Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 March 2006, 13:15 GMT
Are you on the brink of a ban?
Here's news to excite the moods of our viewers - figures out from Direct Line insurance show that a million drivers are on the brink of a ban as a result of speed cameras.
But what do these figures mean? Are there a million dangerous and reckless drivers on UK roads, or is the system of speed camera fines out of control?
We just know you have opinions about this - so here's the place to share them.
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The e-mails published reflect the balance of opinion received.
A few years ago I had accumulated nine points on my driving license after getting two speeding offences in rapid succession - I was so paranoid that I was going to get banned that I studied my speedometer very carefully at all times. This lead me to drive straight through a red light which was caught on camera but thankfully that camera had run out of film!
Society in Britain just does not work very well and speed cameras are another example of a band aid fix to a serious problem. There needs to be an overhaul of the way the British system functions. Until then half-assed measures like speed cameras will continue to add to the list factors that make life in Britain a little less worth living. Many like me who have opportunity to look for a better life elsewhere are. I found it - and guess what, no need for speed cameras!
Steve Crooks, San Francisco
Many make the argument that cars have improved so speed limits should be raised. But cars were made safer to reduce road deaths, not to allow people to get to work a few minutes faster than before. Raising speed levels will increase road deaths again - so how many deaths are acceptable to allow people to travel a bit faster than 70 mph?
On Peel Way here, a duel carriageway with no foot paths along it, there are two cameras and a 30 mph limit. Money springs to mind, not children or walkers.
There is a speed camera near my home on a stretch of road which has a speed limit of 30 mph. I drive pass it twice a day. That is 730 times a year. No matter how carefully I drive, sooner or later I will be flashed and join the one million drivers at risk of getting a driving ban. What contribution to road safety is this?
D Froozi, London
Far too many drivers simply do not understand, nor care about, the relationship of speed with regard to the severity of crashes when they happen.
Jon Fuller, Westcliff on Sea
As speeds are so important, why does the government not require car manufactures to fit a speed indicator in each car bleeping a sound in the cabin when the speed is in excess of the required amount? If then the driver is caught on camera he/she becomes really liable. This can be done easily in today's world of GPS technology.
Harold de Souza, Brighton
Another blow for road safety from Newsnight: in the item on speeding, we saw first the reporter talking intently to camera while driving and then an interviewee also at the wheel but concentrating on being interviewed. On a scale from risk-free to deadly, where do these actions come compared with, say, using a mobile while driving?
Peter Soul, Reading
Speed cameras as life savers? Dubious. Speed Cameras as revenue raisers? Indisputable.
Those motorists who do not want to obey speed limits are always going to say it is dangerous to drive always with an eye on the speedometer. I bet they take their eyes off the road for other things. There will never be nearly enough traffic police for today's roads.
Dennis Wills, Portsmouth
I am wondering what all the fuss is about - why impose speed limits if they are meaningless?
Your piece on speed cameras betrayed uncharacteristic bias. Excessive speed matters because it kills and injures many thousands of people each year. The tone of your piece was one of irritation at drivers being unfairly targeted and driven off the road. My own view is that since we all want to get from A to B in one piece and we all want our kids to be safe in the streets speed must be controlled because it is the major factor in determining whether a driver or pedestrian survives a crash. Every 1mph reduction in average speed brings a 5% reduction in crashes and hence deaths and serious injuries. That is an accepted fact.
Kath Anderson, Berwick upon Tweed
I am just about to lose my licence. All my fines have been incurred on empty country roads with a long straight empty stretch of road ahead, but a 30 mile an hour limit. I am a 50 year old housewife and mother - a "harmless" person - and all these fines have been while taking my elderly father to a hospital appointment, taking my daughter to a wheelchair appointment, picking up relatives from the airport, etc. While I am doing these errands I am constantly being overtaken by speeding louts, reps in a hurry and people generally driving in a dangerous way. It is infuriating.
