Speed Camera Racket and HS2 Costs

The Daily Telegraph have published a couple of good articles today (13/11/2022). The first is entitled “The Great Speed-Camera Racket” and covers how 1.74 million drivers were caught speeding by cameras last year and forked out almost £46 million in fines.

The author describes how it is so easy to miss the new 20 mph limits in London and includes this comment: “If only speed limits were the end of it. But they’re not. Blundering into ever-expanding low-traffic neighbourhoods (fine), congestion zones (fine) or emissions zones (fine); bus lanes that suddenly rear out of the side of the road (fine); yellow box junctions set up like fiendish games of chance (fine) – it can all seem like a confusing, infuriating lottery in reverse. Instead of low odds you’ll win, there are high odds you’ll lose. Single streets – like Lansdowne Drive in Hackney – have earned councils more than £1m in just a few months”.

According to AA President Edmond King: “Most scandalous of all is a yellow box junction on Bagleys Lane and New King’s Road in SW6 where drivers cannot see if the exit is clear before entering the dreaded cross-hatched area”.

Comment: Certainly speed cameras, yellow box junctions and all the other restrictions on drivers are there to raise money and there is no evidence that they improve road safety. Road casualties in the last ten years in the UK have only fallen slightly and the reduction can be explained by better vehicle design, improved roads (with accident black spots being treated) and improved medical treatments.

There is no justification for all the expensive enforcement action that is now deployed with people innocent of any criminal intent being pursued.

Telegraph article on speed cameras: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/11/13/great-speed-camera-racket/

The other good article is on the cost of HS2. To quote from it: “HS2 will cost taxpayers more than the benefits it will deliver, the Government has admitted for the first time. Analysis conducted by civil servants found that the rail project will now deliver just 90 pence in economic benefit for every £1 it costs, raising fresh questions about its existence ahead of this week’s Autumn Statement”.

Comment: We have always opposed the construction of HS2 because it was never justified on a cost/benefit analysis and that was before construction costs ballooned to unaffordable levels. It was always a white elephant that benefits mainly wealthy Londoners while ridership figures are hopelessly optimistic. The money would be better spent on other projects and at present the country simply cannot afford over £100 billion on such vanity projects that are also environmentally damaging. It is not too late to cancel this project.

Telegraph article on HS2: https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2022/11/12/hs2-will-cost-taxpayers-economic-benefits-will-deliver-government/  

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Driver Education Courses Increasing and the USA is Different

The number of speed cameras in the UK has been steadily rising and these are being financed by collecting money from drivers who do education courses such as “Speed Awareness” courses. In 2021 the number of drivers who took such courses to avoid fines and penalty points was 1.5 million. Apart from a drop in 2020 probably due to less driving in the pandemic this is similar to previous years so it appears that the scheme has had no impact on the level of offences. Likewise the impact on road casualties which was a justification for introducing speed cameras and associated education courses is not at all clear with road fatalities plateauing in the ten years prior to 2020. See chart below from DfT statistics.  

The Government (DfT) commissioned a study into the effectiveness of speed awareness courses which reported in May 2018. This is the key statement in the Executive Summary: “this study did not find that participation in NSAC [National Speed Awareness Courses] had a statistically significant effect on the number or severity of injury collisions”.

In reality speed cameras and the operation of education courses have just turned into a financial industry for the benefit of course operators and the police while drivers incur massive costs.

But the Bill that will clearly legalise them is still going through Parliament (the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill).

It is interesting that in the USA there is still strong opposition to the use of speed cameras although the new Biden administration is supporting them. In fact cameras are illegal in many US states at present and the National Motoring Association (NMA) is strongly opposed to them. See link to MSN article below. To quote from it: “New Jersey, State Senator Declan O’Scanlon told DailyMail.com that these are upsetting developments. Automated enforcement has proven to make no one any safer… but everyone (except the corrupt companies operating the systems) poorer,” O’Scanlon, a Republican, said Sunday. “It amounts to government sanctioned theft. Thank God New Jersey had the good sense to ban the use of automated enforcement early on…and then win a David vs Goliath battle to terminate our failed red light camera experiment. Any elected official that supports these systems is supporting screwing every one of his/her constituents that drives a car”. That’s the view of many people in the UK also.

