back to article Cutbacks strip speed cameras from Blighty's roads

The proposition that speed cameras improve road safety looks likely to be severely crash-tested this summer, as government cutbacks make the likelihood of some counties becoming camera-free zones a near certainty. According to the Guardian, all 72 fixed speeding cameras in Oxfordshire are likely to disappear as the county …


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  1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Money spinners?

    But I thought these cameras *made* money. That nice man at the motoring organisation told me so. So what gives?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    There are other factors which can affect accident statistics at "accident black spots", but these rarely seem to be taken into account.

    Often the installation of a camera is just part of a package of road improvements, such as improved road layout and/or signs. Yet any reduction in accidents is attributed to the camera alone. The positive affect of the other changes are convieniently ignored.

    1. Ocular Sinister

      Well said...

      Couldn't have put it better myself: Either the motoring organizations are talking out of their fat greasy bottoms (lets face it - you don't get much exercise motoring) or these cameras are actually *making* money. Which is it to be?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        For decades

        the motoring organisations have echoed the Govt. position that the safest way to drive on the motorways is to stay in the left hand lane except for overtaking. I know that "stupidity" is one valid description for that advice but I'm sure there are many more. If I had nothing better to do I would love to work out what their motive for continuing to make this ludicrously unrealistic claim must be. I'm almost sure its not simply authoritarians who don't drive trying to coerce the rest of us into servility, though it feels that way.

        For the sake of those who don't know: it is stupidity because of the lorries and coaches in the left hand lane ensuring you have to continually go back into an often much faster traffic flow, in the process diverting attention for extended periods from the large, slow moving vehicle you're closing on, that you can't see in front of so don't know if its about to slam its air brakes on, in order to look in the rear-view mirror.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I see

          a couple of wannabe back seat drivers have downvoted me! Perhaps they're still fuming at having been denied a license along with the right to vote?

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          I would suggest

          Maybe get some motorway training, then.

          "For the sake of those who don't know: it is stupidity because of the lorries and coaches in the left hand lane ensuring you have to continually go back into an often much faster traffic flow, in the process diverting attention for extended periods from the large, slow moving vehicle you're closing on, that you can't see in front of so don't know if its about to slam its air brakes on, in order to look in the rear-view mirror."

          You do know that you have to change your driving and observation when traveling on a motorway, don't you?

          Yes, changing lanes is a risky maneuver, but so is not thinking about the road conditions and giving yourself enough time to react. If you find that looking in the mirror to make sure you can change lanes safely means you feel you might rear-end the vehicle in front of you if they make a sudden maneuver, then you're TOO CLOSE.

          Try and get hold of a copy of Roadcraft - The Police Driver's Handbook, it makes very interesting reading and can help you avoid many of the more common mistakes.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward


            the company I used to work for grew concerned about the no. of accidents it's employees were having (I was the only one who hadn't been in a prang) so they got an advanced driving school to do an assessment. I did an obstacle course, took a mock exam, and was followed for several hundred miles. Their assessment was that I didn't need an advanced driving course.

            And as for getting hold of Roadcraft you might suggest that to the numerous police drivers who've mown down civilians in recent years?

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @I would suggest

            You don't get it, do you. Many many times I have slowed to allow safe braking distance. What happens - as you would know if you drove and / or lived in the real world - is someone overtakes you and puts you straight back to square one. Don't you know that? Are you still at school?

            The net result is you've gone backwards, which if you're happy with strongly implies that you should just stay off motorways not just for everyone else's safety, but because you're defeating the object of taking them in the first place.

            This happens invariably and on any of the busiest motorways this will be happening your entire journey so that effectively you are inviting everyone else on the road to go past; not just being unconcerned that they are but actively inviting them to. So what are you on the motorway for? Because like those ones who drive too slowly you get off on disrupting fifty miles of traffic so's you can feel smug? Do you wear a trilby by any chance?

            As for staying in the left hand lane you end up having to all but continually overtake. You slow to about 60 mph - to avoid rear-ending the lorry - then pull out and accelerate to about 80 mph very quickly. Or you're so brainless you force the traffic in the middle lane to brake every time, like, say, you fail to realise how very quickly those cars in the middle lane close on you at 80 when you pull out at 60, so you don't pay enough attention to that mirror. You pull out in front of them safe in the knowledge that they're the ones driving too fast, so if a pile up happens, it's not your fault, it's theirs?

            Yes, I know how to drive on the motorways. I covered a quarter of a million miles doing so, on all of the busiest ones. The only accident I was ever in was as a passenger on the M3 when I suggested the driver allow more braking room because his car was about 10 years older than the one in front and if it braked hard we would go into the back of it. He didn't listen. A minute later the car in front jammed its brakes on and we went into the back of it. Our car was a write off but thankfully no-one was hurt and we just spent the rest of the day trying to get back home.

