Average speed cameras installed in neighborhoods for the first time
A new generation of average speed cameras that will police 20mph zones in residential areas are to come into force in the New Year after they were approved by the government.
By Richard Alleyne, Science Correspondent
Published: 6:00PM GMT 06 Dec 2009
The cameras, which link wirelessly to each other, are capable of tracking vehicles for up to 15 miles whichever route they take over a wide area.
Traffic managers throughout the country see them as a way of restoring calm to Britain’s neighbourhoods without resorting to intrusive calming devices such as road humps and chicanes.
The new "time over distance" devices are also seen as a way of dealing with the problem of motorists braking when they see a camera then accelerating once past it.
They are already used in motorways where despite catching far fewer speeders than traditional speed cameras, they have dramatically reduced casualties.
The first residential average speed cameras in 20mph zones will be installed next month after they were approved by experts at the Home office.
Research from the Department for Transport indicates that a cut in speed to 20mph has a dramatic impact in making areas more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians.
One in 40 pedestrians struck by a car at 20mph dies, compared with one in five at 30mph.
Portsmouth became the first city in Britain to introduce a blanket 20mph limit on residential roads last year, York, Norwich and eight London boroughs, including Islington, have announced plans to follow suit.
Extensive 20mph zones have also been introduced in Edinburgh, Newcastle upon Tyne and Hull. In total, there are more than 2,000 20mph zones.
Transport for London will install the cameras in Camden, Southwark and Waltham Forest, while Portsmouth and Norwich have also expressed an interest.
The cameras — called Specs3 — will be fitted at entry and exit points in residential areas and on busy roads. They read number plates and record the time as each car passes.
Critics point out that even these new cameras will not deter motorists from indulging in short bursts of speed, because they will still average less than 20mph when stops at junctions, lights or in traffic are taken into account.
On main roads the average speed cameras issue fewer tickets than conventional Gatso cameras, which measure speed over only a few yards, according to the manufacturers.
In the past year, the number of speeding tickets exceeded 1.5m for the first time, twice the number issued in 1997 when Labour came to power. They raised £88m from motorists in one year and have raked in £1 billion over the past decade.
Average speed cameras have proved effective at persuading people to keep within the limits. Nearly 100 have been installed at roadworks — typically on motorways — and accident black spots, and according to data collected from five active camera sites, 99.4 per cent of drivers obey the speed limits.
The number of motorists killed and seriously injured after the cameras have been introduced falls by nearly two thirds on average.
A spokesman for the Home Office confirmed that the new cameras had passed laboratory tests for effectiveness but said they had yet to be officially given the green light.