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MPs call for increased use of average-speed cameras

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The government is under pressure to introduce a new network of the average-speed cameras more commonly seen alongside roadworks. Trials have already been successful in reducing speeding.

Average speed cameras

MPs are calling on the government to introduce more average-speed cameras in a bid to cut accident rates on the nation’s roads.

Members of the influential House of Commons Transport committee have said in a new report that greater reliance on speed cameras is needed to boost safety in the face of falling levels of traffic police.

More effective control

Average-speed cameras have so far largely been used only on roadworks.

They record the time that vehicles take to travel between two points, for example the start and the end of a section of roadworks.

Any drivers who appear to have covered the distance more quickly than if they had stuck to the speed limit are then liable to prosecution.

The advantage of such a system from a road-safety perspective is that speeding drivers cannot simply slow down when they are in sight of a camera but then speed up again a few moments later.

Successful casualty reduction

The Transport committee’s report, Road Traffic Law Enforcement, said it had received evidence that some trials of average-speed camera schemes had proved effective.

In a controlled zone on the A9, the proportion of speeding vehicles was reported to have fallen from 40% to just 10%.

Elsewhere, where average-speed cameras have been introduced to improve safety, serious accident rates have fallen by as much as 70%.

Experts also believe that the public are more receptive to average-speed cameras, which motorists are more likely to view as a safety measure rather than a revenue-raising tool.

Motorway blurred traffic

No cash cow

The report said: “If enforcement is going to be effective as the number of dedicated road policing officers continues to fall, the use of technology is essential.

“Average speed cameras can contribute to overall speed limit compliance, and reduce the impression that motorists are unfairly caught out by speed cameras.”

The MPs were keen to stress that cameras should only be introduced on safety grounds and should not be used by the authorities simply to increase revenues.

The report went on to say: “We recommend that the government monitor the placement of speed cameras by local authorities to ensure that this is the case.

Sharp braking and accelerating

"Where revenue is taken from speed camera enforcement, the funding arrangements must be transparent and the revenue put back into road safety grants rather than kept by local authorities or the Treasury.”

RAC public affairs manager Nick Lyes said: “The benefit in using average speed cameras is that they have the advantage of measuring speed over distance, which is in marked contrast with fixed cameras which are often criticised for encouraging sharp braking and acceleration by drivers as they react to the cameras.

“This reaction can be a potential cause of accidents and does not help maintain steady flow of traffic.

“In addition, indications from the use of average speed cameras over a long distance on the A9 in Scotland appear to show positive compliance levels and a reduction in road traffic accidents.”

Lack of traffic police

But Lyes added that the root of the current problems in enforcing traffic laws, at least in part, was the decline in the number of police officers on UK roads.

“Motorists will feel that the enforcement of road traffic law is not only about installing more cameras,” he said.

“The decline in road traffic police officers in recent years has been a worrying trend, with a 23% reduction in England and Wales between 2010 and 2014.

“The presence of road traffic police officers can also play a big part in improving both safety and compliance, as well as giving motorists a sense that law breakers are not just simply getting away with it.”

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