Speed Cameras


Speed camerasSurely a subject to evoke discussion. Like them or loath them, speed cameras are commonplace on UK roads, and look set to stay – at least until a better solution to the problem of speeding is found.

I’m not about to debate the issue of whether these cameras are right or wrong; what I do want to think about is firstly “are they being targeted correctly?”, and by that I mean not locations but vehicles, and secondly “which type is best?”.

In its simplest terms, if a vehicle passes a speed camera whilst travelling above the speed limit for that area then the camera is activated. So, in a 30pmh zone any vehicle, be it car, motorcycle, or lorry, exceeding the limit will be “flashed”. Likewise, in a 60mph zone the same thing would happen. However, it’s highly likely that, in the latter case, certain vehicles (HGV’s) could pass a camera at just below the signed limit without activating the camera yet still be exceeding the speed limit for that particular type of vehicle on that road. In this case speed cameras are ineffective.

Thankfully technology is available to obviate this problem. ANPR, or “automatic number plate recognition”, cameras are able to read the number plates of passing vehicles and, linked to a central database, can identify any individual vehicle. This means that when such a camera is linked with/incorporated into a speed camera it’s possible to identify, let’s say, an HGV exceeding the vehicles’ limit whist remaining below the limit for the area. The target vehicle could then penalised.

Unfortunately it appears that this, quite obvious, solution is not being used in far too many areas. One reason could be the issue of “unorthodox” number plates, but that’s a separate problem (which I may address later).

A second issue is the question of single point and/or average speed detection.

A single site speed camera by the side of the road can only detect “speeders” as they pass that particular point, so it’s usual to see vehicles slow down on approach then speed up again once passed the camera. Has that really achieved the desired result? On the other hand average speed cameras work over a set distance, meaning that vehicles need to remain below the prescribed maximum speed throughout the duration of travel through the zone. A far more effective way of reducing speed over a given area.

So, if authorities really want to reduce speed then why isn’t there greater use of the average speed cameras? Well, clearly the design of these cameras coupled with the fact that they need to be used in multiples means that cost is an important factor. Also, they need a certain amount of road available, so they’re many locations where they’re not suitable. Having said that, there are lots of locations where they could be used but aren’t. The question then is “which is most important, reducing speeds or saving money?”. Spend extra on camera systems that actually can reduce accidents, thereby lowering long-terms costs, or spend less in the short-term. One for authorities to think about.

Speeding is seen, by many, as almost acceptable but the slogan “speed kills” is all too true. Speed limits are a maximum not a target. Please, always drive at a speed which is within the law and safe for the conditions, then maybe more of us will arrive where we want to be!


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