Speed cameras do not make driving safer

This article has nothing to do with web development, so let me start with apologising for being completely off-topic. Now that that’s out of the way I’d like to write a little about my opinion on speed cameras.

During my vacation this summer I have been spending quite a bit of time on the road, driving my new car (a Peugeot 407 SW 2.2) to visit friends and family. For the most part driving has been relaxed and the roads in good shape. But then there are the road sections that have speed cameras.

A quick explanation for those of you who are lucky enough to live in a country that does not use speed cameras. In Sweden it works like this: along certain road sections, cameras are used to monitor speeds and automatically fine those who drive too fast. When a car is moving faster than the speed limit, a photo of the car’s front number plate and the driver is taken. If the driver can be identified, a fine is sent by mail. At first it may sound like a reasonable way to make people adhere to speed limits, but once you have experienced the incredible stress speed cameras cause, you realise that they do more harm than good.

The official reason for installing cameras that monitor speeds along the roads is of course that it will bring speeds down and as an effect of that save lives. Well, speed cameras probably do decrease the average speed a bit at the spot where the camera is, but in my opinion they really make driving much more stressful and unsafe, for the following reasons:

  • Speedometer focus. Since you have to keep your eyes on the speedometer all the time to make sure you are not driving faster than the speed limit, your concentration is there, not on the other cars on the road. Dangerous.
  • Camera braking. When you spot a speed camera, most people tend to break whether they actually need to or not. Just to be sure that you’re not speeding. Now if you’re driving behind somebody who does this, your speedometer focus could lead to you not breaking soon enough and thus slamming into the car in front. Dangerous.
  • Speed limit awareness. Since we now have to make sure we always stay below the current speed limit, we always have to keep track of what the limit is. To do that we need signs, which can be rare on some roads. More speed limit signs please.
  • Speeding in-between cameras. People who use camera monitored road sections a lot learn where the cameras are and really speed it up between them. I mean really speed it up, much more than if there weren’t any cameras.
  • No more overtaking. How, exactly, are you supposed to overtake a car that is driving 80 or 85 km/h when the speed limit is 90 km/h? You either need a really long straight with no meeting traffic, force meeting traffic and the car you are overtaking to make room for you, or exceed the speed limit for a few seconds. If all roads had multiple lanes this wouldn’t be a problem, but we don’t have a lot of that outside major cities in Sweden.
  • Useless cruise control. You’d think that just setting the cruise control (if your car has one) to the current speed limit would help. It doesn’t. Traffic on road sections with speed cameras gets tight and jumpy, so the cruise control is useless.

I would suggest letting go of the “speed kills” fundamentalism for a bit and do things that really would make our roads safer:

  • Put the cameras where they are useful. I was recently in Belgium for a few days, and their speed cameras are generally placed at intersections. Now that is more useful than the Swedish way of just randomly putting them along a nice and straight road. I also think that will make people respect the cameras more. As a bonus you can catch the brainiacs running red lights.
  • Ban mobile phones. In Sweden it is still, for some reason I cannot imagine, legal to use a mobile phone without a headset while you are driving. This includes dialing numbers, looking up things in your address book, typing and reading text messages, and so on. Every morning on my way to work I see a lot of people focusing on their phones instead of on their driving, and it’s incredible that I don’t see more accidents because these people should not be allowed on the roads. And don’t get me started on the morons who put on their makeup or eat breakfast while driving to work.
  • Get the drunks off the road. I have had my driver’s license for 19 years and have never been tested for alcohol or any other drugs. We need more alcohol screening out there.
  • Teach people how to drive. Oh man, I am not the best car driver in the world, but some people really should not be allowed to drive a car. I think that once you have your driver’s license, you should have to pass mandatory driving tests every five to ten years in order to keep it.

Ok, I just needed to get that out of my system. Thanks for reading. By the way, do you have speed cameras where you live, and what is your opinion on them?

Posted on July 31, 2006 in Life


  1. July 31, 2006 by Juha-Pekka Järvenpää

    I totally agree. Cameras are frustrating and greatly increase your stress while driving. Some of our roads in Finland are real camera alleys. Even some of the police say cameras at the ends of overtaking lanes and hidden in curves are more efficient in bringing in the money than improving road security. Move those cameras to populated areas and especially next to schools!

