Caught in the Flashlight

As a law-abiding citizen (for the most part) and having had a clean driving licence for the best part of two decades, it was irksome to get two speeding fines in the space of just 18 months. The circumstances were the same on both occasions. They were on broad roads with hardly another vehicle in sight, it was dry and bright, they weren’t residential areas and there wasn’t a school in sight. But there were speed cameras.

That was the annoying bit. I wasn’t being reckless, 46mph in a 40 zone and 35mph in a 30, and no threat to the commonwealth as far as I could tell. But speed cameras aren’t subjective. Rain or shine, day or night, cross the line and you’re guilty, black or white.

Back in the days when I was a boy racer there people called traffic police and if you over-stepped the mark there would be a flashing blue light in your rear view mirror and you’d be pulled over. Winding down your window, a uniformed head would lean in to sniff for beer fumes and ask, “Do you know how fast you were going sir?” (Sir? And me barely shaving and dressed in tank-top and flairs.)

This was the second panic point. Do you say no and so confess that you weren’t paying attention, or answer yes and own up to be knowingly speeding. A diplomatic prolonged “Errr…” usually did the trick and one of two results followed. 1) the bobby knew whether what you had done was really out of order and you got a ticket or 2) you’d slightly transgressed so you got a bollocking and let off with a, “If I catch you again” warning.

You don’t get that with cameras do you? No personal touch, no subjective decision-making, but I sighed at the injustice of it all and signed the cheques for £60 each, reassured that speed cameras make the roads a safer place. Except they don’t.

I read this article over at the Telegraph today by the authors of Scared to Death: The Anatomy of a Very Dangerous Phenomenon. I don’t get off on the stealth tax argument: if speed cameras did what was promised in reducing death on the roads, I’d be all for it even if it cost me £60 every 18 months or so, or even my licence, but if the above is to be believed, speed cameras have actually hampered road safety.

Sounds like one for the Christmas list.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Anonymous 13th November 2007

    crap science, crap logic and crazy conspiracy theories….

  • Anonymous 14th November 2007

    What a load of rubbish! To see how this Telegraph article and those who support the anti-speed camera campaigns have distorted the truth see,,2210070,00.html.
    At the end of the day if you break the speed limit you’re breaking the law. End of story. (And i write as somebody who frequently DOES break the speed limit, but you won’t hear me whinge if I get caught.)

  • Mosher 14th November 2007

    Speed cameras suck because now the police seem to rely on them as the be all and end all relating to bad driving. Speed *does* kill, sure. If you hit someone at 60mph, they’re likely dead. Hit them at 5 and they might bruise.

    However, driving safely at 60mph on an empty country road with a 50mph limit is still safer than driving like a twat at 30mph past a school. And speed cameras *can’t* detect people driving like wankers, whereas a good old fashioned copper in a police car *can*.

    If speed is so dangerous, then will someone kindly explain why the autobahns in Germany with their lack of limitation have the same number or fewer accidents each year than the 70mph limited ones in the UK?

  • Shooting Parrots 16th November 2007

    Ooer Anon, a raw nerve touched there then, but I wasn’t aware that I was whinging about my speeding fines, the opposite in fact.

    I’ve a lot of time for George Monbiot (you’ll find a link to his blog to the right) but he is a bit of a leftie luvvie who believes that legislation can cure social ills f which speeding is one.

    The issue is that speed cameras take no account of driving conditions, time of day, weight of traffic etc. They are robotic.

    Mosher is right as I said in the post, cameras can’t catch the tail-gating tossers or those who are just crap drivers. But they did when we had proper traffic police who exercised judgement as well applying the letter of the law.

    Perhaps the jury is out on whether the cameras work, or maybe a verdict of ‘they work’ has been returned, but there is no doubt that they penalise good drivers as well as the bad. And that isn’t whinging either.


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