Swindon's speed cameras are turned off

9:00am Friday 31st July 2009
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By James Wallin »

Speed cameras on Swindon’s roads will be deactivated today.
All cameras which are permanently fixed on the town’s roads will have bags put over them this afternoon. They will be temporarily replaced by vehicle-activated signs which flash when a driver exceeds the speed limit.
The Wiltshire and Swindon Road Safety Partnership decided to end the use of cameras due to a combination of funding issues and new thinking about the causes of accidents.
Permanent measures to cut accidents at the three sites which host the five cameras – Queens Drive, Oxford Road and the A420 – will continue to be discussed.
Coun Peter Greenhalgh, Swindon Council’s lead member for transport and a member of the partnership, said drivers who might consider Swindon roads a racecourse from today would be disappointed.
He said: “I would always urge people to drive safely and if people choose to break the speed limits they will of course be punished. The police are fully committed to road safety in Swindon.
“We believe there are better ways we can reduce the accidents on our roads than just through the use of speed cameras.
“We have talked about a lot of different strategies. For example we are talking to motorbike shops to try to use them as an interface to get our message across.
“We are also implementing education schemes and trying to look at the causes of accidents.”
One method that will not be used to replace the cameras will be speed bumps.
“Definitely not,” said Coun Greenhalgh. “Speed bumps are possibly the second worst aberration for drivers. If I had my way I would remove every single speed bump from Swindon.
“But I would replace them with measures that would ensure safety on those roads.”
Coun Greenhalgh said councils around the country had expressed an interest in the plan.
He added: “I suspect all parties will be looking at Swindon to see how we are responding and how our ideas are carried out.
“We are developing a reputation for challenging the status quo and being at the forefront of new thinking.”
REACTION to the speed camera decision varied from delight to dismay.
Eric Archer, who has been driving minicabs in Swindon for 50 years, said he was pleased the cameras would be deactivated.
Mr Archer, from Central Taxis on Shrivenham Road, said: “I think it’s a good idea. I was caught last week on the A420.
“I drive along that road every day but it was pouring with rain and I was talking to the customer and forgot it was a 50mph area. I was only doing 57 mph.
“I do agree with them in built-up areas because I think you need to do something to stop people speeding, but on roads like the A420 I think they are really irritating.”
Mr Archer added: “I’m all for the flashing signs. They make you think about what you are doing and you do see people slow down.”
Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the AA, said he would be following the Swindon speed camera saga with interest.
He said: “Does it mean that there will be no enforcement in Swindon?
“Are policemen going to be hiding behind trees? There are a lot of questions that need to be answered before anyone can make a real judgement.
“We survey our members every year and the lowest support we have ever had for speed cameras is 69 per cent.
“We make the question very broad because there is always a difference between what people think about the camera in their street and in someone else’s.”
Mr Howard said vehicle activated signs had their place in a responsible road safety scheme but did not play the same role as speed cameras.
He said: “They will probably influence people who are travelling on that road for the first time but it won’t do that for the people who use that road everyday.“ Deputy chief constable of Wiltshire Police David Ainsworth said his officers would not compromise in their drive to keep Wiltshire motorists safe.
He described cameras as an effective means of reducing deaths and injuries and said mobile speed cameras would continue to be used.
Mr Ainsworth added: “I am especially pleased that the council remains committed to the fact mobile speed safety camera units, which are part of that partnership, will continue as normal.
“We will continue to work with the council in assisting to monitor the impact of the new vehicle activated signs.
“Any assumption that speed cameras will no longer be used in Swindon is plainly incorrect.”
Labour leader Coun Derique Montaut claimed the council’s Conservative cabinet had made a grave mistake by recommending switching off the cameras.
He said: “It is an extremely sad day and I think the council will regret this in the long term.
“As from today our roads will be more dangerous.”