Sue Wood, Tiverton
Kirsty has obviously shared many motorists' rage over the Orwellian curse - speed cameras. Have any other viewers been welcomed into Scotland by the ubiquitous van on the bridge of the M74 near Lockerbie? For those who do not know, the M74 is straight, the driver can see miles ahead, traffic volumes are moderate and the road is well maintained. This "safety" camera is an income generation ruse.
Paul Cartwright, Sheffield
I do not have issue with speed cameras, as such, but the penalty point system is too crude. It does not relate to the ability of the driver or risk imposed by the prevailing conditions (weather, condition of vehicle or amount of traffic on road, for example). Thus whether the offending driver was being careless or reckless is not taken into account. I am self-employed, have held my driving licence for 30 years and drive about 22,000 miles a year but would be treated the same as a less experienced driver. Given the high mileage I travel, I suspect that I am at greater risk of committing an offence than a driver whom may be more dangerous because they drive less. Speeding motorists are easy targets and are not necessarily careless or dangerous drivers.
Alistair Stuart, Manchester
There are a number of issues to deal with. 1) Why are people speeding? Because we have to work longer hours to earn the same amount of money so we want to cut time where ever we can. 2) What will happen to people when they lose their licence? They will be unable to work, lose their jobs, rely on benefits or drive whilst banned. The result is disastrous to us as a nation. 3) Why aren't speed cameras being removed when accident numbers reduce? 4) Why are mobile speed cameras used in areas which are not accident prone? Why are they often hidden just around a bend? Surely this doesn't comply with the government guidelines on visibility? 5) Why is the government unwilling to produce a web based map showing locations of speed cameras along with the documentary evidence that the camera is justified by accident statistics? Money is all they want.
Philip Kenning, South Wales
I have to travel from my home in Cumbria to where the work is, London. I end up doing about 50k miles a year. My car is more than capable of making the journey in safety and comfort in about four hrs, but if I keep to the artificial speed limit it can take me five or six hours due to tiredness, etc. If speed were in any way as dangerous as the police would have us believe, the government would have to change the construction and use act to limit the top speed and power of cars on UK roads (they did it with Mopeds and 125cc bikes). Responsible drivers are being given points when the sensible road speed is in excess of the artificial limit applied. As it stands, there is no defence against any charge of profiteering levelled against the government.
Simon Silvie, Barrow-in-Furness
Quentin Wilson is wrong this time. Motorway speed limits, which were set in the 1960s are too low. Most of us feel comfortable driving at 80 - 90mph on motorways. If the motorway speed limits were raised, motorists might have respect for the laws. Then when asked to drive at 30 or 40, this respect would be applied. However, 80-90mph should only be when road conditions (weather and amount of traffic) are good. Flexible speed limits done with digital signs would be perfect. Motorway driving at 50mph when there is heavy rain or fog would be sensible. Similarly 90mph on a hot, dry Sunday morning when the road is clear would be safe. The law needs the RESPECT of motorists. Radar cameras and police cars merely make the motorist slow down and then speed up when they are passed.
Chris Hopkins, Harrogate
I disagree that there are a million dangerous and reckless drivers on UK roads. You can get classed as the above on occasion by driving at 33 mph in a 30 zone - people have been fined and received points for it, and of course the insurance companies also get their pound of flesh. There are some dangerous drivers on the road, but they are more likely to be driving badly rather than speeding - they don't get caught, though. The system of speed camera fines is definitely out of control, there is far too much emphasis on speeding. I have seen speed limits on roads lowered and lo and behold, a camera appears. I view this as an excellent business plan rather than anything remotely related to road safety. Basically it's another form of taxation.
Peter Wilson, Birmingham
Three points and £60 for doing 56 in a 50 zone - not by a yellow camera but an unmarked van overlooking an empty A40 at the Greenford underpass - a six lane dual carriageway, down the incline. Blackspot? Ha-ha! That's revenue generation. 25 years of a clean licence now wiped out. I wonder what percentage of speeding tickets are issued by hidden mobile cameras, catching drivers doing marginal speeds on empty roads, where there has never been an accident? And £60 - you get less for a first shoplifting offence, don't you?
