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Thursday, 9 May, 2002, 23:29 GMT 00:29 UK
Speed camera plan 'may cause deaths'
Speed camera
All speed cameras are to be painted yellow
Government plans to introduce high visibility speed cameras may actually increase deaths rather than improve road safety, experts have warned.

Ministers announced plans last year to paint speed cameras yellow to ensure they could be seen by motorists and to ban warning signs on roads where there were no cameras.

The policy is aimed at cutting road accidents amid fears that many drivers brake suddenly when they see or are warned of speed cameras.


When people see cameras ahead they do slow down

Department of Transport spokesman
However, public health specialist Paul Pilkington has warned there is no evidence to support the government's claims.

Writing in the latest issue of the British Medical Journal, he said hidden cameras had been shown to reduce deaths and injury on roads.

'No evidence'

Mr Pilkington, who works in Bristol, suggested high visibility cameras would not be as effective.

He said drivers would simply drive slowly in areas with cameras and accelerate in those areas without the deterrent.

"These measures seem designed to placate the angry minority of motorists who believe that drivers should be warned about impending cameras, giving them the chance to slow down.

"But this view is not based on evidence of health benefits. Hidden cameras are associated with net falls in speeds, crashes and casualties when compared with visible ones."

He added: "The introduction of high visibility speed cameras is a mistake. We need evidence that they are more effective than hidden cameras."

But a spokesman for the Department of Transport rejected the claim. He said cameras were placed in areas where motorists were most at risk of having an accident.

He said: "Cameras are situated in areas where there is a history of accidents. When people see cameras ahead they do slow down. Slowing down at dangerous stretches of a road is very good."

He added: "Making the cameras more visible gives drivers enough distance to slow down and takes away the need for sudden braking. Gradual braking is much better than sudden braking."

In other research, published in the BMJ, doctors warned that driver air bags offered relatively little benefit to motorists compared to seat belts.

They found that seat belts provide much more effective protection, reducing the risk of death by 65%. This compares with air bags which, they said, were associated with an 8% reduction in risk.

A study by Canadian doctors also showed that seat belts provided effective protection to children even though they are usually designed to be used by adults.

Sleep risks

The journal also highlights the risks of driving when tired.

A study by New Zealand experts indicated that sleepy motorists are eight times more likely to crash than those who are not tired.


If the journey is avoidable, then they should not drive

Andrew Howard, Automobile Association
There was also a high level of risk for those who drive between the hours of 02.00 and 05.00 - they are five times more likely to be involved in an accident.

According to their study, drivers who had less than five hours sleep were three times more likely to crash.

The authors' findings were based on a comparison of 571 car drivers or passengers who were admitted to hospital or died as a result of a car accident in Auckland and a control group of 588 people driving in the area during the study period.

Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the Automobile Association, said it was difficult to issue general advice to motorists on whether or not they should drive when tired.

"Where it is difficult is where people do it regularly. There are people who are used to it. There are people who are responsible.

"It depends on whether the driver is used to it but also on what pressures they are under to make the journey," he said.

But he added: "Yes, if the journey is avoidable, then they should not drive."

See also:

30 Oct 01 | Health
Driving increases back pain risk
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