Do speed cameras make Britain's roads safer?

Caroline Cassidy

All motorists hate speed cameras but for the government they are an easy way to reduce traffic speed in certain areas while making a lot of money for themselves. Speed cameras have brought in an increase of around 300 per cent in fines, but have they actually made Britain's roads safer and reduced the number of accidents?

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Yesterday, Transport Secretary Philip Hammond released previously unpublished reports about driver behaviour that had been commissioned under the Labour government.

They revealed that in the last 15 years, speeding endorsements had increased by 287 per cent and the number of speeding convictions had also vastly increased, proving that the cameras are effective in catching motorists going over the speed limit.

But the report noted "individuals' subsequent pattern of convictions has largely remained unchanged – so drivers are behaving much as before.

"Drivers who had been previously disqualified were most likely to "manipulate" cameras and least likely to comply with them."

So while the cameras may catch the few motorists who don't see them and happen to be speeding, there are still many other drivers who know where all the cameras are and continue to speed, or worse, are driving dangerously past a camera which isn't able to pick up on this crime.

A report from the Transport Research Laboratory found that between 1997 and 2007, the number of motorists given penalty points for speeding rose by 88 per cent. However, the number for careless driving fell by 53 per cent.

Mr Hammond said: "Speed cameras may appear an easy option but these reports show that if we really want to improve road safety we need to tackle all forms of reckless behaviour."

The number of road deaths is currently at an all-time low, but there are still thousands of people every year involved in traffic accidents due to drink-driving or careless driving, with cyclists and children most often being the victims.

Robert Gifford, of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: "It is encouraging to see in the report a fall in deaths of 16 per cent year on year among young car occupants.

"It is also good to see a fall of 71 in the number of fatal crashes involving young car drivers. But drinking and driving still accounts for 17 per cent of all road deaths."

What do you think? Do speed cameras make our roads safer or are they just another way to tax motorists? What should the government be doing to tackle careless driving? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.