Speed cameras: the rise, fall... and rise again?
The traditional fixed speed camera may be losing ground in the UK, to the relief of motorists, but the respite for law-breaking drivers may be brief. The future speed camera may be more effective than ever before...
In little more than 20 years, the speed camera may have come, caused huge outrage (and many motorists a lot of money)… and then gone again.
OK, the horror of the speed camera flash hasn’t completely disappeared - they remain very much out there, waiting to catch errant speeders – but the threat of the fixed-site Gatso is not the danger it once was.
It hasn’t been since 2007. Until then, speed camera numbers had been growing enormously across the UK. Local councils, empowered by the government to keep a proportion of the money they raised, were installing as many speed cameras as they could justifiably afford. Many drivers suspected they were not only doing this, but were also tightening the threshold cameras were triggered at.
Once, said some, you had to be doing 38mph in a 30 zone to get flashed – quite justifiable, many would argue. In time, this appeared to lower, to 35mph: on a modern speedo, that’s a fraction of an inch over, a trigger point easy to be caught out by. More cameras, then, and less tolerance of them: no wonder so many were angered.
Some took the law into their own hands. Others purchased camera detectors, others still simply cried outrage, at how local councils were setting traps to catch motorists out. In the mid-noughties, speed cameras were amongst the most detested sites on our road, their mere presence enough to elicit outrange in even the most mild-mannered (and, ironically, law-abiding) driver.
In 2007, things changed. Local councils were not allowed to keep as much money from revenues raised by speed cameras. A few years later, the rules changed again. Result? Fixed speed cameras started to become less popular. Many sites actually became inactive, flashing as if they were live but not actually containing any film.
A survey last year revealed nearly half of the speed camera sites in the UK were dummies – in Susses, 60 per cent of all speed cameras were inactive. The trend was turning.
Evidence that accident rates increased at some sites following the installation of a speed camera didn’t help. Nor did so much outrage from motorists. But the biggest issue with speed cameras was ultimately their inflexibility. They can only monitor one section of road – at a cost of at least £20,000, doubled if it’s in a remote area. They can also only take 400 speeding photos before the film is finished, adding maintenance cost to the upfront expense. As drivers learned whether they are and stared braking to negate them, their revenue generation dropped.
They were achieving their aims – they were stopping motorists speeding – but that was not changing driver behaviour at unmonitored sites, nor was it exactly helping the police force budgets.
So now, two decades after the speed camera was installed, their popularity is dropping. They will not disappear – once installed, it doesn’t cost anything to leave them up, particularly if no film is loaded within. But new speed camera installations are rare. The spread of the fixed speed camera site is becoming a thing of the past.
The speed camera of the future
But while fixed speed cameras may be set for the history museum, it does not mean speed detection is going away. Far from it. Know the average speed cameras in motorway roadworks, which prove so remarkably effective in maintaining average speeds? They may be coming to a town near you soon.
Inventors have now created a city centre average speed camera, which can monitor speed between two points in the road and fine motorists if they exceed this. There will be no escape from speeding, and no slowing down for a fixed point in the road. Motorists will have to start driving within the speed limit throughout their operational zone, or risk points on their licence and a hefty fine.
They are coming. Some will say they’re fairer, as there’s no being fined if you accidentally slip over the limit (you can simply slow down to lower the overall average again). They’re thus also a lot more effective overall achieving the desired aim of all speed cameras – keeping overall averages within the legal limit.
Such speed cameras are still external detection devices though, and are thus still restricted by certain external factors out of their control. How much better would it be, say legislators, if individual cars could be tracked and monitored instead – and automatically fined if they did stray over the limit?
Big brother gone mad? Well, not if you’re signed up to a modern form of data tracking car insurance, which uses a GPS trace from your car to tell where you are, and what speed you’re doing, whenever you’re driving. Some youngsters are voluntarily signing up for these as they lower overall insurance costs – quite rightly, too. The insurance company knows when the driver speeds and charges them more when they do so: the driver knows this too, so chooses not to speed. On paper, it’s a brilliant win-win.
And as this technology is already in place, then, surely it won’t belong before it becomes more commonplace? If youngsters save money on car insurance because of them, when will sensible drivers also see the advantages and have them installed? And when they do in growing numbers, how long before car insurance firms make them mandatory?
Then, things could snowball. Government could tie taxation to them: offer people savings if they drive less, with the proof coming from the data logger. It would of course monitor speed, but only in return for an extra reduction in taxes, paid for by a reduction in motorway police.
Seriously, once onboard black box tracking hits a tipping point, all sorts of initiatives may follow.
Is this a bad thing? After all, if you have nothing to hide, and are not a habitual speeder, surely this would be a good thing? Particularly if your actual location were hidden, and only the difference between your speed and the GPS-logged legal limit for that road were recorded. People are probably already working on this solution to those who bristle at the thought of onboard tracking devices as we speak…
The speed camera was a much-hated device that may be on its way out. But the time of respite won’t last forever, because newer and far more effective solutions to speeding are on the way. There will be no escape if you speed.
Of course, there is one obvious solution to all this. Don’t speed. Easier said than done: we all know that. But if new technology has its way, it’s something we’ll all have to learn.
Unless, of course, the car physically stops us from speeding, thanks to a data-tracked speed limiter. But that’s another matter entirely…
Going back to speed camera's what is the point of having average speed camera's in a city where you spend more time sitting in traffic than driving?........on that basis, you could when you finally find a clear stretch, drive at 120 and still not be above the speed limit....or if you drive at 40 plus in a 30 mph limit and thus put kiddies and other at risk, you can then park up for a few mins just before the second camera and still be within the limit even though you have just driven a much higher speed than the limit and put a load of people at risk....and as for GPS systems.....well they have one very fundamental flaw. They only work when the GPS chip has signal contact with the relevant satellites so block the signal which is a lot easier than you think, and you cannot be detected so what value is that?
I would not speed if the speed limit were real.
How often you go on perfect roads, 2 lanes , empty only to say 40mph
or in town , near a school at night that says 20mph.
Are you expected to drive at 20mph in the middle of the night when schools are closed
or even a Motorway on a clear day,, 70mph is very boring.
Car , tyres, etc have improved a lot over the years, so that should be taken into consideration too when setting the limit.
maybe we need a more flexible,, Speed Sign that change according to Traffic conditions, weather and time of the day.
* and just to clarify, during day hours and respect the School zone 100%
Most people break the speed limit, bcos the same does not reflect thereality of the road
It is turnover, that is all, safety is not of any importance to the government / councils, IF and only IF, safety mattered, then all cars motor bikes, would be fixed with a speed regulator, as with all trucks, That idea was knocked back by Blair & Brown as it produced no financial gain,
The other thing about speed cameras is that many are sited in completely dited situations where reasonable speed could quite easily be attained. Many speed limits are ridiculously low and then further encumbered with a speed limit. Limits should raised in many main roads and roads and infrastructure safety should be improved. Keep pedestrians off roads and force push bikes onto pavements.
ok, but when these black box things get tested it should be a year long trial and the lab rats should be the council workers and police officers of the entire country. Lead by example! I bet half of them would lose their licences within 6 months. Also for the trial the information should be collected and points handed out by an independent company of the peoples choosing, so fair play can be assured!
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