Speed cameras have received a lot of criticism in the past in terms of whether they are actually effective in increasing safety on our roads and reducing the risk of injury. There is also a general perception that speed cameras are simply a method of generating revenue on the part of the government. Police and local councils have also been criticised for their over-reliance on speed cameras, instead of implementing other road safety improvement methods.
However, recent research by the RAC Foundation indicates that speed cameras reduce the risk of injury by more than 25%. The data, taken from 551 fixed camera sites in 9 areas of England, shows that, on average, the number of serious and fatal collisions in the vicinity of the cameras fell by 27% after their installation. There was also an average reduction of 15% in personal injury collisions in the vicinity of the cameras. RAC Foundation Director, Stephen Glaister, advised that “if cameras were turned off overnight, there would be something like 80 extra people killed per year and 800 people killed or seriously injured. So the evidence is very good that, on average, they do work; they are effective.”
Despite these promising results, there was also a suggestion that speed cameras could be increasing the risk of serious or fatal injury in some areas. At 21 of the 551 sites, collision rates had increased markedly since the cameras had been installed. The RAC wrote to the local councils identifying these problem camera sites. The RAC have confirmed that the increase in collision rates in these areas may or may not be due to the cameras but that the issue does require further investigation.
The study did also raise concerns that the full extent of speed camera effectiveness cannot easily be determined due to the ambiguity of the speed camera data provided by councils, police and road safety groups. These figures are so complex that even Professor Richard Allsop, the top academic commissioned by the RAC to carry out the study, was left perplexed by some of the statistics.
Therefore, it is clear that there are some issues in the way that speed camera data is collated and presented, and that there are anomalies in some areas where the risk of injury appears to have increased since speed cameras were installed. However, on the whole, speed cameras do appear to be having the desired effect of reducing the risk of injury on our roads.
By Danielle O’Neill, personal injury solicitor