Speed cameras get go-ahead
By Treacy Hogan and Tom Brady
Wednesday February 27 2008
The Government has given the go-ahead for the introduction of privately operated speed cameras, which it is estimated will help reduce road deaths by more than a fifth.
Ministers agreed at yesterday's Cabinet meeting on funding for the cameras, which will provide 6,000 hours of monitoring a month.
The mobile cameras will target 600 high-accident locations around the country. The locations for the cameras will be selected by the Garda Traffic Bureau, which will have strategic control of their use.
The use of the private cameras had been put on hold late last year, after it was discovered that the running costs would be much óhigher than had been previously anticipated.
However, proposals put forward by Justice Minister Brian Lenihan, and supported by Transport Minister Noel Dempsey, were accepted.
The purchase of the cameras will be funded from the justice budget but the Cabinet has agreed that a supplementary estimate can be brought in later this year, if additional money is required.
It is understood that the garda traffic corps will also be supplied with eight new speed detection units, which will be fully operational by June.
The Government has set a general target of a 5pc drop in the number of deaths and serious injuries on the nation's roads this year and gardai have been asked to focus particularly on potential victims in the 17-26 age group, where a specific decrease of 10pc has been fixed.
However, a government-commissioned report has estimated that the roll-out of speed cameras could cut road deaths by more than 20pc.
The strength of the traffic corps is due to be brought up to 1,200 by the end of the year and Garda Commissioner Fachtna Murphy will be diverting some of the resources into tackling problems such as speeding.
The speed camera network is a key element of the Government's road strategy 2007-2012.
Government officials said last night they could not discuss the cost of the cameras as a contract had not yet been signed and some of the details had yet to be finalised with the preferred bidder.
But there are estimates that the network will cost about €80m over four years. Several ministers had indicated that the cost issue is a "no brainer", as the cameras will pay for themselves many times over in speeding fines revenue and also save hundreds of millions of euro as a result of the lives saved and injuries avoided.
The cost of a serious accident, according to consultants employed by the Road Safety Authority, is put at €304,000.
The operation of the cameras will be mainly overt in an effort to alert motorists to their presence and persuade drivers to slow down.
The private contractor will be paid a fixed annual amount and not a "fee-per-catch".
Mr Lenihan told the Irish Independent: "The Government has no interest in motorists being harassed for the sake of it and does not advocate the 'shooting fish in a barrel' syndrome or in traffic enforcement as a revenue raising measure".
A working group set up to examine speed cameras reckoned the system had an annual potential of 1.1 million speeding detections.
This was intended to ensure that, combined with traditional detection methods, half of the 1.8 million vehicles registered in the State would pass through an active enforcement area at least once a month.
- Treacy Hogan and Tom Brady
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