            Dear AC, the most dangerous drivers of all on the motorways are the ones continually weaving in and out in and out to and from the left hand lane, like all the other dangerous drivers only they're trying to do it without attracting the attention of the police. The safest ones stay in the middle lane and leave the left hand to the lorries.

            1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

              @Vitty P

              I'm not sure that you are making your point very well. I suspect that you are trying to say that one should drive to the conditions. Sure, there are times when the traffic flow suggests that moving from one lane to another is going to be a problem for all concerned. This is usually at busy times. However, if there is a long distance (say, more than a minute at the speed you are doing), and traffic is generally light, move over to the left hand lane. Then overtake when you get to a suitable distance from the slower vehicle without having to slow down. Easy and obvious for most of us, but not the middle-lane hogger that thinks that it is their right to drive at 6omph in the middle lane (or the 3rd lane of a four-lane motorway) for miles, causing tailbacks and forcing people to overtake in the outer lane, or to undertake (something I hate).

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              @ Vitty P

              "The safest ones stay in the middle lane and leave the left hand to the lorries."

              Isn't it funny how the French, Germans & even the Spanish manage to drive in the left-lane ok, without causing pile ups? And how, in these countries, when you see a bunching of traffic on the motorway, you are practically guaranteed it's a bloody Brit, cruising in the middle lane overtaking 3 miles of fresh air.

              Middle lane cruisers make my bloody boil. You think you're safer, but all everyone else is thinking is "There's another trilby-wearer, driving along completely oblivious and on automatic pilot".

    2. Anonymous John

      Money spinners?

      The money goes to the Government but. local authorities pay all the costs of the cameras. Some of the proceeds flows back to the LAs, but less will due to the cuts.

      1. Anthony Shortland


        which makes me think this is just a ploy (again) by the local authorities to gain control of the money the cameras bring into the government.

        I would be very surprised if the cameras really did disappear or even just get turned off.

    3. The Other Steve

      What he said

      After having spent the last how ever many tedious years listening to various stripe of cartard whining on about 'stealh taxes' and 'revenue cameras', what a surprise it is to discover that traffic enforcement measures are in fact a cost centre, rather than a profit centre.

      Can you all STFU now please ? Tx.

      1. ElFatbob

        @What he said

        Cost centre? - no they're not. The revenue went directly to the treasury, who creamed off the profit and gave grants back to the LA's for the running of said cameras.

        The government created a mantra 'Speed Kills'. Instead of allocating resources on traffic police, who can cover a wide range of offences, they invested in Speed Cameras, which solved the 'Speed Kills' mantra, allowed them to reduce the number of TP on duty and make a nice profit.

        So you're cordially invited to STFU. Tx.

    4. Joey

      Re: Money Spinners?

      The point is that the councils don't get to keep the money they generate, it goes into Treasury coffers. Anyway, all they have to do is switch *most* of them off but not say which.

    5. Steven Jones

      Cash Cows on whether speed cameras are "cash cows"

      The answer is clearly not simple, as the total expenditure on speed enforecement in 2008/9 exceeded the total revenue from fines. If the central government grant in this area is considerably reduced and this means that speed cameras are turned off (and the Treasury revenue goes down) then it's clear to see that the net cost to the Treasury could increase.

  3. Is it me?

    More sensibly

    You could just switch off the camera's and not tell anybody you have done it. Not all cameras are switched on all the time anyway. An acquaintance of mine put a bird box, about the size of the digital cameras, painted bright yellow in a tree outside his house. it works wonderfully in slowing traffic.

  4. Number6

    Reversion to the mean

    There are probably a small number of places that might really justify a camera, but most of the 'accident black spots' are just statistical blips and would have improved their accident rate over the following year or so regardless of whether a camera was installed or not. It's all part of the nanny state that wants to monitor us as much as possible and make sure we never, ever transgress from the approved line.

    Fortunately, the new government appears to be a breath of fresh air, blowing the nanny state out of all sorts of areas, either directly or, as in this case, indirectly. I wonder if they'll clobber the ANPR system as well?

  5. Cameron Colley

    I was going to make a serious comment.

    But a word in your article has meant all I can think of is: "Mooooeerrrgghhh", "'was in the War" and "M-m-m-m-m-m-multikill-kill-kill!!!!".

  6. Jimmy Floyd
    Paris Hilton


    Ironic that Oxfordshire might be turning off their cameras, but then given their bureaucratic vacillations a few years ago perhaps it also isn't surprising.

