Brakes may be put on speed cameras as Executive announces review

THE rapid rise in the number of speed cameras may be slowed considerably after Scottish ministers said they were considering allowing the fines generated to be spent on other safety measures instead.

Road safety experts believe that the Scottish Executive will follow a policy change announced for England yesterday, which means that cameras will no longer be funded by income from the speeding drivers they catch.

Officials in Scotland are understood to be keen to use the cash for other initiatives, such as speed-awareness courses for convicted drivers, which has substantially cut reoffending in parts of England.

They are also keen to end the criticism that cameras are self-perpetuating cash generators. Alistair Darling, the Transport Secretary, said funding new cameras through fines would be ended south of the Border in 2007. Camera warning signs will be improved and the speed limits of all A and B roads reviewed by 2011.

The move came as an independent assessment of camera sites showed that they had cut deaths by more than 100 a year, and deaths and serious injuries by 1,745 last year. Steve Stradling, professor of transport psychology at Napier University in Edinburgh, said cameras were vital "crash magnets" because the drivers they caught were twice as likely as other motorists to be involved in crashes.

But anti-camera campaigners said the report confirmed their claim that the cameras' contribution to road safety had been exaggerated as accident rates reduced naturally after a spate. Paul Smith, of Safe Speed, said: "This is a clear and unequivocal admission that the benefits of speed cameras have been exaggerated."

But the report said that although this "regression to mean" phenomenon did account for some of the accident reduction at camera sites, "the safety effects of cameras remain substantial".

The study also showed an estimated 41 per cent increase in serious accidents at camera sites in Fife and an estimated 21 per cent rise in Grampian - the only areas of Britain to show increases.

By contrast, in Strathclyde, the only other Scottish area covered in the report, the rate was cut by 23 per cent overall, and by 30 per cent in Glasgow. The authors said the Fife and Grampian sample sizes were small, and the Executive said the figures may be inaccurate.

Fife Council also questioned the figures and said casualties had been cut at more than half its camera sites.

A spokeswoman for the Executive said it would consider whether to adopt the other English changes after deciding first on camera funding. She added:

"The evidence from today's report confirms safety cameras have contributed to a substantial reduction in accidents, including serious accidents, across the UK as a whole.

"This is in line with all previous research, which confirms the effectiveness of safety cameras as a means of reducing accidents.

"In terms of figures for two Scottish partnerships which appear to go against that trend, we do not accept these findings at face value. The data is based on a relatively small number of cameras at a particular period of time. We also suspect there may be inaccuracies in the data."

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Last updated: 16-Dec-05 01:37 GMT