I was astonished by the "driver-centric" nature of this piece. Simply put, breaking the speed limit is against the law, and that's the end of it. It is NOT acceptable in this society to say that it's ok to rob the rich people because I'm short of cash, so WHY ON EARTH should it be acceptable to break the law because you're late? As a pedestrian who daily runs the gauntlet of drivers who jump red lights etc, I give you this pledge: the day that all you drivers out there can guarantee that you will obey the law and stop speeding, I shall personally take a pick axe and dig up all the speed bumps, chicanes and speed cameras that bug you lot so much. The law is the law. Obey it, and we wouldn't need to waste so much time on this subject (oh, and by the way, you'll probably get there a bit quicker too!)
T Helgason, York
Calling speed cameras safety cameras is an insult to all responsible drivers, as are all traffic calming measures. When I was taught to drive the most important thing was to read the road. Watch the car in front, what was he planning to do? Notice the child with a ball. Would the ball roll into the road and the child follow? The elderly man with a stick approaching the kerb - would he walk into the road in front of you? These days these things seem to be forgotten. The so called safety adverts show that it is ok for pedestrians to walk into the road without looking. If they are hit by a car it is the driver's fault. As an ex-taxi driver I have seen it all. The inexperienced people in government are to blame, they seem to have no idea of the problem, just crucify the motorist and raise lots of lovely money. Read the road? What's that mean? Forget it.
Derek Winter, Sutton
Penalty points are fully justified for those who speed. Speeding should be regarded as a crime - it is by families who lose loved ones to road trauma. Too many people think it is a big joke and the early part of your item was very trivially presented. Speeding is far more serious in urban areas than on motorways since there is greater likelihood of colliding with a pedestrian or cyclist - very likely a child. Five miles an hour over the 30 limit means that reaction and braking is compromised and the higher speed impact is more likely to result in serious injury or death. I am in favour of a stepped points system but not happy that only two points could be awarded for speeding in a 30 zone - a pedestrian struck above this speed has a greatly increased risk of dying. This sends very much the wrong signal. Drivers who find it necessary to have a warning system in their vehicles are admitting, at best, to their inability to drive competently or, perhaps more likely, to slowing down when they approach a camera and speeding when they are out of range. Cameras are only sited where there have been four deaths or serious injuries - why should people have to die or be maimed before this happens? If there are a million drivers about to lose their licences if they get caught again - great! Our roads are overcrowded already so let's get these idiots off and make them a bit safer for the rest of us.
David Midmer, Wirral
One point that is often debated is whether speed cameras do save lives. If they do, then one cannot reasonably oppose the instalment of more cameras. If they don't, so what? They serve other purposes, namely to catch those who are breaking the law and to force drivers to drive within the speed limit, even if only for a particular stretch of road. To complain about the instalment of more speed cameras is like criminals complaining about more police on the streets.
As a driver with 40 years experience, with no convictions and never having claimed on insurance, I was accused three years ago of driving at 39 mph in a 30mph limit in a town 100 miles away from home, but which I had been driving through at the time. I had no way of knowing exactly where this offence was supposed to have occurred, and the distance made it expensive to challenge this. So I paid up.
What infuriates me is the presumption that speed limits can apply at all times of day, every day of the year, to all types of vehicle, and in all weather and traffic conditions - they quite obviously cannot.
In addition, the 30 mph limit is imposed when street lights are 200 metres or less apart - nothing to do with road safety! The 60mph limit applies to "derestricted" areas, which can vary from single track roads with high hedges to straight open roads with good visibility, again not related to the safety of the road. This whole project is another tax by stealth on the motorist.