    In short: Oxfordshire decided to re-assess the speed limits on all of the county's roads based on a blanket set of criteria. So some roads which were at the national speed limit of 60mph were overnight dropped to 30mph (because they were within 50 metres of a lamppost, or something). Some junctions had a 30mph speed limit installed around them on otherwise 60mph roads, leading to cars slowing up for all of ... oooh ... 200 yards before accelerating again.

    If they'd been gradually downgraded (you know, via 50 & 40mph) based on the accident rate then it might have made sense - but they weren't - it was just an exercise in putting up signposts. Then later, when they realised how daft it was, an exercise in taking them down again.

    Paris, because Oxfordshire County Council were really quite blonde.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Just a couple of weeks after I was caught by one for the first time, lol.

    Semi-seriously though, surely the suggestion that they'll be axed as a cost-cutting measure is the best evidence we've ever had of their effectiveness? If they were producing significant income, surely they'd not be considering turning them off under the circumstances.

    Personally, I have to admit being zapped by one of these automated velocity pedants has probably made me a marginally safer driver, and the one that caught me was right beside what I expect otherwise would be quite a dangerous junction.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The technology can't keep up

    If technology could make a "going round the roundabout without indicating" or "going round the roundabout in the wrong lane" or "driving too bloody close on the motorway" or "driving constantly at less than the speed limit in the middle lane without overtaking anyone or there even being any other vehicles in view" or "driving along at below the speed limit without having any awareness of anything else on the road" camera, then I would fully support it's use and it would likely solve a lot of the daily "almost accidents" that I see.

    Contrast the number of idiot related accidents to the number of accidents I see related to people driving too fast (I don't think I've seen any. I caused one once (that's one out of 20 years of driving), but I was under the speed limit so claims that speed cameras would have prevented it are tosh)

    As a Swindonian, I'd like to see them spend some money on actually painting useful arrows on roads approaching roundabouts, so I don't find myself in the wrong lane with a bunch of angry people beeping at me. That would prevent more anger, which would prevent accidents.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That sound you hear is Clarkson revving up

    for a land speed record attempt around the Oxford ring road, cackling maniacally as he goes

    1. Anonymous Coward


      You're from Swindon and you need lane arrows on the approach to roundabouts? You have the Magic Roundabout, you don't need lane arrows!!

    2. Mike Smith

      Swindon, eh

      Not talking about that wretched Magic Roundabout, are you? I've been known to drive thirty miles out of my way rather than risk my neck on that terrifying thing.

      Out of interest, just how many accidents have there been there?

    3. The BigYin


      "I'd like to see them spend some money on actually painting useful arrows on roads approaching roundabouts"

      Indeed! Nothing is more annoying that approaching in what one thinks is the correct lane, only to spot the arrow just before the dotted line and note that one is now in the wrong lane for this particular roundabout (e.g. two lanes in, left is mandatory first exit or something).

      One arrow about 200m further down the road (or even some singage!) would be a big help.

      1. Equitas
        Thumb Down

        Common sense

        is what you'll certainly not find when it comes to road safety,

        Road markings that are any use to strangers to the area? Certainly not!

        Meaningful road signs? Perhaps occasionally, but certainly not consistently, especially at a local level.

        Police doing anything about obstructive drivers -- especially tractors on country roads making no attempt to pull off to let a queue of dozens if not hundreds of cars overtake? Certainly not.

        A very large part of the reason that Scotland's "killer roads" -- the major A9, A82 and A96 roads are so dangerous is obstruction by slow-moving vehicles on those major arterial routes.

        Speed kills? Yes, of course it does. But so do obstructive drivers.

        1. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          A9 in Scotland

          This is the only road I've ever used where there were signs telling slower drivers to let others overtake! Brilliant and sensible. (This was a few years ago - don't know if they still exist).

          1. Equitas

            A9 signs

            "This is the only road I've ever used where there were signs telling slower drivers to let others overtake! Brilliant and sensible. (This was a few years ago - don't know if they still exist)."

            The signs still exist. The pity is that, instead of the police enforcing them, they patrol in their unmarked cars (with revolving number plates, if you please -- not kidding) and pick off those exceeding the speed limits -- limits which go up and down between 60mph and 70mph) instead of pulling over drivers who obstruct. HGVs, of course, are restricted to 50mph.