The USA would be very unwise to follow the path chosen in the UK where the promotion of speed cameras as a way to improve road safety has been shown to be a mistake.

UKROED Statistics: https://www.ukroed.org.uk/scheme/trends-statistics/

Speed Awareness Courses: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses

MSN Article on Speed Cameras in the USA: https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/technology/the-speed-camera-nightmare-thats-coming-to-america/ar-AAThBF4

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Huge Increase in Speed Enforcement

Speed Camera 4The magazine Local Transport Today have run a story headlined “Met Police prepares for huge increase in speed enforcement”. They report that London police are planning a huge programme of speed limit enforcement with the aim of catching a million offenders a year. That’s up from 160,000 per annum at present.

That will be achieved by a large increase in speed camera activities including more mobile speed enforcement equipment. This is likely to mean aggressive enforcement of the 20 mph speed limits being brought in on many London roads.

The above information was disclosed at a meeting of London Councils, the representative body for London boroughs. That organisation is also looking at “decriminalisation” of speeding offences, which would effectively make it possible for local boroughs to enforce speed limits in the same way they do for parking offences at present.

What’s the real motivation behind these moves? It’s almost certainly about filling the coffers of the police by the offer of speed awareness courses, and also enabling local councils to fill their budget holes by also taking a cut of fees paid. Both organisations are under financial pressure and the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, is unwilling to help with the police budgets but would rather spend money on other things.

There is no evidence that lowering speed limits or more aggressive enforcement has any significant impact on road safety statistics. But politicians like gestures and many are only too pleased to kowtow to the anti-car fanatics. When it can be combined with excuses for revenue raising, it’s difficult to stop.

Just make sure you oppose it though.

Roger Lawson

Twitter: https://twitter.com/Drivers_London

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Launch of Campaign Against Speed Awareness Courses

AMPOW Campaign Against Misuse of Police Waivers

We have launched a campaign against the misuse of speed awareness courses (named AMPOW) because the actions of the police in offering such “Education Courses” as an alternative to prosecution for speeding and other offences are distorting road safety policy. It is leading to the proliferation of speed cameras and threatened prosecutions because the police now have a direct financial incentive to maximise their activities in this area. This is wrong.

In our view there is no statutory support for this activity and it is contrary to law. In addition it is a perversion of justice for the police to waive prosecution on the basis of money being paid to them.

There is also no hard evidence that putting people through a speed-awareness course has any impact on their subsequent accident record, or behaviour in general. So what we now have is an enormous industry dedicated to raising money to pay course operators, the police and other organisations who benefit from these arrangements.

The Government has claimed that the police only recover their “administration” costs but that is not in fact true. They are actually using their proportion of fees paid by course attendees to finance more cameras and more staff to operate them plus to fund other equipment and activities from the surpluses generated. We can provide evidence on this.

We ask the Government to put a stop to these arrangements forthwith simply because Parliament has never approved these activities. If they do not we will consider a legal challenge to prevent these abusive practices from continuing.

More Information

You can learn more about this campaign from a web page set up to support the campaign here: https://www.freedomfordrivers.org/speed-awareness-courses.htm     .

Press Release on Speed Cameras

We have published a press release on the latest evidence concerning the effectiveness of speed cameras.

It highlights analyses of the claims for speed camera benefits in London, the Thames Valley and Wales which contradict the claims made for their effectiveness. There are also doubts about their use in Scotland and a wider scale study by Idris Francis, a well known campaigner against cameras, is about to be published.

Here is a brief extract from the press release: “The response of the authorities and other vested interests to soundly-based criticisms that their claims were clearly nonsense has certainly been consistent.  Since the first official reports from 2002 onwards, they have sought to bury their heads in the sand – in the hope that the damning and mounting evidence that cameras are useless for road safety purposes will simply go away. Given how very lucrative are speed cameras and their downstream operations; it is hardly surprising that Camera Partnerships and other financially-involved, vested interest groups continue to systematically and cynically misrepresent the reporting of casualty data trends and the effects on them of speed cameras. The emerging evidence clearly shows that speed cameras are nothing less than a monumental waste of a very great deal of money – that ought to be put to better use elsewhere on: e.g., road and junction improvements, dualling etc.” 

Those who promote the benefits of speed cameras, and continue to advocate more expenditure on them, as has happened in London of late, should surely study this data more carefully. Regrettably those who make decisions on these matters often seen to have closed minds and have little background in the science required to make sense of the data.