Alan Read, Yeovil
This is such a farcical area. Speeding in built up areas is criminal, but speeding on open roads (with no bends or junctions) or on motorways is neither dangerous or a crime - in my opinion. Police gain a bad reputation for putting up mobile cameras in such areas. It's obvious it's just to meet targets, but all they are doing is picking on honest law abiding citizens who are (more often and not) commuting to work. Police resources should be spent on real crime. Then what about motorways? Everybody is doing 85+. Surely this confuses people as to whether speeding is OK or not. A much worse crime is bad driving such as middle lane hogging, not using indicators, driving too close, not using the acceleration lane to accelerate, etc, etc. Also, surely 40mph is too slow when there are no work men on the road... I would raise the speed limit to 90mph, but then make it strict, so people knew where they stood. At the end of day, the transport infrastructure should be about getting people from A to B as quickly and as safely as possible. AND not trying to criminalize tax payers commuting to work!
Adam Loveridge, Potton
Speed cameras are old hat as are road humps. Both contribute to erratic and aggressive behaviour with tailgating the end result for other drivers and pedestrian pot luck elsewhere. Humps also damage vehicles and can cause motorcycles, for example, to lose control.
Jim Chimonides, London
Speed cameras do not detect the uninsured, banned, unlicensed, untested, unroadworthy, drunk, drugged or any other form of unfit driver. Driving standards have deteriorated significantly over the last few years and the onslaught on speeding drivers is simply the pursuit of a cash cow. The dangerous and reckless are untouched by cameras, to understand this you have to merely spend five minutes at a busy roundabout to see there are far more fundamental issues of confused priority. Any driver worth their salt will know what I mean.
Anthony Kawalski, Southampton
Unfortunately I have 9 points with the possibility of a further case pending, although this looks unlikely due to a mistake with the former prosecution. My main gripe is the ridiculous limits we now endure on the open road. Nobody objects to limits in built up areas and even 20mph limits at schools during school hours are reasonable. Where I live in north Somerset we had a stretch of open road (A38 adjoining M5) where a limit of 40mph was imposed over a 10 mile open stretch of road. All the signage was changed at enormous expense! Guess what - within 18 months this was changed back to 50mph with a further change in signage at ratepayers' expense! My point is that these limits are ridiculous! Of course we all know if everyone travels at 30mph with a red flag in front, the accident rate will fall! Unfortunately we live in 2006, not 1906! Finally I would take issue with these portable safety camera vans (which are the cause of my demise). In the old days one would be pulled over and issued with a ticket, or in some cases with a sensible lecture. One now knows nothing about the offence until a letter drops through one's letterbox some 10 days later! It is difficult to remember where one was or possibly who was driving at the time, let alone the speed limit in question.
Dave Williams, Bristol
I have been riding motorcycles for 20-odd years and, for the past 15, cars. So far, I haven't acquired a single penalty point on my licence. I just cannot see what people have to gain from exceeding any speed limit, indeed when applied within built-up areas you just get slowed down by the next set of traffic lights. Regarding speed cameras, in the main, they do serve the purpose they were put there to, but as has been pointed out, people braking to get under the limit because of a camera, DOES cause accidents. However this could be resolved by placing on the back of each camera, the sensors which tell you are exceeding the limit, giving motorists a longer amount of time to adjust their speed, and since you do not have to look down to see you are exceeding the speed limit, this means your view of the road is not taken away from that to the speedometer. What I think annoys people about the fines levied is that this money is not ring-fenced for purely improving the quality of road surfaces and traffic related expenditures.
Sam Chapman, Reading
Having watched your report and listened carefully to the guests' opinions, it is clear that both have little experience in the real world of transport. Speed cameras generate money and perform no other function except by implication. In my capacity as a large vehicle driver, I see many accidents occur and virtually all are caused by poor or dangerous driving and very few are solely speed related. It is very clear that our speed laws are designed to generate funds and have little to do with road safety and your guests who repeatedly misinterpret statistics to reinforce their argument do nothing but help maintain death and accidents on our roads, and more seriously, prevent sensible, practical road transport laws from being adopted.
