Reliance on speed cameras has led to some other serious motoring offences going undetected by officers, according to the head of a motoring organisation.
Edmund King, from the RAC Foundation told the Police Federation's Conference that "robotic" speed enforcement methods were causing motorists to lose respect for the police.
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He says the decline in traffic police numbers must stop and police should be "more visibly present" on roads.
Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Alastair Darling has told MPs that a review into the effectiveness of speed cameras will be published next month.
Are speed cameras an effective means of making our roads safer? Should the numbers of traffic police be increased? Tell us what you think.
The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far.
This debate is now closed. Read your comments below.
I cannot believe the number of people who seem to think that speeding is ok "under the proper conditions". Breaking the law carries penalties, of which we are all made aware..."Do the crime, do the time". On the safety issue, if Traffic Officers are all too busy watching for speeders, they have less time to watch for over offences being committed. Cameras allow our overtaxed Police Forces to concentrate manpower where it's actually needed.
The DOT have just carried out another study that shows only 12% of accidents are caused by speeding. I think speed cameras are therefore a massive over-reaction. What about the other 88% of accidents? Who's policing the cause of these? As for those who think speed cameras should be hidden, if a driver doesn't know they're there, what's going to make them slow down?
Phil, Worcester, England
There is a Voluntary Tax on speed. If you don't want to pay the tax don't speed. Personally I'd replace the more useless and incompetent elements of our police with more cameras. You know the ones, those that sit there waiting for a motorist to make a mistake instead of catching the muggers and other thugs that plague our streets today.
Steve Byrne, Christchurch, Dorset
No! I'm not a transport engineer of 20 years standing (So I'm not responsible for the appalling state of our roads/traffic system) We have more police than at any time in our history. You want safety? Get the cameras out and the police back on the roads. That is the key to safety. By the way, doesn't a "transport engineer" have a vested interest?
Danny, Southampton, UK
Put cameras outside schools, enforce the no stopping regulations and remove them from the A-roads. Put traffic patrols back on the streets, have insurance discs and let's get rid of the unlicensed, uninsured drivers that the cameras cannot detect.
I'd like to see "keep your distance" cameras. I'm sure that the idiot three inches from your rear when your doing the speed limit is half the problem.
Ian, Horsham, Sussex
As a councillor I can say that we have forced the removal of one that produced 14 accidents in a year. However we have found the mobile ones properly placed and obvious do create a significant improvement but there remains a major problem with young drivers in fast cars with no insurance and often false plates.
The funding logic is ultimately flawed. If the system succeeds and everyone drives slowly the local council taxpayer will end up picking up the future losses but if they do not succeed why have them? There is a limit to the number of cameras and this has been reached here. Beware they are ultimately a stealth tax and detrimental to crime prevention and they miss some of the worse offenders who can only be stopped by police officers.
Jeremy Blatchford, UK
We live in a country where people believe they have a right to break the law, a right to assume that they can handle it and go at any speed. But the child crossing the road at the same time may not be able to handle it, nor the probation driver trying to pull into the fast lane on the motorway. The speed of 36 mph in a 30 mph zone is over the limit, especially in someone older with slower reaction times. I know it is a hard habit to break, but children break easily.
A Legge, Leeds, Uk
We have always believed that fines are a deterrent when in fact all they do is swell coffers. In the last few years all that has happened is that more people who previously haven't been fined have now been fined. This bears no relation to the number of actions they have caused previously. We need to face facts, bad driving is not getting caught - cameras don't see what goes on and lower police numbers mean that dangerous drivers are getting away with offences which are incensing good motorists. Like Congestion Charging, the Government will laud cameras as a success because it's earning revenue - and everyday drivers will pay the price as usual. Good policing is what is required.
Nigel, London, UK
Pause for thought, a victim of a speeding car has no voice. It is up to society to enforce and educate drives who break the law. The fines from these speed cameras should go to the victims of poor drivers. And glancing over the comments from such perfect drives, it boils down to you can do any thing you like so long has it does not affect me. Sort of a driving NIMBY.
Clive, Dartford, Kent
Speed cameras in Essex (the county with the most speed cameras) are actually resulting in an increase in traffic accidents and deaths. The speed cameras are placed on long fast roads, causing cars to suddenly slam on the breaks to avoid fines, so increasing accidents. I am not opposed to speed cameras themselves, but they should be posted in accident black spots, not to make money.
David Butcher, Chelmsford, Essex
Hide the speed cameras, so people have to take care all the time, not just at obvious visible sites.
JonG, Huddersfield UK
No, they don't make roads safer - they catch drivers over the speed limit. All too often, those drivers are travelling at a perfectly safe speed for the conditions at the time. Sadly, the cameras have largely replaced the traffic police who DO make roads safer by catching dangerous drivers and those without insurance.