Roger Lawson.

Prolific Speed Cameras

A recent media report states that a speed camera in the Limehouse Link tunnel in East London issues the most speeding tickets in the country – on average about 50 per day. That’s 17,620 tickets in 2014-15.

There is one camera in the tunnel westbound, although it is moved around between three different locations within the tunnel (this is not an average speed camera system along the tunnel but a conventional gatso type). Often the active camera is near the westbound entrance, where the road slopes down into the tunnel and hence vehicles have a tendency to speed up and where they are just coming out of a 40 mph limit area. With a speed limit of 30 mph, the cameras being both invisible and poorly signed, you can see why they are so productive.

This writer looked at the accidents in the tunnel soon after it was built and when speed cameras were first installed. This is what I said back in 2003: “Why was this done? At first glance on the reasonable grounds that there have been a number of serious accidents on this stretch of road, including two fatalities, although there is no evidence that they were speed related (your editor has studied the police STATS19 reports on the accidents).

In fact there is a major design defect in this tunnel. It has a “pavement” at each side with a kerb that is several inches high, unlike most tunnels. Many of the accidents appear to be caused because people hit the kerb and are deflected into other traffic, or in the case of motorcyclists who seem to experience particular difficulties, are ejected from their bikes into the path of other traffic. The problem is that because of the poor lighting in the tunnel, and the fact that the kerb and pavement are a uniform monochrome grey that matches the surface of the road, drivers simply cannot see them. They therefore tend to follow the more brightly lit sides of the tunnel and run into the kerbs.

Comment: A few pounds worth of paint to highlight the kerb would have solved almost all the accident problems but instead we have the dogmatic approach of installing expensive speed cameras, and fining motorists, for no good reason.”

Needless to point out that my representations on this subject to the head of road safety at TfL fell on deaf ears.

Roger Lawson

No End To, Rather An Intensification of the War on the Motorist

Drivers had been promised no re-emergence of moves to impose road user charging under the current administration. But by stealth, buried in the bowels of the Infrastructure Bill (currently making its way through Parliament) are measures which: (a) facilitate the privatisation the Highways Agency, and (b) pave the way for the sell-off of the UK road network to private interests, and the subsequent imposition of road user charging.

The threat of a mandatory imposition (by EU diktat) of the fitment of Black Boxes remains. Big Brother external control and monitoring of your driving.

The Government is active in supporting Driverless Car technology: the ultimate extension of external control – you become a passenger in your own vehicle – but still responsible for it if the technology fouls up! (Even Toyota have distanced themselves from this particular piece of crass idiocy).

The much-publicised Motorway Speed Limit increase has been quietly ditched – another example of a commitment made but retracted. A raft of major road speed limit reductions were being propose, ostensibly due to EU clean air diktats; when it was government itself that retarded the decline in emissions: by (a) discouraging catalysed petrol vehicle sales in favour of lower CO2-, but higher NOx-, SO2- and particulate-producing diesel; and (of much greater significance), by (b) persistently failing to regulate adequately the emissions of the worst polluters: public service, and older goods vehicles. Modern private diesel cars have very low emissions – particularly those with DPFs (Diesel Particulate Filters).

Speed Camera Partnerships effectively remain totally unregulated. This is despite incontrovertible evidence that the casualty-reducing benefits claimed for their “electronic highwaymen” prove to be non-existent after Regression To The Mean is taken into account. Of course, turkeys would never vote for Christmas; and instead of seeking reductions in prosecution numbers by lobbying for sensibly-set speed limits, the Partnerships have now switched focus to try to divert as many drivers as possible away from accepting fixed penalties and onto “Speed Awareness” courses – from which both the Partnership and the course organisers each take a tasty rake-off. The Shakespearean words: “Rotten”, “State” and “Denmark” come to mind…….

Ill-informed local politicians are promoting the proliferation of 20mph limit zones (with a few notable exceptions like Worthing – due to overwhelming public opposition ). This is despite the road safety evidence being damningly negative; with deaths and serious injuries consistently being worse than those in comparable nearby areas where 30mph has been retained.

All these developments have to be countered at both local and national levels if we are to prevent things getting markedly worse for drivers than is already the case. You can help by joining in and making your voice, views and opinions heard.