P Harding, Reading, Berkshire
This is a highly relevant and vital subject. I fully condone safe and conscientious driving, but things are out of hand. I drive in excess of 30,000 miles a year and have been driving for 15 years. I have never had an accident and NEVER been caught by a traffic camera. I do, however, worry about my license and my job as I have been caught three times by camera partnership vans that are NOT announced, NOT painted clearly, and ARE ALWAYS positioned to prevent the opportunity of slowing down - ie just after a bend and normally on a downhill stretch of road. These are cynical money generating efforts and totally different to the correctly placed and warranted static speed cameras. This needs sorting now as innocent and safe drivers face worse punishments than many serious criminals. The loss of my licence would destroy my family's life.
Stephen, Chesterfield, Derbyshire
Speeding is not the cause of most accidents - incompetent driving is the main cause. Incompetent drivers not only endanger themselves but also frustrate good drivers, leading them to drive irrationally.
A survey of accidents in this district for the last three years showed the average age of drivers involved to be over 55 years old.
Brian Clark, St Annes
This is just another devastating blow to the "Great" in Great Britain. It has now become a government obsession fuelled by people who don't rely on a car for work. These devices are producing false doctrines and should be abolished. True crime cannot be detected by these devices and just add to the misery being generated by this government. All people who are caught by these devices should not accept it and ask for calibration certification and if necessary appear in court.
Peter Mortimer, Caerphilly
If speed cameras are so well marked, why does the government spokesman feel it necessary to have a GPS? I have no problem with cameras (and yes I do have three points on my licence). What annoys me is government hypocrisy. In your clip one got the impression that the government just want people to play the game. Speed if you like, just don't get caught.
Graham Wright, Crediton
I have no points on my licence, but when I drive around the UK, especially in the south of England, I am constantly looking out for speed cameras which I am sure distracts my attention and often results in sudden braking by myself and other vehicles. I am sure many cameras are installed for revenue purposes. Another disgruntled motorist.
J Waters, Bury St Edmunds
I travel the motorways daily and you never see a police car. Just the odd traffic officer. MPs live in another world and should listen to people who live in this one. Bad driving is the problem and more police is the answer, not more points.
John Hudson, Worthing
I got my speed camera fine for driving 41 mph in a 30 mph zone. It was Boxing Day night, on the outskirts of Colchester on a dual carriage way. There was no one else around. IT NEVER OCCURRED to me that this was a 30mph zone. People regularly drive up the A12 (London to Ipswich, a 60 mph dual carriage way) at night at 80 and sometimes 90mph. There are no cameras - no one does anything about it. The whole speed camera programme is unbalanced and disproportionate.
Peter Coode, Ipswich
Most speed limits were formed in another age and are irrelevant to modern car design and traffic needs. The trend is towards pushing cars and pedestrians closer to each other, increasing the dangers, irrespective of speed. People are far more ignorant and inconsiderate of other road users. Billions in road tax is spent on general revenue and not in improving the structure of our roads to make them safe for realistic traffic needs. A recipe for disaster, don't you think?
Richard Bradley, Chesterfield
I am a motorist of 40 years standing. I am in favour of speed cameras, they slow people down and anyone close to a ban is going to drive much more carefully. Why do some motorists think they have a God given right to break the law by speeding? If the limit is 30 mph then drive at 30 mph! What do you gain by going at 40 mph? Is two minutes in your life that important? The proposed amendments to the law will REDUCE the penalty for minor offence but penalise more heavily the worst offenders. What could be more fair than that?
Martin Hands, Ilkeston
Where we live we have the A14 from Huntingdon to Cambridge and there are eight speed cameras - it's only a 12 mile stretch of duel carriageway and there are more crashes where the cameras are placed then on any other bit of the A14. I work for a recovery company and we get calls five or six times a day to this stretch of road, so cameras don't help reduce the amount of road crashes in Cambridgeshire - is there any point in these cameras being there at all?