            Few drivers on the part of that road between Inverness and Perth will be travelling less than 100 miles -- most will be travelling at least twice that distance. Crawling along behind a convoy of Tesco lorries moving at 40mph for mile after mile after mile causes a totally-unnecessary build-up of frustration. I'm quite sure that if lorries or other vehicles found needlessly obstructing the traffic flow and declining to pull off into laybys to let queues clear were to be pulled over frequently and given a minute examination for any potential Construction and Use infringements their owners and drivers would eventually get the message that it would be be in their own interests not to obstruct the flow of traffic unnecessarily.

    4. Funkster

      The thing is...

      ... that I suspect it would probably be quite straightforward to create any of these things, but the question would be how you would enforce it.

      Think we can make a fog-lights-on-when-it's-not-foggy camera also? :o)

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Perfectly said

      ...and yet the officials still insist on referring to them as 'safety' cameras.

    6. Glesga Snapper


      Your friend sounds like a right nob.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Oh I don't know

        Some places without GATSOs or other trickery do deserve a general slow-down. Like unlit 50mph roads through the woods with a nice hill in the middle and bike lanes painted on either side that somehow invite people to drive 70 or 90 and occasionally bump into^W^Wdrive over dogs, people on push bikes, and so on. Yet equally mysteriously the local council can't be arsed to come up with any attempt at any solution whatsoever.

        It might be knobbery. It might be righteous too. Can't tell from here what the situation there is.

    7. Petrea Mitchell

      Re: Clarkson revving up

      Well, once Hammond was made Minister of Transport, it was only a matter of time, wasn't it?

    8. Adam Salisbury


      While I do find him funny, he's the kind of twunt you need speed cameras for. A few mph over the limit to maintain the flow of traffic is an invetitability of driving these days but that ageing berk needs to keep his idiocy on the track not bragging about hitting 180 on the open road where he can kill people (coz he's NOT that good a driver either).

      It's people like him who gave the Gov the excuse to put these up in the first place (the irony of it slays me!)...


    9. Anonymous Coward

      Making money is failure

      If the cameras are really making a lot of money, then they are a monumental failure.

      A successful camera would make very little money.

      Let us not forget, they are supposed to be slowing people down, not making money.

    10. Steve Murphy

      Are you sure?

      " I caused one once (that's one out of 20 years of driving), but I was under the speed limit so claims that speed cameras would have prevented it are tosh)"

      Statistically significant proof there, stop the debate.

      "so I don't find myself in the wrong lane with a bunch of angry people beeping at me."

      Are you really sure you've only caused on?

      Beer icon, because you drive better after a couple no doubt.

    11. Velv Silver badge
      Jobs Horns

      Statistical Blips ?

      " 'accident black spots' are just statistical blips "

      Are they hell!!!

      Every stretch of road has a risk of an accident. Consider a straight, open section of road. Add a bend and you increase the risk of an accident. Make it narrow, you increase the risk. Add two junctions, you increase the risk. Add a shop, you increase the risk. Add a caravan site, you increase the risk. The list goes on, and the more features there are in one place, the higher the risk, with some features adding significantly more risk (e.g. blind dips, close walls and hedges).

      Accident blackspots almost always have more "features" that increase the risk of an accident, therefore reducing the speed is one way to minimise the impact should an accident occur. (This is an IT publication - everyone should understand risk and impact)

      Now, I'm not suggesting cameras are the answer. Reducing the "features" reduces the risk, so juctions should be simplied, sight lines improved, and hazards moved. And not holding your mobile phone (the wrong way) helps.

    12. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Down

      Except he won't

      It's a sad state of affairs to admit that there's so much traffic on the bypass, it makes illegal speeds nearly impossible whether he wanted to do them or not. Likewise for most bypasses in the country I suspect.

      I'm with original poster though - all the accidents I've seen in recent years, have been down to the muppetry - or senility* - of the drivers pure and simple, rather than speed.

      *And before the retired old duffers chip in with the self-defence - c' have to admit that a fair percentage of the tail-backs,"frustration headons" and "near misses" are caused by people in your age group, where the rate-determining step is the sensory apparatus and grey matter between the ears. Unfortunately, the stats don't show how much of a compensating factor the rest of us have to allow when dealing with you on the road, when really we shouldn't have to.

      1. Anonymous Coward

        Road tax.

        "The list goes on, and the more features there are in one place, the higher the risk, with some features adding significantly more risk (e.g. blind dips, close walls and hedges)."

        Yes, and the risk is _still_ something very, very low.

        Like 1 in 1 000 000 cars will have an accident there and there's no way of measuring that kind of risks meaningfully, because the driver is always the biggest risk, at least thousandfold difference. But you don't say that, because it would make your explanations worthless and even a lie.