  2. July 31, 2006 by Mark

    People who brake for speed cameras when they are already obeying the limit are idiots. There’s a camera on the A303 in Wiltshire in a 60mph limit, where people frequently slow down to below 50mph to pass. Morons.

    You shouldn’t need to focus on your speedometer all the time. I stick to speed limits pretty much all the time (I take your “overtaking” point, having peaked at 75mph to pass 40mph traffic in a 60mph limit yesterday) and do not find myself glancing at the speedometer very often.

    Try adaptive cruise control sometime - it keeps a safe distance from the car in front, or at the pre-set speed, whichever is the lower speed.

    The whole mindset of “drive how you want, although don’t get caught” really irritates me. This is why I’m not keen on democracy: these people can also vote for who is in charge. Admittedly, the alternatives are rarely better…

  3. In Sweden I thought it was zero-tolerance with alcohol and driving.

    The Swede Speed Camera system sounds much like the UK. Although theoretically they are supposed to be mainly implemented on road accident black spots but that’s a load of poppycock.

  4. Ah, yes… These damned speed cameras, hehe. Of course we have them here in Norway as well, as you might know. They’ve even been a bit more aggressive with the cameras lately, upgrading a lot of the old ones to digital cameras, and setting up quite a few more cameras.

    There’s another distraction I’m quite annoyed by. When you drive on a unknown road and get the sign declaring that there will be automatic speed controls further on, you have no idea where this will be, and you’ll be staring quite a lot at the speedometer and the side of the road. Also, on one road just near where I live, they’ve had signs for automatic speed control for a couple of years now in both directions, but there’s only a speed camera in one direction..

    Oh, and have you started to experience their newest invention with speed cameras? I’m takling about chained cameras, which not only measures your current speed, but your average between cameras as well.. So far there’s very few of these here, but I don’t like the trend..

  5. Word. I recognized alot of the situations that you wrote about. The stress is really frustrating and it’s easy to lose your mind, especially when you aren’t really aware of what the current speed limit is.

    I live in Sweden as well, the town of Falköping to be precise. Around here there aren’t really many speed cameras but recently I’ve seen a couple of speed camera warning signs covered with plastic bags on the road to the nearby town of Skövde so I guess they are on their way. It will probably piss alot of people off .

  6. @Robert Wellock: As far as I know, Sweden have quite the same policy on alcohol while driving as in Norway, which as you say can be interpreted as zero-tolerance. They don’t say zero here in Norway, but brushing your teeth with the wrong kind of tooth paste can trigger the test, and there doesn’t exist any alcoholic beverage which will let you drive after drinking it (not even light beer).

    But, zero-tolerance doesn’t mean people won’t attempt to drive after having a beer or more.. And I think that’s what Roger wants to get rid of by having more alcohol screening. I haven’t been screened either, but I’ve “only” had my license for 5 years now.

  7. I agree on “camera braking” this is that annoys me most. However “speedometer focus” and “Speed limit awareness” sound very very strange. You must to know speed limits to get your dirver’s license, at least where I live. Not that difficult to remember, and speed limit signs are for the places where limits differ from default. As for “speed kills” - this is not a fundametalism. This is the sad fact based on laws of physics.

  8. Sure - it’s nothing to do with the Web…but Roger - it’s still a good read! To be honest: driving, speed cameras, and what people should (or should not) do while driving their cars is something I have plenty to say about…well, me and just about everyone else who drives a car in the UK…(it’s like a national pastime!) All the reasons you’ve mentioned for why speed cameras are dangerous are all quite valid as well (I fully agree with each point). Equally, I agree that where speed cameras are placed is a big factor - some places make sense, and others make no sense at all! Oh, and even though it’s illegal to use a mobile phone while driving in the UK - it’s not really enforced at all which means that the law is a bit of a joke…openly ignored by many people. I think something that’s even worse than talking on a mobile while driving is ‘smoking a cigarette’ while driving…I’d like to see it a legal requirement that ‘smoking while driving a vehicle’ is against the law. Your last suggestion is already something they do for ‘theory’ tests (not physical tests) in the U.S. - and I think it’s something that should be standard everywhere…so I agree with that too.