Yes! I'm a transport engineer of 20 years that studies accident reports and I have absolutely no doubt. I think it would be even safer if people didn't know where the camera were. Only people who think they are above the law and don't care, or are too stupid to think, about higher speeds causing higher severity of injury don't like speed cameras.
Steve, Derby, UK
Speed cameras are very poor value for money. They are a headline grabbing event for health and safety people. We need, like the railways, the tracks/roads to be insulating from the people. Got bare mains wires in your home? Get run over by a car doing 10 mph and you can die, touch a live mains cable for half a second, you die. Insulate and isolate the danger. Not as exiting as a hi-tech camera, but cheaper and effective.
A higher standard of driving would save more lives than any amount of revenue cameras. Make testing compulsory every five years, it would soon get the bad drivers off our roads.
Mr Hicks, Blandford Dorset
To those who say that speed cameras should be hidden; Cameras are apparently placed on accident blackspots to slow motorists down thereby reducing road deaths and accidents. If motorists can't see them, then they won't slow down - so what is the point in having them in the first place, other than as a money generator?!?!
If we had spent half the money we have spent on speed cameras on advanced driver instruction instead, there would be a lot more people alive today.
Aethelstan, Laindon, Essex
When cameras genuinely reduce accidents, then people will believe in them.
I commute around 90 miles a day on motorways and country roads and see many examples of bad driving that leads to accidents. Such examples being lorry drivers reading the paper over their steering wheel, people doing their make up/shaving, talking on the phone and drivers driving at 45mph no matter what the speed limit is. These are typical examples of drivers not paying attention and driving on autopilot (which includes slowing down for fixed speed cameras). There needs to be a higher police profile on the roads, which will catch drivers who are not driving with 'due care and attention'. Cameras will never be able to do this.
The cameras are there to catch out motorists. Why else would the infamous Stocksbridge bypass in Sheffield have numerous cameras but unclear speed limits?
Don't insult me with the old claptrap of "if you obey the speed limit you'll be OK"! I recently got caught by a speed camera when travelling at 51mph on a trunk road (speed limit 60mph). Apparently there was a temporary speed limit of 40mph in force but I swear that there was no sign to that effect. Speed cameras are an arbitrary tax on drivers - dare to get into 4th gear and you may get caught!
Tired of travelling on roads with ambiguous speed limits with speed cameras I've invested in a detector. I don't make a habit of speeding but too many roads have unclear speed limits. Works well and I now spend more time concentrating on the traffic around me rather than on looking for cameras!
My 70 year old Dad recently got done by a speed camera for doing 36mph in a 30mph limit. Don't try and tell me that the speed camera that got him was anything more than a revenue generator!! So after over 50 years of safe, law-abiding, considerate driving, he is now classified in exactly the same way as a "boy racer" who habitually speeds and shows no respect for the law or other people. Where's the sense in that?!?
I was recently fined for exceeding the speed limit (by 9mph) on a stretch of road in a rural area. There are no homes there, there were no pedestrians around, it's a straight and little used road and not an accident black spot. Yet the police decided to place a detector van there for the day, apparently. I couldn't see a safety issue. It looked like revenue raising to me.
Will Ford, Cardiff
All the 'camera partnerships' are making wild claims of huge reductions in deaths at camera sites, but the give-away is the fact that the national figure is not coming down, and stays fixed at 3600 per year. We are being misled by an anti-car government which makes money out of perfectly safe drivers.
A. Howlett, Cheshire
As to the comment that people slow down when they see a camera - I fully back a return to hidden cameras (preferably which keep being moved around) so people just get out of the habit of speeding!
I'm not convinced they do increase road safety. BUT, why does everyone complain about the camera and how they are only there to generate an income. They can only generate an income if people speed. If you don't want points on your licence and a fine then DON'T SPEED - simple really!
I do agree with cameras for tax and insurance dodgers, and also in accident black spots - but North Wales Police takes the biscuit and it's just a fund raising exercise. Why not spend some of that money snapping young people with excessively loud exhausts or thumping music?
Nick, Hawarden, North Wales
Before anyone in authority starts to preach to drivers with regards road safety, wouldn't it be right to get the roads in a fit state to begin with? The improvement of pot-holed, uneven and disrepaired roads in general would be more conducive to better road safety. Then start preaching and legislating!!!
Tom Smith, UK
I agree that we should have more speed cameras. They DO work. If you don't want to be fined and/or get 'points' on your licence, don't speed. Simple really. Everybody please slow down. Nothing is that important that you should need to speed every time you get behind the wheel.
