Yesterday, Oxfordshire County Council announced that it would be withdrawing its funding of speed cameras – meaning that 72 fixed and 89 mobile camera sites will be no more from September onwards.
This follows the actions of Swindon council, which did much the same thing with its speed cameras last year.
In Swindon, the number of accidents at the now dormant camera sites has increased by precisely zero, so it will be interesting to see what happens at the 161 sites in Oxfordshire; you would suspect (and hope) that exactly the same results will unfold.
A few years back, we ran a campaign at Autocar about speed cameras. The evidence we unearthed was pretty startling. We ran our campaign in conjunction with the RAC, and our fundamental finding was that – statistically – speed cameras did not save lives, did not increase road safety, but very obviously DID increase the coffers of the treasury – which basically pocketed the money raised in fines and used it to erect yet more cameras to generate yet more money.
Now that we have a new government, however, alongside a treasury whose coffers have run a bit thin, the policy on cameras seems to be reversing. Which is good news for all sorts of reasons, although it will of course ignite the wrath of the doo-gooders – the speed kills merchants – in much the same way, you’d imagine, that throwing a gallon of petrol at a bonfire might.
To which I’d offer one fairly simple response; why weren’t road deaths dramatically reduced by speed cameras? If cameras improved road safety that much, where are/were the results? Considering how much safer cars are now compared with 1992 – when the first camera was installed near Twickenham bridge – accident rates should have tumbled if the cameras were so effective. But it never happened – and now at last the penny (no particular pun intended) would appear to have begun its journey south.