  9. In holland we have traject controles, which measures your average speed over a certain distance. This has al least one advantage: people stop breaking and speeding. On roads where we have traject controles cruisecontrole is actually a very usefull thing.

  10. Roger,

    Thank you for that article.

    Here in Germany we have those speed cameras even on the autobahn and it’s really dangerous when the person in front of you brakes because he thinks he’s too fast. :-(

    You are lucky when you see a warning sign before.. Sometimes the cameras are even hidden in a trash can or they are placed after a tunnel where you can’t spot them because you are blinded by the sun.

    I understand that they do everything to bring down the number of accidents but at the most time they install those cameras to make money. :(

    They even tried to sue radio stations because they had radio announcements warning of mobile speed cameras. :-D

    As for using the phone while driving: There are heavy fines but you can still see people using them without a headset…

  11. I live in Northamptonshire in the UK which is well known for its excessive use of speed cameras. They’re everywhere to the point that you really notice the difference when you leave and enter the county. And I can assure you that stress levels drop dramatically when you leave, and that driving becomes a wholly different experience.

    A few years back, my family and I were involved in a head-on collision with a lorry at speed. This was due to someone else’s reckless driving. It should have killed all of us outright, but somehow we managed to stumble away with ‘just’ aches and nightmares. Yet despite this first hand experience, I still believe that the roads are more dangerous with the cameras (and other traffic calming measures) than without.

    Speed cameras detach the driver from the responsibility or driving safely. There’s a growing mentality that the absence of a camera’s means that a road is un-dangerous. And in our county in particular, the excessive number of cameras also causes divers to view them as an enemy of inconvenience rather than as a guardian of safety.

    There’s genuine animosity towards them which translates into aggressive bravado by some as they drive past.

    There’s no doubt that they work. They slow traffic, and they turn danger hot-spots into cooler spots. But I genuinely believe that they encourage a more reckless approach to driving in those areas where they are absent.

  12. Sadly, most “speed traps” that I have ever encountered (either cameras, or policemen with radar) are placed in such a way as to maximize revenue, rather than for any safety concern.

  13. I totally agree. As a UK-based biker and car driver, I have to say that I detest speed cameras. Although I quite often break the speed limit, it is always with consideration to the situation I am in - on an empty road I may fire it up a bit, but in built-up areas I go slow as there’s more hazards. I accept the fact that I may be penalised if I am caught, but I don’t support speed cameras as the primary means of road policing. If I get flashed by a camera I will do everything in my power to dispute the evidence and avoid a fine, but if I get pulled over by a traffic cop I’ll take the fine fair and square.

    They even have the gall to describe them as “Safety cameras” - they only catch vehicles exceeding a specific speed, not drunk drivers, uninsured drivers, stolen cars, drivers drifting across lanes whilst on their mobile etc. etc. - real human police officers can catch all of those and more, yet the number of traffic officers is falling as the number of cameras goes ever upwards!

  14. I would say that speed cameras are a solution to a problem that doesn’t really exist, but I also feel that way about broad bans on cell phone use while driving. From what I’ve read, cell-phone-related accident statistics have been surprisingy low. It seems to be more of a social stigma, now, at least here, which is frustrating because I’ve been driving on my cellphone both with and without a headset for many years, and I find I do less fumbling to pick up a call when I am not using the headset. I agree that drinkers should not be driving, but in the US, alcohol testing without cause or suspicion is a violation of rights.

    Coming from a city with cameras at the intersections, I’d say that they were pretty useful for catching red-light runners, but I don’t recall them being used for speed fines. In general, the administrative overhead generated by speed tickets seem to outweigh their benefits. The only times I’ve been stopped for speeding has been when I was following the flow of the traffic (twice) or on a wide-open straight away (once). I was officially ticketed only one of those times, which tells me that the officers don’t care much for the paperwork themselves and are very understanding. They may also be using the speeding violation to spot indicators for other violations, such as DUI or narcotics possession.

    To summarize, I’d be more in favor of fewer speed penalties than more.

  15. I drove from Munich to Berlin on the Autobahn A9 the other day, and they caught me twice, in the same state - on the way up, and on the way back. The thing that drove me crazy there was the fact that you could instantly tell you crossed a state border - all of a sudden, the three lane Autobahn had a permanent limit of 130kph, and they would slow you down to a 100 without reason all of a sudden, and bam, there was the speed camera. I counted eight cameras on the way up, in one state, all the others had neither cameras nor speed limits. It obviously is just a way to make money. Anyways, the second time the film must have been used up, wasn’t fined for it. Still sucks big time if you ask me.