        Compared to the risk driver is, all the others are meaningless babble, used only as an excuse to put ridiculous speed limits and cameras to make money on them. "Every camera pays itself in 4 months" says the Police. They don't say anything about safety, which is no surprise, because that's not what the cameras are for. They are a Road Tax, designed to steal money.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward


        "Accident blackspots almost always have more "features" that increase the risk of an accident, therefore reducing the speed is one way to minimise the impact should an accident occur. (This is an IT publication - everyone should understand risk and impact)"

        But isn't introducing a camera introducing another feature and therefore increasing the risk?

    13. Mountford D

      Speed differential and lack of common sense is the problem

      I was rear-ended last year (first accident in 7 years) when I was near-stationary in a stop-start traffic queue. The other driver wasn't travelling fast either - he just failed to apply his brakes. He gave some feeble but feasible excuse but I suspect he wasn't paying attention (possibly texting?) and assumed the queue was still moving.

      When everything is zooming along at around 70mph on motorways, it's great. Problems arise when a vehicle is travelling much slower than the rest and drivers pull out to overtake without looking in their mirrors and no amount of legislation or speed cameras can control this. Some countries enforce a minimum speed limit with penalties as severe as exceeding it. This may not be a bad experiment for the authorities to trial.

    14. Andy 97

      Oxford CC - yes buffoons-r-us.

      Living in the county I can honestly say that the changes recently made can only be attributed to a complete lack of sense.

      I live within less than 2 miles of 3 cameras, one is beside a traffic light facing up a hill - exactly where traffic starts from and the other 2 are on a stretch of road that at most times of the day is lucky to get over 15 mph.

      As for the safety campaigners, well, they would say that wouldn't they.

  10. Anomalous Cowherd Silver badge

    A poll in the Daily Mail?

    Was he living on benefits in someones shed?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No Poles read the Daily Bitterness

      But it sells well in Surrey & Kent ... the home of Real Bitter(..ness)

  11. Stu J


    Just switch them off, and leave them there as decoys? They'll still act as a deterrent to speeding to an extent, just without costing anything.

  12. TheOtherJola
    Thumb Up



    predictable squeals

    fuelling the view


  13. The BigYin

    Safety Cameras

    I don't like the GATSO style safety cameras, they only check the speed at one specific point and if the limit has been set wrong (yes, it is quite possible to set a limit that is too low) then you get a concertina effect when the traffic gets to the camera zone. Average speed cameras are much better.

    Cameras I support 100% are red-light cameras. Although they are far too lenient (amber means stop, idiots) and I have yet to see any attached to automated Gattling guns to remove the red-light jumping, pond scum from existence.

    The thing that puzzles me is that the cameras are revenue generators. At a time of cost cuts, one would expect their use to increase. Although, with the money first going to the Treasury, the local council who has to bear the cost probably doesn't get to see much of it.

    Anyway; even if you believe that speeding (as in, being over the limit) is a causal factor in around 33% of accident (the true figure is probably nearer 7%, according to unmassaged governmental figures), those light-up smiley faces are actually more effective. As is better road design, surface repair, signage etc. So if Brake really, *REALLY* support road safety; then throwing it all behind the safety camera is counter-productive.

    The one big thing that really helps road safety is traffic police, but I doubt we'll be seeing any of those on or roads any time soon. Coppers cost money and despite traffic cops making roads safer (also catching miscreants of various types) they simply cost too much.

  14. Anonymous Coward

    Two points...

    1. Regression to the mean accounts for a large part of the apparent success of placing a speed camera in a "blackspot".

    2. Will the cameras actually be removed, or just left there with no film in so that you can't tell the difference. Can we look forward to updated lists of non-functioning cameras, or perhaps a nice new sign with a "Camera Non-functional" pictogram on it?

    Go icon, obviously.

  15. Conrad Longmore
    Big Brother

    Regression to mean

    Step one:

    Identify a bunch of areas that have significantly higher than average accident rates.

    Step two:

    Do anything at all. Sacrifice a chicken. Dance around in the nude. Put up speed cameras. Or do nothing.

    Step three:

    Wait a year, and overall accident rates at those locations will have dropped. Claim success.

    What you do in step two is not that important, because you have chosen to concentrate on sites which are statistical outliers.. outliers that exist often because of some fluke or random event that does not happen again. There is a whole concept called "Regression to Mean" (see in other words, statistical anomalies have a habit of going away by themselves and will just crop up elsewhere.

    This is not to say that safety cameras are useless. In some places there really ARE dangers that can be mitigated by slowing traffic down. But often in these cases the real solution is something else.. if you have a dangerous junction, you can redesign it to eliminate the root cause of the problem (for example).

    Big Brother because..


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