Speed cameras can't see bikers

By Deborah McAleese
Friday, 26 September 2008
High-tech speed traps in Northern Ireland, which cost over a million pounds to install, have been branded "totally ineffective" — because they cannot detect speeding motorbikes.
The Speed Enforcement Camera Systems (SPECS), a series of cameras on the A1 dual carriageway in Newry and A2 dual carriageway between Bangor and Belfast, have been hailed by police as important weapons in the fight against speeding drivers. Rather than flashing drivers who are speeding at a fixed point, the systems monitor the rate of every car over a certain distance.
The system, however, can only detect vehicles with front-facing number plates, meaning that speeding motorcyclists cannot be caught by the cameras.
The PSNI defended the system saying it is just one of a number of methods of speed detection on the routes.
Former Belfast Lord Mayor Jim Rodgers, however, claimed the system is ineffective and discriminates against motorists.
The UUP councillor said: “Police are out on the routes with hand-held speed cameras as a back up, but to me this needs addressed. If we had an effective system then we wouldn’t need to be spending more money on back-up methods of detection. Surely the SPECS system can be developed so it can detect motorbikes.”
One irate motorist who travels daily to work along the A2 dual carriageway said: “It is completely ridiculous. I stick religiously to the speed limit while motorbikes fly past me almost on a daily basis knowing they are unlikely to be detected. Sometimes police are along the route as well but if the system worked properly they could be freed up to go elsewhere.”
The SPECS system was first introduced in Northern Ireland along the A1 in 2006 with the A2 cameras going live earlier this year. The shortfalls in the system were known before its launch.
A spokesman for the PSNI defended the system saying it is just one of many road policing measures employed in an effort to reduce the number of deaths on the province’s roads.
He said: “We only have to look at the SPECS cameras on the A1 dual carriageway in Newry to see an example of this. In the five years prior to these cameras being introduced there were 15 deaths on this road. Since their launch in August 2006 there have been none.”
He admitted however that “no system is infallible” and said that to “complement” fixed safety cameras and the SPECS system, mobile road safety cameras are deployed on a routine basis and are operated by officers on roads across Northern Ireland.
“Other methods of speed detection include Laser, Radar, VASCAR and calibrated speedometers. In addition, our new Motorcycle Support Team focuses on enforcing traffic laws concerning motorcyclists and motorists who could prove to be a risk to them,” the police spokesman said.
SPECS deploys digital safety cameras in pairs to monitor drivers' average speeds between two fixed points, which means motorists are urged to drive within the speed limit throughout the route.
The cameras do not flash and all the data is digitally stored so that there is no need for film. As vehicles pass between the cameras they are digitally recorded.
The time it takes for the vehicle to travel between both points is used to calculate the average speed.
If a vehicle exceeds the speed threshold, a speeding violation record is automatically generated.