Bike to the drawing board
New SPECS need checked as they don't see speeders on two wheels

By Ciaran McGuigan
13 August 2006

The new 'state-of-the-art' speed cameras tracking motorists on one of Ulster's busiest roads are completely useless against speeding bikers, cops last night admitted.

The new 500,000 Speed Enforcement Camera Systems (SPECS) - unveiled last week - catch law-breaking drivers by working out their average speed between two fixed points on the A1.

The so-called 'yellow vultures' record the numberplate details of cars as they pass the two points at Sheepbridge and the Mourne Country roundabout on the main Belfast-Newry road.

But they are powerless to trap speeding motorbikes, which only display plates at the rear!

And a leading motoring organisation last night warned that the cameras - which have been in operation in Scotland for almost a year - may encourage 'car-ringers', which could leave innocent drivers facing hefty fines.

Neil Greig, of the AA in Scotland, said it was happy to support the introduction of SPECS, which appear to have cut deaths and injuries on the busy A77 north of Ayr. But he warned the "expensive" system was open to abuse by crooks.

Said Mr Greig: "It all comes down to the fact that people seem to respect the system - whereas they slow down and then speed up again for normal speed cameras.

"We have been quite happy to support them as they are so effective, but because they are so effective, you have to be careful where you put them.

"One problem with them is they are very expensive to install. In the first six months of the programme on the A77 only 28 people were caught, so if they are being put in as a money-raising tool, they could be very costly to the authorities.

"There were fears that they could lead to long convoys of vehicles, as people would be scared to overtake, but that has not been borne out.

He added: "Motorbikes are an issue, however.

"And the thing about these systems is that it comes down to accuracy. The licensing authority (DVLNI) needs to make sure that the wrong people are not getting tickets.

"The system - as these systems sometimes do - could encourage people to 'ring' cars to avoid the risk of getting a ticket. The biggest increase (in ringing) was as a result of the London congestion charge. Although it's a small minority doing it, it's a growing trend."

A police spokesman said that other measures would remain in place to monitor speeding motorcyclists.

"The SPECS are front-facing only, so only read the front of the car.

"But there are still mobile cameras that will pick up the motorcyclists," the spokesman said.

"There are cameras being tested that do both (rear and front reading), but they are not available as yet.

"The cameras we installed are the most up-to-date."