Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Speed cameras

There is only one reason for opposing speed cameras and it is because you want to break the law without being caught. All the other reasons are rubbish.

If there was a camera in a supermarket which could be magically programmed to only record an image when it had a shoplifter in its sights, would anyone object? Or, if there was a similar camera outside a pub that only recorded an image when it witnessed a knife or gun fight, would anyone protest? Would there be concern that the cameras were being financed by the fines from successful prosecutions? If it was erroneously claimed that the fines exceeded the cost of the cameras would there be outrage?

Supposing those magic cameras existed, would you hear your neighbour, or workmate, complaining he'd been caught and fined for nicking a tin of baked beans from Tesco's when he was only doing what everybody did, and as an experienced shopper he was the best judge of when to shoplift or not?

It is a small miracle that we have the number of speed cameras that we have, because although they are popular with the majority of the population they are not popular with habitual speeders who are mostly middle-aged men, and most politicians and media pundits are middle-aged men.

Personally, I'd have a speed camera on every street corner, and I'd have them hidden. That would deal with the objection that a camera in one place only moves the accidents somewhere else (for which there is not one shred of evidence).

So, middle-aged middle-class man, boring me to tears explaining that you are a better judge of the safe speed for the road than the highly qualified County Accident Prevention Officer, I have this to say to you: Be grateful that you were only fined because if there were no cameras you might have killed a child by now. Next time you are caught, take the opportunity offered to do a re-training course because I guarantee that you will learn something.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I think you may be exaggerating in concentrating on middle aged men - but I do agree that speed surveillnce, whatever form it takes, should be covert. This is not a game. Even if excessive speed is not the root cause of a particular crash (let's stop calling them accidents) the fatser you are going - the harder you hit someone/something and the greater the damage.

Speed limits are in force for two reaons - firstly that in the particular area a faster speed is likely to put other road users at risk (I don't particular care about speeding drivers who kill themselves as long as they don't damage anyone else) and secondly the inability of too many drivers to exercise common sense.

meanderingmammal said...

I would pretty strongly disagree, there are a number of reasons to oppose the use of traffic cameras, starting from the general liberal principle of presumption of innocence through to the practical effect on traffic enforcement.

There are a number of factors that contribute to accident risk; appropriate speed, weather conditions, mechanical state of the vehicle, driver competence, vehicle type and characteristics, levels of training, driver general physical condition, the drivers condition at the time (tiredness, hydration, use of stimulants such as caffeine), other distractions.

Cameras only really assess part of one of those, absolute speed. Subject to season the maximum safe speed for the conditions is fairly regularly lower than the speed limit anyway.

With the balance of enforcement veering towards use of cameras, rather than traffic officers then we're not putting in place an environment where other things are trapped. There is no opportunity to see the driver who pootles along at 50mph, weaving around whilst rummaging in the glove box. Or the driver who gets far too close to a cyclist, despite driving at or below the speed limit. I routinely see drivers continuing to use mobile phones, but without traffic officers on the road that's not being addressed.

There is also a balance around the impact of driving style. As an example to comfortably ride my motorbike between 20mph and 30mph I'll drop a couple of gears, that increases the noise level from the bike, although it gives me far more control. Mind you, it'll also stop in about a third of the distance that my car stops in, and given how little space most cage dwellers give me if I did stop quickly they'd run over the top. Again a speed camera won't pick up the fact that they're not leaving adequate safe space in front of them.

I cycle to work, and I'm far more at risk from poor driving standards than speeding.