24 Feb 2014

What Is The Point Of Speed Cameras?

Asking what is the point of speed cameras might seem like a dumb question.  To stop people speeding is the obvious answer.  But think about the wholly inappropriate locations of most cameras and the answer could just as well be, to generate revenue.  Or to control us.

Speed limits are often sensible but often they are not sensible.  A 30mph limit in a village is sensible but that last 100 yards of 30mph limit outside of a village, before it turns into a 60mph limit, is not sensible.

For a speed limit to be appropriate, and to be respected by drivers, it must be located in a place where it makes sense for it to be located.  Why is that 100 yard stretch of open road, with no driveways off it, protected by a 30mph limit whilst an identical stretch of road just after it has a 60mph limit?

Usually because 30mph zones reflect parish boundaries.  So if the parish extends half a mile into rolling countryside where the road is open and wide and contains no major hazards the limit would still be 30mph until such point as the parish boundary ends.

Yet this is often where fixed and mobile speed cameras are located.  I have previously pointed out two examples, one in Oxfordshire and one in Berkshire.

I was also stopped and fined on the Isle of Man on a section of the TT route.  I had filled my bike with fuel and turned left out of a petrol station.  The road was clear (and had no buildings either side) and I accelerated through the last few yards of the 30mph section into the 60mph zone.  A policeman was hiding behind a stone wall and zapped me doing 38mph.

Yes I was wrong and yes it cost me £200 but what was the policeman doing, hiding with a speed camera, on a section of road where I would cause no harm to anyone, instead of in a busy town or village where I could genuinely be a menace at that speed?

The answer to this and the vast majority of speed camera locations is twofold.  One is to generate revenue and the other is control.

Police forces, councils and government love extra money. Tele-Traffic, who make speed cameras told undercover newspaper reporters who were posing as Eastern Europeans looking to buy Tele-Traffic cameras for their country that they could catch, "businessmen in the morning and school-run mums in the afternoon," and that, "Setting up cameras in new areas was the equivalent of having 'a blank cheque book', guaranteeing 'when you first set up you will have lots of offences, you will have bucketfuls'."

Speed cameras, and speed limits, on motorways are just as bad.  The limit is 70mph but 70mph is often stupidly slow, and sometimes too fast.  It depends on the road conditions, traffic, availability of a hard shoulder.

Modern cars with competent drivers at the wheel could quite easily and safely travel at 100mph for mile after mile.  Yet we are all treated equally and made to travel at 70mph, and targeted by hidden mobile cameras operated from motorway bridges.

Ideally a higher level driving test could be taken by those wanting to drive at higher speeds on roads were it is safe to do so.  Those who pass the test would have a magnetic disc to attach to whatever car they are in at the time.

At least that would be fair, because right now a lot of speed limits are ridiculous and speed cameras exist not to slow drivers but to punish those who transgress by a couple of mph.  But it would never be implemented because the state is too stupid to realise that humans are capable of intelligent thought.

The M62 around Birmingham is, for me, the most stressful road in the entire UK road network.  The sheer randomness of the variable speed limits - 40, 60, 40, 50 within a few miles - means having to constantly watch the speedo instead of the road.  If the limit on the overhead gantry is set to 40 (even if the road is clear) and you do 42mph you will be caught, processed, fined and points added to your licence.

More money and control for the state.  Less respect for the state from motorists.

Variable speed limits and cameras can now be found on the western section of the M25 and around Bristol on the M4.

It makes journeys much less pleasant.

If I need to travel to the south west I now use the A303 but even that has its share of mobile speed traps.  A local recently told me about a mobile camera which was held by a police officer in a lay-by.  The officer was hiding behind an HGV.

How is that meant to benefit anybody other than Somerset and Avon Police? 

I was recently travelling on the A34 just south of Oxford.  The road was quite busy but the traffic was flowing.  We were doing 70mph when all of a sudden the traffic slowed sharply, which is a dangerous occurrence on any road.  

The cause was a mobile speed camera in a lay-by.  Drivers saw it and immediately braked for no reason other than the instinct not to be punished by the state if they were briefly travelling at 73mph. 

The mass of traffic meant that nobody would have physically been able to travel at more than 70mph yet Thames Valley police had decided to place a man in that lay-by for the morning, causing more danger than if he had not been there.

Speed cameras, unless they are protecting road workers, schools or other sensitive locations are disingenuous and do nothing to protect anything other than income for and control by the state.

By the way, I live on a 60mph road.  My driveway directly abuts the road.  Half a mile away there is a 30mph section of road with no houses abutting it.  Where do you think the mobile camera is often parked?

The speed camera van in the photo say THINK on the side.  I have thought and I think speed cameras should be abolished and should be replaced by real police men and women who are able to use rational judgement.

By Matt Hubbard