Speed Cameras: What exactly is going on?

General Bunk

More words from @FailCar. In this edition he turns his attention to speed cameras...

Who exactly is winning the ‘war on the motorist’?

I’m a bit fed up with all the debate over speed cameras and all the media coverage in the past few months, but with all the coverage surrounding the cuts being imposed I did of course end up doing a fair few articles on this matter. This meant doing research and FOI requests etc. Not just regurgitating Brake and AOB press releases. It’s like being a real journalist that bothers to do stuff and everything. Sigh, think I’ll stick to cars.

Thing is though with subjects that (apparently) bring up a lot of emotion all you get is the extreme left and the extreme right. The Guardian will go on about the fact that ‘we will see the results of these cuts in the morgues’ while the Daily Mail and much (but not all) of the motoring press saying ‘ha ha the cash cow plague cure is here, they rake in Y million a year, good riddance etc...’ it all turns into a war of pub-ammo type stats. I am always dubious of stats from both sides.

Most publications don’t want to just publish a guide to the history of the cameras, what is going on at the moment and what is really going to happen in the future. There appears to be a lot of misconceptions, misunderstandings and contradictions when it comes to the cameras and I for one think that the future looks bleak for the enthusiast motorist.

Winning the ‘War on the motorist’? Yeah, right. The way I see it they just delt their first big blow toward making real money out of cameras and the majority of us are being short-sighted.

Let’s go back to the start, well sort of- I am trying to keep this relatively concise. Speed cameras started popping up in sporadically the UK in 1991 but let’s just fast-forward to boom time – The year 2000 and the setting up of the ‘Safety camera partnerships.’

Pre 2000 the money generated from the cameras went straight to central government. They then bought new curtains, shiny things and built moats. This was not doing them much good in terms of basically getting lambasted for not putting the money into road safety. It was decided to keep the money localised. Welcome to the new age and the Safety Camera Partnership.

The Partnerships around the country consisted of grouped together local authorities and it was partly their job to deliver road safety and basically run the cameras. The local Councils however now got the money from the cameras decided that they were a nice little earner. Cameras popped up all over the place with high loading rates. They then bought new curtains... you get the idea.

Come 2007 the Government decides that they would quite like to have the money from the cameras again. But who is going to run them? Who is going to pay for them? Along comes the Road Safety Grant. This grant is given to the local authorities to distribute on road safety as they see fit, and most of them basically just put it straight back into the partnerships.

Alas, if they are only given a certain amount of money the loading rates of the cameras and processing rate will have to drop. Suddenly the number of people caught on camera drops. Without the motivation of making money not only do the cameras stop making money but they actually start to return less in fines than they cost to run. Cameras for the first time start to actually cost money to run, rather than earn it. Key thing here? Motivation. If the local authorities are not going to be directly making money out of it, why bother ploughing their own money in?

Hello 2010. Along comes a big recession and a newly formed government decides to make cutbacks.  One of the first things to get cut is the Road safety grant. This is the grant that gives local authorities the money to run the cameras. Low and behold the cameras in some authorities start to disappear and some partnerships fold.

With cuts across the board in road safety, road maintenance and people likely to not look after their cars quite so well, fact is that accidents on the road are probably going to go up. The key point on the timeline will be the removal of Speed Cameras and weather the removal of them was the reason for the increase in accidents.

Give it a couple of years and now thanks to the condition of road safety the government has the perfect excuse for bringing the cameras back. Except this time they will have to make money, so back along will come the days of pre-2000. The fill rates will get wacked up, more cameras in seemingly pointless locations will appear and we will all be left losers from the ‘war on the motorist 2010-20??’

Speed Cameras are going, for now.  But like an apocalyptic robot they will be back, and like Terminator 3 it won’t be as good as the last time.*

* I heard today (2/11/10) that they are being turned back on in Oxfordshire, but with 'a new funding model'. Sounds interesting...  my prediction came true but much faster than I had guessed. Gentlemen start your engines, and prepare to be fleeced, the Government needs money and in times of need the motorist is in the cross hair, tonight they are going to party like it's 1999.

Motorists 0 - Government 1

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