Cameras set to catch side-street speeders
By Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
# Networks that cover neighbourhoods 'will replace road humps'
NETWORKS of speed cameras, which will catch every driver breaking the limit, are to be installed in 20mph residential areas as an alternative to road humps.

All entry and exit points to neighbourhoods will be covered by the cameras, which will calculate automatically the average speed of the vehicle while travelling through the area. Offenders’ vehicle number will be transmitted instantly to an office that issues penalties.

The system will catch the motorists known as “camera surfers”, who slow down only briefly as they pass conventional speed cameras before speeding up again.

Local authorities will target 20mph zones where there have been several crashes caused by drivers breaking the limit or accelerating aggressively between humps and chicanes.

Trials of the new cameras in Camden, North London, and Belfast have proved that the technology is reliable. They are due to be approved by the Home Office in November, with the first fines being issued early next year.

Two cameras were installed last year at either end of Mansfield Road in Camden, a busy residential road where the 20mph limit was being ignored by most drivers. A third camera is about to be placed on a nearby side road.

No tickets are being issued yet but the mere presence of the cameras has resulted in the proportion of drivers complying with the limit increasing by a third.

Dozens of authorities across Britain have been closely watching the trials.

Cameras that detect average speed, known as Specs cameras, have been in use since 1999 but until now have only been able to enforce the limit on a single road rather than a whole area.

Existing “Specs” cameras, which are used mainly to enforce temporary speed limits covering motorway roadworks, are connected by cables and operate in pairs.

The new cameras are not linked but have synchronised clocks and each separately transmits information to a processing centre.

This allows several cameras to work together without the need to dig up the road between them to lay cables. In urban areas, this can halve the cost of installing the system.

Transport for London, which is overseeing the Camden trial, believes the system will be at least as effective at controlling speed as humps but without the noise and pollution caused by vehicles repeatedly braking and accelerating. The Transport Research Laboratory found that air pollution rose significantly on roads with humps. Carbon monoxide emissions increased by 82 per cent and nitrogen oxide by 37 per cent.

The London Ambulance Service has also claimed that humps cause up to 500 deaths a year because its crews are delayed in reaching cardiac arrest victims.

Rob Gifford, director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, said: “Replacing humps with these new cameras will benefit law-abiding motorists as well as making streets safer and more attractive.

“Drivers will also stop rat-running through neighbourhoods where they know their speed will be monitored. Many more children will be able to play safely outside.”

When hit at 20mph, 19 out of 20 pedestrians survive. By contrast, 19 out of 20 die when hit at 40mph.

The Association of London Government, which represents the 33 London boroughs, said the cameras were a “useful tool” which would be best used in residential areas where a high proportion of drivers ignored the speed limit.

Although cameras that measure average speed over a set distance cause a much greater reduction in crashes than conventional Gatsos, some speed camera partnerships have been reluctant to install them because they do not generate enough £60 penalties to pay for the costs of instalment.

However, from next year, partnerships will no longer be allowed to keep any of the revenue from fines, removing the incentive to choose cameras which catch lots of drivers.