For decades, this country has had some of the safest roads in the world. Ministers argue that festooning our highways with speed cameras makes them even safer. The evidence suggests otherwise. While we have installed more speed cameras than anywhere else in Europe, the decline in road deaths in Britain has actually been less marked than in other, less camera-obsessed countries.
This should come as no surprise: speed cameras, for all the protestations of the Government and police, have always had more to do with revenue generation than with road safety. Official figures show that excessive speed is a factor in just six per cent of accidents. How many cameras are usefully sited near schools and in residential areas – where they really would aid road safety – compared with the number on open roads, where motorists are tempted to drive quickly because it is safe to do so? Very few.
The suspicion that drivers are being hounded with an assiduity that is not brought to the pursuit of burglars, muggers or hooligans has helped diminish respect for the police in the eyes of the law-abiding majority. That is a high price to pay for this money-grubbing policy.
As a driver, I really think that speed cameras are actively dangerous. Why? Simply because you end up watching your speedometer, rather than the road ahead*. Not to mention the inevitable braking at the speed camera's start point (even people who are travelling at, or below, the speed limit almost always brake) that can easily lead to a shunt (especially if you are looking at your speedo rather than... Well, you get the idea).
Your humble Devil got caught speeding a couple of weeks ago by some coppers with a camera (that reminds me, I must pay the £60 fine. Bah) and, yes, I was speeding. I was going faster than the 50mph speed limit but on a six-lane carriageway with good visibility all around. The policeman was unimpressed when I pointed out that I prefer to watch the road, rather than the speedo.