There's a mighty row going on over on the website the of The Guardian newspaper.

Columnist George Monbiot,­ a well-known and very vocal environmentalist,­ has torn into a recent article by Christopher Booker and Richard North, which attempts to topple "the speed camera myth."

Even an impartial observer would have to concede that Monbiot has not achieved much more than a furious rant against the Top Gear TV programme, and against Paul Smith of Safe Speed,­ a one-man protest group who has kept up an amazing campaign against the spin and manipulation that long marked out the Government's use of accident and injury statistics.

Monbiot can't believe that anybody would call into question the use of speed cameras, or their obvious fitness for the purpose of improving road safety.

As evidence, he quotes Smith as saying "we simply don't believe that a significant proportion of accidents are caused by exceeding the speed limit." Monbiot follows up, "if he cannot demonstrate that this is true, his entire case collapses."

The trouble for the swiveled-eyed Guardian man is that this quote is from 2001, when it was no more than Smith's belief. But since then Smith's instinct has been proved resoundingly right.

As he says in Smith's rebuttal today, "poor George found a Safe Speed [web] page from 2001, when it was true that evidence did not yet exist. That was long before the Department for Transport launched a new system of national contributory factor recording, on the 1st January 2005.

The new system has reported annually - twice now - and on each occasion found that the "exceeding speed limit" contributory factor was only present in five per cent of injury crashes nationally. When the figures were first published in September 2006 my views expressed in 2001 were proved correct."

But it seems that no matter how much evidence is tendered, even by the Government's own departments,­ the myth of the speed camera as road safety panacea will live on. Meanwhile, the considerable year-on-year drops in road deaths in the UK have stalled, despite far safer cars. And admissions to hospital from road accidents remain much higher (according to the hospitals themselves) than the Government's own figures show.

Even the Government's own Transport Select Committee has lamented the loss of Traffic Police, who can spot bad driving, bald tyres, fake plates and so on.

Indeed, the other evening my mother assured me of a case in my Lancashire home town where a driver was prosecuted, via speed camera, for driving at 31mph in a 30mph zone. Will the madness never stop?

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