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SatNavs and Speed Cameras: Lies, Damn Lies And Statistics?

Date 20th December 2008
Article by Robert Brady

Speed Cameras2008 has been choc-a-block with UK drivers' surveys, so we thought we'd bring together a few of them to give you a small insight into British attitudes to road safety.

SatNavs often get the blame for accidents. The media often cite incorrect or inappropriate SatNav commands for misdirected cars driving into rivers or lost lorries colliding with buildings. The blame of course rests firmly with those who blindly follow all routing instructions without engaging their brain.

SatNavs aside, surely road signs should be followed to the letter? One survey confirms that many drivers are unable to decipher road signs let alone make intelligent decisions about them.

Benjamin Disraeli famously said: "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics." Which of the following statistics do you believe?

We start with a spate of recent insurance company surveys that get a bit closer to the truth behind why there are so many accidents. They also give an insight into our attitude towards speed and speed cameras.

According to Tesco Car Insurance:

  • 26% of UK drivers believe that the sign representing that no motor vehicles are allowed means the exact opposite
  • 56% thought that the road narrows sign actually meant dual carriageway ends
  • 28% wrongly identified the uneven road sign as the sign for a humpback bridge
Allan Burns, Head of Tesco Car Insurance says: "It's every driver's responsibility to keep their road knowledge up to date. A core part of the UK driving test, it's important for drivers of all ages to understand UK road signs to avoid causing an unnecessary accident."

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In another survey, three-quarters of UK drivers are confident that they won’t be detected by the current system of fixed speed cameras. According to a survey by Co-operative Insurance, nearly 75% of UK drivers admit to regularly speeding, coincidentally the same percentage that say they worry about the dangers of others driving too fast.

Although 75% admitted speeding, according to the survey only 25% had been caught speeding.

The survey also revealed:
  • 19% of drivers confessed to speeding at least once a day
  • 23% said that they speed a couple of times a week
  • 27% said they never break the limit
  • 43% of drivers said they slow down as they approach cameras and immediately speed-up again once past the detection zone
  • 40% said they believe speed cameras encourage reckless driving
  • 75% said they worry about the dangers of others driving too fast
David Neave, Director of General Insurance at The Co-operative Insurance, said: “The frenetic pace of life today means that speeding has become endemic in British society. People often don’t think about the dangers of driving a few miles an hour over the limit. But that can mean the difference between having a safe journey or a collision, and whether you survive or not.”

He added: “Like drink driving, speeding reduces a driver’s ability to judge hazards and to react to them. There needs to be a shift in people’s attitudes to speeding, so it becomes as socially unacceptable as drink driving.”

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Car insurance providers Swinton have added to the speed camera debate by polling 2,000 drivers to see whether they thought that a financial incentive to drive safely would work alongside the existing system of fining speeding drivers.
  • 48% think a random financial bonus dished out by speed cameras is a good idea
  • 44% think a random financial bonus dished out by speed cameras is a bad idea
Swinton believes that technological innovations in the latest wave of speed cameras means that they can be programmed to randomly select or ‘Flash’ good drivers as well as bad ones.

Steve Chelton, Insurer Development Manager at Swinton said; “If just a tiny percentage of the fines from speeding drivers could be redistributed to drivers who stay within the speed limits, especially in accident black spots or outside schools, roadside cameras could become a much more potent weapon in the war against reckless motorists."

He continued, “If drivers knew that speed cameras were calibrated to randomly flash the occasional good driver, motorists would be much more likely to adhere to speed limits rather than take their chance. At a time when the credit crunch is impacting on every UK motorist, we feel that this would be a timely innovation to start rewarding good citizenship.”

“Imagine if you opened a letter from the Police and it said; ‘congratulations, you were caught on camera driving safely within the speed limit, please find a cheque for £30 or voucher with money off your Council Tax. Now that is a good idea.”

Swinton estimated that out of the 41 million drivers in the UK, between 6 to 8 million drivers have points on their licence.

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The Lancashire Road Safety Partnership tested three 30mph roads with a fixed camera, with and without an interactive "feedback" sign that indicates passing motorists’ speed. They took samples of speed during the lunchtime period.