Mr Cosbey, Huntingdon
Speed limits are well advertised, warnings of speed cameras are also well advertised, and the cameras themselves are glaringly obvious. If you are caught speeding then you ARE a bad driver because you have ignored or overlooked all these warnings. Stick to the speed limit and you won't have any problem. It's just a pity there are no similar technological fixes to catch other examples of bad driving - tail-gating is one that really gets my goat. And a million fewer drivers on the roads would help ease congestion and pollution and global warming.
Stephen Greatorex, Tiverton
The speeding camera system has become a self-serving industry which provides society with a small increase in road safety but at high cost and great inconvenience.
John Trewin, Bournemouth
Your item on speed cameras made me so cross I couldn't sleep for hours afterwards. Dr Ladyman spoke of "fixed, highly visible yellow cameras" and said that there was no reasonable excuse for ignoring them. Here, in Gwynedd, to my knowledge, there is not one single "fixed, highly visible yellow camera" ut camera vans only, many of which are deliberately positioned in order to entrap motorists, thereby maximising profitability. To give you just one example out of many: large numbers of motorists have been caught driving just slightly above 30 mph at the exit from a nearby village, with the 40 mph sign in view and in a location where there are no houses and no pedestrians. his is probably one of the least affluent counties in the UK and one of the most rural: motor insurance is sky-high for many people, millions have been paid out in fines and we have no public transport system to speak of should we be banned from driving. What have the citizens of Gwynedd done to deserve this daconian treatment?
Angela Parry, Criccieth
I have no problem with speed cameras providing they are used for the purpose for which they were intended, ie to curb EXCESSIVE speed, not to gather revenue for minor infringements of the law. Considerable alienation has arisen between the police and the motoring public.
Mike Drury, Bicester
I am very cynical about speed cameras. A necessary evil, perhaps, but a revenue generating scheme, for sure. The bottom line is that our roads are always under construction in a non-co-ordinated fashion, and our speed limits are too low. No wonder we're frustrated when we get snapped at 40 miles an hour.
The flashing warning signs are a more cost effective and psychological method of reducing speed. Police attention and time should be concentrated upon those who have no vehicle licence, insurance or MOT and those who drive badly or dangerously. Concentrate upon those illegal drivers who cause accidents, other than the safe driver who may travel a little fast.
Douglas, Desborough, Northants
Cameras are best sited at known black spots where serious injury or death have occurred, near schools and old persons residences where there is no excuse for driving too fast. These cameras are a product of the cut backs in our policing. So if you want less of them we have to pay more council tax to the police so they can operate more traffic patrol vehicles. It's just one more step along the road to an Orwellian society.
John, Hemel Hempstead
Wouldn't it be great if tax was optional? Well, if you make motoring and parking offences a serious revenue raiser you could cut other taxes. This would in effect make tax optional. Don't want to pay? Then just obey the law - simple really. Oh, and it might save some lives, too.
The Transport Minister said on your programme that all the cameras are marked in bright yellow and camera warning signs are posted. I am now on a possible ban and 12 points as a dual carriageway changed suddenly from the previous 30 mile stretch of a 70 mph limit, to 50 mph in a matter of a few hundred yards, when I was doing 65mph. An unmarked white van on a bridge took a photo. There were no camera warning signs on the road. The Minister said "people know where the cameras are". Not true, mobile cameras are in unmarked white vans and change positions all the time - he should get his facts right and play fair. Mobile cameras cause people to brake suddenly and cause more accidents.
M Nowak, Ruislip
There are lots of deaths on the road every year in Britain. Speed cameras slow the traffic down. I think that they are necessary.
K Jacobs, Romsey
I was angered to hear the minister say that speed cameras are clearly marked and therefore motorists only have themselves to blame if they get caught. Mobile speed cameras operate from a van parked head on to the direction of the traffic with no visible markings. I have been "trapped" twice by a mobile camera and in one case the camera was hidden behind a line of trees and was only visible at a distance of 15 metres.
Robin Corbett, Hagley, Worcestershire
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