Last year on July 31st Swindon became the first town in the UK to do what many road users have been asking for since the speed cameras were introduced – they switched off their speed cameras!
A move that was both hailed as a move towards freedom on the roads and as a casual disregard to road safety but the latest accident data figures released indicated that the latter view may be completely unfounded.
In the first nine months (from last August to the end of April) since the cameras were deactivated the number of road casualties decreased from 327 in the same period to 315 with two fatalities (from four last year) and 44 serious injuries (down 4).
As I’m sure you can imagine these figures have been pounced upon by campaigners who say that speed cameras do very little to help raise road safety and are in fact just a money raising mechanism for the local and national authorities although interestingly it is the financial aspect of the cameras that is prompting the switch off in the first place.
This is due in part to the announcement by the government that they intend to cut £38 million from the £95 million grant that was previously allocated which funds the devices, and this combined with the figures released by Swindon are prompting a whole host of authorities to start shutting down the cameras.
First in the line was Oxfordshire whose counsellors last Sunday opted not to contribute the £600,000 necessary to the local camera partnership resulting in a total of 72 cameras being removed and 89 mobile camera sites being left unattended. Wiltshire County Council followed by announcing that they will cease to operate their 16 sites, with Buckinghamshire removing 10 of their 50 cameras and Lancashire, Dorset and Essex conducting reviews; more area sure to follow suit.
The local councillor with responsibility for transport Peter Greenhalgh quite sensibly said: “I think our decision has been vindicated because here in Swindon we have seen a slight fall in the number of accidents. We have been able to invest the money we were spending on cameras in other physical road safety measures such as vehicle-activated warning signs. I’m not going to claim that everywhere should turn off their cameras but there are a lot of cameras around the country that aren’t delivering the results in road safety that everyone would want.”
There are two key points there: one is that the fall is ‘slight’ and another is that the money has been spent on other road safety methods. Regarding the first point I’m sure there will be statisticians across the country despairing as the numbers are clearly too little in too small a time frame to demonstrate a clear trend (this could simply be down to increasing quality in car building standards, or fewer people driving)
The second one opens up a whole new door of possibilities: what road safety methods would be effective? It has been shown that vehicle-activated signs (as taken up in Swindon) are an effective method of getting people to slow down (as it is kind of an immediate signal and one that other drivers can clearly see that you’re in the wrong), but surely with the technology we have around we can somehow create a system that is more effective for managing traffic and creating a better road system – perhaps future technology will render speed camera alert services obsolete?
One idea that has been put forward is allowing people to connect their mobile sat nav devices up to a nationwide network which could then track the cars and analyse this information to provide both real time (such as varying speed limits) and long term (such as road extensions) solutions to traffic problems… although the Orwellian implications do tend to put people off!
So as the way in which we manage traffic is changing is it time for more advanced technology to take a larger part in assisting in road safety? Fingers crossed!
Via – Telegraph