Speed cameras creating hazardous drivers
9th January 2007 | back to article listings BACK send this article to a friend via email SEND TO A FRIEND print this article PRINT

British motorists are worse drivers because of speed cameras, one study claims.

The proliferation of roadside speed traps has created an idiosyncratic stop-start approach to speeding on British roads, one academic claims.

Dr Claire Corbett from Brunel University argues that gatsos have created a hazardous style on the roads, with drivers primed to slow down for cameras before speeding up in between, the Independent reports.

Her research, based on 7,000 drivers, found that two in five men and one in four women trick cameras in a process dubbed "avoiding the sniper".

Moreover, there has been a sevenfold increase in speed trap avoiders in recent years, fuelled in part by the proliferation of speed cameras on the roads.

Since 1994 the proportion of speeding motorists caught by speed cameras has increased by three in ten to four in ten, leading to concerns that such a "blunt tool" approach to speeding is not adequately addressing road safety.

Nigel Humphries of the Association of British Drivers summarised the problem: "Once they passed the camera, drivers would accelerate away again - which really renders the cameras useless," he told the Independent.

However, road safety ministers seem reconciled to the fact that speed cameras have not cut incidents of speeding, but insist that this does not mean they are a road safety failure.

Under present rules, speed cameras can only be installed at recognised accident black spots. Therefore, even if they only succeed in slowing down motorists for a brief stretch of road, it is on the most dangerous stretches of road that this is achieved.

However, road safety campaigners argue that speed cameras should be installed proactively, with local residents frequently complaining when gatsos are not installed at known danger areas.

Speaking last year, Stephen Ladyman argued that speed cameras do play a significant role in making the roads safer, as they encourage drivers to slow down at the worst accident black spots.

"The reason that we make roadside cameras so obvious is because we put them where there has been a past record of accidents and speeding. They are the black spots," he told Newsnight. "We want them to be obvious not because we want to catch people but because we want people to slow down and not be caught."

Observant motorists may have already noticed that speed camera detectors incorporated into sat nav gadgets are marketed as 'accident black spot alerts'.