The number of drivers travelling at 35mph or above rose from 0.8 per cent with a camera present to 7.4 per cent when the camera was removed. This then reduced to 5.6 per cent when the feedback sign was in use.

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More than 1200 Cambridgeshire residents were surveyed to find out what they thought of safety cameras:
  • 8 out of 10 road users agreed the cameras are meant to encourage drivers to keep to the speed limit and not to punish them
  • 77% supported speed cameras as a method to reduce casualties
  • 64% felt the primary aim of speed cameras was to save lives
  • 65% felt fewer crashes were likely on roads where cameras are installed
  • 58% thought that speed cameras meant that dangerous drivers were more likely to be caught
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According to the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) more motorists are accepting safety cameras as part of life on the road.

Of the 500 motorists questioned in the IAM Motoring Trust Survey:
  • 78% approved of speed cameras’ (up 9 per cent from 2007, but down on the near 90% approval they received in 1999)
  • 36% (1 per cent up on 2007) believed that speed cameras were positioned only at serious crash sites
  • 39% (3 per cent down on 2007) believed that raising revenue was not the motive for using speed cameras
  • 28% of motorists said they, or a member of their household, had been flashed and fined in 2007
  • 20% of motorists said they, or a member of their household, had been flashed and fined in 2008
Kevin Delaney, Head of Road Safety for the IAM Trust says, “This survey confirms a recent downward trend in numbers of drivers being caught by safety cameras. Hopefully, it is because more believe that safety cameras save lives, but it could be to do with motorists becoming more aware of where cameras are sited. Either way, the trends are good news for road safety."

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Findings from a panel of almost 17,500 AA members shows that almost three quarters of respondents believe that UK roads would be safer if money was spent improving accident black spots rather than on more speed cameras. The poll also indicates that six times as many people want an increase in traffic police rather than more speed cameras.
  • 72% thought that road and junction improvements would make the UK's roads safer
  • 25% thought more traffic police would make the UK's roads safer
  • 4% say that more speed cameras would make the UK's roads safer
The AA believes there are arguments for and against speed cameras.

Edmund King, AA president said: "Cameras are just one weapon to use in the road safety fight. Our problem with them is that quite often they are seen as the first and last resort. Sometimes, a simple junction improvement would be far more effective than the placing of a speed camera, which leaves the dangerous junction still in place."

He continued, "We certainly acknowledge that cameras have slowed motorists down and road safety has benefited. The cameras have sent out a message that it's not OK to speed. But cameras are over-deployed. Some are in the wrong places. There has been one on a slip road to a motorway on which motorists have to speed up to join much-faster moving vehicles on the motorway. Thousands of drivers have been caught there. More traffic police would help. Cameras can show no discretion. They cannot be flexible. Sometimes a word from a police officer about your driving can have a huge impact and can show you the errors of your ways."

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A UK Department for Transport study of 300,000 drivers analysed the age of offenders in two three-year periods, 1997-99 and 2003-05.

The research has indicated that before speed cameras, older offenders may have been let off with a verbal warning by a police officer when caught speeding.

The figures suggest that elderly drivers have not adapted as well as younger drivers to the UK's speed camera driving culture:
  • Men aged 60 and over receiving penalty points for speeding increased by 540%
  • Women aged 60 and over receiving penalty points for speeding increased by 1,200% (though starting from a very low reported base)
  • Drivers under 25 being caught for speeding grew by 18 per cent in the past 10 years
  • In 2003-05, there were almost 3 times as many drivers aged 60 plus with speeding convictions as drivers aged under 25
  • 24-34 year olds were most likely to have a speeding conviction in 1997-99
  • 45-59 year olds were most likely to have a speeding conviction in 2003-05
They concluded that older drivers are 'six times more likely' to be caught by speed cameras.

Jeremy Broughton, author of the Transport Research Laboratory study, said when traffic police carried out enforcement, they were more likely to be lenient to elderly drivers. He said: 'Police would have a mental image of the sort of person they were expecting to stop and if it was an elderly lady they wouldn’t look at her in the same way as a young male.'

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References

Manufacturers Website

PocketGPSWorld.com Speed Camera Database

Pocket GPS Contributor

Robert Brady

Pocket GPS Contributor Website

www.Pocketgpsworld.com

   

 

 

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