Yvonne, Yorkshire, UK
Road deaths have not fallen significantly since cameras were introduced - speed does not kill, bad driving and bad road design kills. A camera will not stop people driving too close within the limit, does not pick up cyclists jumping red lights, or bad drivers. Cameras are there purely to raise money and pander to those who seem to believe cars should be banned altogether. Instead, invest in better training, licence retests, and proper policing involving people not robots.
The essence of speed cameras is to help prevent speed related accidents. However, counties such as Essex where there are the highest saturations of Gatso cameras have actually seen an increase in motoring accidents. Surely this evidence speaks for itself?
Steve, N. Ireland
Speed cameras are a weapon in the fight against the speeding culture dominating Britain's roads. But there needs to be more of them, and they should be hidden, not plainly visible. After a few unexpected fines and/or points, drivers will learn to stick to the speed limits all the time. This can only be good for road safety.
Matthew Lamb, Durham, UK
I live near a busy road where there have been two fatal accidents over the last four years resulting in four deaths. Speed cameras are now in place and new traffic lights and the road appears to be a lot safer. Something had to be done to prevent more deaths.
Whether cameras are intended as a "cash-machines" or not is irrelevant. If you're caught speeding then you are breaking the law. If a car-thief objected to a fine on the grounds that "it was just to raise money for the police" he'd be ridiculed. The same attitude should be applied to dangerous drivers.
Cameras just move the problem. There are speed cameras on the main road through the estate, which has no houses opening onto it. Instead the drivers use our road, a proper residential road as an alternative and as a race track. 10 days ago, the second car in 2 years went into the garden of the house opposite, after coming round the bend too fast (bend is perfectly safe at 40 mph, and this is a 30mph area). Traffic police are the better option - they have judgement, cameras do not. They are a money raising, blunt instrument. They do not catch the worst speeders who are often in unregistered, untaxed cars.
Janet Thorneycroft, Solihull
A speed camera has just gone up near me at a spot where, in all the years I have never seen or heard of an accident. However, it IS at the bottom of a dip in both directions. Wonder how many fines that will accumulate? With autocruise set to 30mph by the time I reach the bottom of the dip I reach 35mph. QED?
Steve Pearson, Manchester
I still find it amazing that people should lose respect for the police because they're not allowed to speed. Don't speed - won't get caught. The main reason that roads are dangerous is that 75% of drivers either can't or don't drive safely. They want their right to travel faster than the speed limits and then get their nose out of joint when they get fined for doing it.
As a driver and motorcyclist I see so many other dangerous offences committed by people who aren't speeding; talking on the phone, driving with wing mirrors folded in, aggressive, careless, incompetent or impatient driving, drunk driving etc. What can a speed camera do to protect me against these idiots?
On the A14 there are a number of cameras on flat, straight sections of road. How are these reducing accidents? There are no blind curves, hidden dips or other dangers to watch for. Gloucester has digital cameras over a few estates - these are obvious money makers as most people are unaware of them, or think they're the normal point check.
Stuart Daley, Norwich, England
No, they don't even help keep drivers under the speed limit. I used to commute from London to Heathrow and I regularly drove at over 90mph on the A40. I knew where the speed cameras were and braked appropriately.
Speed cameras in the right places could help make the roads safer. Unfortunately a lot of them are not in the right places, but are rather located to maximise revenues. What is the point of putting a camera on a dual carriageway where it really makes little difference from a safety perspective if cars go at 40, 50, 60, or 70? In contrast, speed limits are not enforced on 30 mph local roads and near schools and playing areas, where the risk to pedestrians and children is much greater.
In a local village they have started trialling a new sign that reads your speed and flashes brightly saying 'slow down' if I am over the limit. This is far more effective than a speed camera but the problem is... it doesn't create revenue.
Dale Wilson, Chelmsford, UK
I don't think speed cameras are working. All people do is slow down when they're near one and then speed up again once they've passed it. More police on the roads is the solution since they'd be able to take these dangerous drivers off the road.
I think they do make the roads safer. I'm almost always over the speed limit until I see a speed camera - then I slow down and speed up again after passing one.
Robbert, London, UK
Anecdotal evidence, and personal experience on the motorway network, would lead me to believe that they do not make roads safer. I have many times seen drivers braking furiously when they see a camera, and then accelerating away just as furiously when they have passed it. I have also witnessed two or three minor shunts when, in a stream of traffic passing the camera, one driver doesn't brake quite as hard as the driver in front.
As speed cameras seem to be replacing traffic police, other more serious offences are going undetected and unpunished.
Do they pick up drunk, drugged up, unlicensed, underage, dangerous drivers? No, but here in North Wales, neither do the police as all they man is mobile speed cameras!
Tony, Prestatyn, UK
Speed cameras do nothing but check your speed. The police (or whoever they've outsourced the job to) then asses whether you've broken the law, they then charge you money. None of this saves lives, it just creates revenue.
Rico, Sheffield, England