be other than random variation) - basically the answer is no.  Is it better than you would get from simply putting up a few warnings signs? Again the answer is no. Is there any reason to believe that this shows anything different to the general trend in reduction in road accidents in UK (due to such factors as improved in-car safety and fewer pedestrians on the streets)? Also no.  Is it a cost effective way to reduce accidents? Definitely not.

In addition it is necessary to point out that other road safety improvements such as improved pedestrian refuges at crossing points were also introduced during the period covered by the statistics, so any small improvement is most likely down to those measures.

Speed Advisors are More Effective  

Note that George Taylor should be complimented on introducing speed advisor units in Bromley, which are more effective at cutting speeds than cameras according to research from the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). But he has clearly been misinformed on the benefits of speed cameras. 

5500 Deaths from Speed Cameras? 

The Association of British Drivers (see www.abd.org.uk) have even argued recently that the excessive emphasis on speed cameras has actually meant that accidents figures have not been falling as they otherwise would have done.  Before speed cameras were introduced in large numbers, road deaths showed a consistent downward trend in the UK over many years. This has now halted. Their claimed figure of 5500 deaths is simply the difference between what would have been expected if other road safety measures had been continued to be used since about 1993, and what we now have. 

They argue that the wasteful expenditure on speed cameras has meant a cut in expenditure on other measures such as police traffic patrols, road improvement schemes, and driver education. An over reliance on speed cameras as a “cure-all” solution has also removed intelligent examination of accident blackspots (as in the Limehouse Link example in our last Newsletter).  

This argument is more fully explored in the original article by Dr Alan Buckingham in which this argument was raised which is entitled “Saving Lives or Raising Revenue?” - it can be seen in full on the Safe Speed web site at: http://www.safespeed.org.uk/buckingham.html

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