Viewed by the motorist as little more than a sneaky “revenue generator”, it is nevertheless, assumed that the use of speed cameras does help to keep down excessive speeds at critical road blackspots and reduce accidents and collisions. In addition, speed camera data has been used in particular cases where, for example, accident compensation is being claimed.
The speed camera, which caught out former MP Chris Huhne in 2003, generated more revenue than any other speed camera in the UK, catching more than 9,600 drivers and collecting over £500,000 in fines. However, accidents at the camera site have actually risen since first being installed, which is not an uncommon occurrence observed at many other sites.
Accidents are shown to fall in the longer term. According to the Royal Automobile Club (RAC), around 800 road deaths and casualties are saved each year by the presence of speed cameras. Data collected between 1990 and 2010 found that the number of fatal and serious collisions at or near speed camera sites fell on average by more than a quarter following installation.
While the average decrease in accidents in ten regions around the UK was 27 per cent, particular national regions did show significant variation. Decreases ranged between 15 per cent in Lincolnshire to 53 per cent in Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland. The only county which registered an increase in collisions was Merseyside with a 5 per cent increase in fatal or serious accidents and a 10 per cent rise in all injuries.
Merseyside may not the only region showing that the presence of speed cameras appear to increase the risk of a fatal or serious collisions. Date shows that the number of vehicle collisions were estimated to have risen at 21 in 551 sites – or nearly 4 per cent of cameras.
The reasons why the presence of a speed camera may actually cause a rise in accidents seem to be linked to “greater risktaking” by motorists once the cameras have been passed. Drivers may simply compensate for being forced to drive more slowly by speeding up once more.
Undoubtedly, the activity of ‘panic braking’ when a speed camera is suddenly spotted can be extremely hazardous and likely to cause an accident or injury in itself. It does not contribute to any meaningful permanent change on the part of some driver attitudes and behaviour.
Driving safely rather than just trying to avoid speed traps should be the way to reduces accidents, injuries and fatality on UK roads.