> Highway Robbery
|By Mark Sansby
|7th June 2004
|What a time it’s been recently for the
infamous speed camera.
A Northumberland Brewery boss Dave Roberts has launched his own little
protest against that humble grey and yellow roadside camera by launching a
new ale called ‘Highway Robbery’. The pump crest shows a speed camera
dressed as Dick Turpin. I reckon the beer mats will be quite a collector’s
item. I’m looking forward to a national launch of the ale!
Next we hear the Government has more than doubled their income from said
cameras to £1.5m in the last year. News like this and the trend of many
drivers to get those easily available 3 points added to their license has
lead to some insurance companies to stop loading premiums for speeding (or
should I say ‘revenue’) convictions.
I’m not saying I agree with speeding. Far from it. Towns and villages are
dangerous places for pedestrians. However I am in favour of safe speed.
Let me put this to you. On a national speed limit road (60mph) I overtook
a car (on my motorcycle) that was travelling approximately 40mph as were
the 4 cars unable to get past. As I entered a 30mph limit I slowed to the
limit. 400yds further on this same car had not only gained (nearly ½ a
mile) on me but then proceeded to overtake, next to the local village
football field where the kids regularly play. WHY? She knows I’ll end up
passing her when we enter the 60mph limit the other side of the village.
So lets say I then overtake in the 60mph limit travelling around 70mph and
get flashed. Who is the dangerous driver?
So what has the speed camera done for us? For most people it has shown
them how easy it is to get 3 points and a fine. For others it has given
them an excuse to tell everyone else how dangerous Britons roads are and
how dangerous speeding is. But has it saved any lives?
An article originally shown in The Courier and Advertiser by Eamon Scott
and Jules May (Sept 2003) shows some very interesting statistics. Although
over the last 10 years convictions for speeding have trebled, convictions
for dangerous driving have dropped by two-thirds (we obviously aren’t as
dangerous on the road now). So have accident rates fallen? No.
The Government reckon 1 in 3 accidents involve excessive speed, implying
if drivers would slow down accidents would decrease. Yet when cameras were
first introduced (1992 – yes that long ago) the Transport Research
Laboratory published data showing excessive speed was involved in about 7%
of accidents. Similar results were shown in Police reports from around the
Even more amazing is the statistic that until the infamous camera was
introduced, accident rates were steadily falling, yet since they have only
One very interesting fact they point to is a safe driving system the
Police introduced in the 50’s called the Hendon Method. This system
remains the principle from which Police are taught more advanced driving.
This is one thing it has to say about speed :- ‘Speed is frequently looked
upon as something dangerous in itself, but it is dangerous only if used in
the wrong place or at the wrong time . . . the onus is always on the
driver to select a speed appropriate to the conditions’
The question I suppose really is, can the average driver be trusted to
know what is and isn’t appropriate?
So what happens to the money raised from ‘safety’ cameras? Does it go to
improvements in road safety? Well that is the big question. Breaking it
Does it go to maintaining our roads, thus making them safer? No.
Does it go towards teaching road safety to kids, therefore reducing the
risks of a child running onto the road? No.
Does it go to building in traffic calming measures? I know we all hate ‘em
but if we must continue speeding through villages we will have something
built to slow us. No.
Does it go to extra policing, so they can spot dangerous drivers, drunk
drivers and possibly even thieves etc? No.
Does it go to helping newly qualified drivers understand what they have
learned in passing their test and the dangers on the roads? No.
Does it help to pay for victims of accidents to obtain counselling? No
Does it go to the emergency services to train them better in dealing with
road traffic accidents? No
So where does it go? Well apart from the Government having a decent amount
of revenue that they can invest in such things as the EU and the ‘War on
Terrorism’ the rest goes back into road safety. I think it is worth
pointing out here that very little of what the motorist pays in taxes etc
is spent on improving our roads. So what do they mean by road safety? They
mean more cameras. Be it fixed Gasto style cameras or ‘safety vans’.
So there you are safe in the knowledge that our roads are getting safer
and the ‘camera’ will continue to act as a massive induction of cash for
The argument we continually get from the Government for justification of
speed (safety) cameras is the stance that ‘speed kills’. I don’t doubt
that some accidents will most certainly have been avoided if one party or
the other were not speeding. But is it the speed that kills? I put it that
it is lack of observation and concentration that kills! If this means
speed, this is inappropriate speed, which generally comes from lack of
You can be travelling down a quite A road at 50mph. If a car pulls from a
side junction into your path and a collision occurs who is at fault? The
simple answer is the car that pulled out on you.
Travel down that same A road at 70mph, observe the sign that shows a
junction ahead, next observe the car approaching that junction. You have
time to slow, stop or take avoiding action (such as pull out and
overtake). Now who was at fault in the first instance? And could the
accident have been avoided.
If we all observed more and showed better consideration for other road
users, I believe speed would be less of an issue. This still doesn’t mean
it’s safe to speed, but as road conditions allow so could a little more
There’s a big problem with my theory. How do you police observation?
Observation can only be policed through education. Now we needn’t take up
the police’s time for this, nor the Government. What if a large
organisation were able to do this for us? What if every driver were to
understand more about observation, what to look for, how weather
conditions change the way the car reacts and how they can show more
consideration for others? What if it didn’t have to cost anything? In fact
what if all of this ended up saving us money too?
Too good to be true? I don’t think so.
Every road user should have insurance. If a company such as Norwich Union
were to introduce a 3 or 5 yearly refresher lesson in order to qualify for
a further reduction in your premium. Yes it will include an assessment,
but you can’t fail. The grade will determine your insurance status.
Over 1 ½ hour session you have a 30 min observation, 30 min where the
instructor points out where you could improve followed by 30 min of
assessment driving. You paid the (probably a standard) driving instructor
the fee and send your receipt, assessment score and insurance forms to the
company to get your premium.
Grade C, you have the assessment fee refunded.
Grade B, along with the fee there is a further 5-10% reduction in your
Grade A, along with the fee there is a further 10 – 20% reduction in your
Obviously this can only be a voluntary scheme, but if you premium went up
by 10% if you didn’t do the assessment, I think there would be an amazing
amount of volunteers.
So what are the downsides to this? I can think of only one. The Gasto will
As for advantages, well there will be a significant improvement in the
driving standards in the UK, the Police will be able to spend more time
catching other criminals, insurance premiums will come down, the hospitals
will not be full of accident victims and above all, I think together we
will be able to make the UK’s the safest in the World.
All we need now is an insurance company to back the idea.