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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 March 2006, 16:18 GMT
Extra road camera uses dismissed
A speed camera in Worcester
Motorists' groups have reservations about the plans
Transport Secretary Alistair Darling has ruled out plans to use roadside cameras to catch motorists using mobile phones or failing to wear a seatbelt.

Stolen and wanted vehicles are already spotted by a network of cameras when they detect a suspect number plate.

Road safety expert Rob Gifford says that technology could be used to pick up drivers who are wanted for other offences.

But Mr Darling dismissed the measure as an invasion of people's privacy.

Human intervention

Mr Gifford is set to put the proposals to the Transport Select Committee on Wednesday.

But they are not expected to feature in the government's Road Safety Bill, which is due to return to the Commons the same day.

It's one thing to have cameras to detect speeding motorists and those running red lights, but quite another having them looking inside cars and invading people's private space
Alistair Darling
Transport Secretary

Automatic Number Plate Recognition has been adopted by a growing number of police forces and where it is used, it is estimated to have increased arrest rates ten-fold.

Cameras and computers cannot automatically detect most motorists' offences, like people using mobile phones or not wearing a seatbelt - human beings are still needed to monitor this.

But road safety experts are lobbying for the country's network of cameras and databases to be joined together to catch the hardcore of motorists who break the law.

Mr Gifford, chairman of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, told the BBC: "People are committing traffic offences in many different ways and often the same people doing it - that's what the technology should help us to catch."

Camera limitations

However, Mr Darling said he was not keen on the idea.

"It's one thing to have cameras to detect speeding motorists and those running red lights, but quite another having them looking inside cars and invading people's private space," he said.

"We are not going to do it."

And Andrew Howard, from the AA Motoring Trust, said he did not want technology taking the place of traffic patrols.

"There is a lot that technology can do - it can measure speed, it can show whether you are going through a red light or wearing a seatbelt," he told the BBC.

"But what it can't do is pick out the pieces of dangerous driving, careless driving and downright aggressive driving that we see so much on our streets."

The Transport Select Committee is due to take evidence from the police, road safety campaigners and motorists' groups as part of its probe into "Traffic policing and technology - getting the balance right".


SEE ALSO:
Police aim to overturn speed case
30 Dec 05 |  Somerset
Speed refunds after camera mix-up
21 Dec 05 |  South East Wales


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