  16. We have some cameras up at intersections here in Cleveland. Their stated purpose was to catch red-light runners, but of course they were immediately put to use catching speeders.

    There’s one intersection where you go from a 35mph zone to a 25mph zone less than 100 feet before the intersection, and there are cameras there. A lot of people get nailed for speeding just because they haven’t slowed down from the 35mph zone— my wife and I among them, I’ll admit. Yet the placement is such that if you slow down for the cameras, you risk getting rear-ended by someone not paying attention, or having a less clueful driver speed around you to get through the light, thus causing more of a safety concern. And, furthermore, there’s no real difference between the 35mph road and the 25mph road— it seems to exist solely to create an automated speed trap.

    So yeah, I’m with you. I could see putting up cameras at intersections that are known to be dangerous, and very clearly marking them as such. (We have signs, but they’re not exactly obvious.) Otherwise, the cameras just create more safety concerns than they address.

  17. July 31, 2006 by Alan

    I’m from Hampshire in the UK and recently fell victim to a mobile speed camera (one of the ones in the back of a van sat in a layby). I was caught doing 48mph in a 40mph limit. Despite having a speed gun detector in my car it failed to prevent me from being caught, it went mad when the camera caught me (kinda defeats the purpose of having it i thought).

    I am currently preparing to do my Motorbike test and have had to go through the process of doing a theory test, which i would recommend to all drivers with 10+ yrs experience as a refresher. I wasn’t aware that i had been booked until after i started to prepare for my theory. But in the time between knowing i’d been caught and doing my theory i was aware of so much more about me on the roads which i’d previously took for granted that i knew. I wrote to the Police force that caught me, and told them that i admit to the offence and asked if they could send me on a Speed Awareness Course, which some other Police Forces send speeders on. This is insead of the Fixed Penalty of £60 fine and 3 points on your licence. I told them that i would be better educated in doing the course and it would make sure that i don’t do it again. But instead was given the 3 points and a fine. I guess if drivers were made better drivers then the police would have to fine people for doing other things such as picking their noses when driving. Don’t get me started on the whole driving on the phone thing, which i completely agree with! It’s a new can of worms!!!

    I’m tempted to take the matter to court and try and argue that the conditions were hot and sunny, the road was clear and that the car i was driving would out-brake just about anything should anything happen. I wish they’d take into account the type of car and conditions when issuing these, i know it’s more admin work. But surely a 2005 car is better equiped to deal with a situation over something from the 80’s or 90’s or even some of these antique cars that are on the roads.

    This got me thinking. Wouldn’t it be better to introduce a 3 strike system for “minor offences”.

    1. Letter to inform you you’ve offended. Kinda like a slap on the wrists
    2. Send you on a course to say, if you carry on, this could happen. Maybe a fine too to cover any costs from the course
    3. Fine + Points.
  18. Tell me that. We have a new law effective just recently (1, 2), giving more power to metropolitian police so the result is everyone’s afraid to go even one km faster than the limit is and watching the speedometer and all the drivers are looking around to make sure there’s no (new - metropolitian) speed camera. I was driving in the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, France or Denmark - countries with strict speed rules and tough enforcement and had no problems there, unlikely here at home.

  19. We have these on freeways, intersections, and surface streets. We also have police officers driving around SUV’s, with camera equipment on them and randomly parking in the bushes. What is really frustrating, is that if you are not familiar with the area, the ones who are run you off the road, then brake when appropriate. So everyone speeds anyway, just not where the cameras are. The best way to keep people guessing has been areas where the SUV’s are known to be.

    People still speed anyway: http://www.azcentral.com/community/swvalley/articles/0721swv-speeder0721Z5.html

  20. In Spain we have plenty of those cameras.

    They are there not to save lives nor to make people driving safer but just to make money.

    If you drive on a spanish highway you can expect one of those cameras in straight roads. They only want to catch you at top speed. The more you pay the better.

    They do not care about lives at all.

  21. I would just like to point out a few things:
    - There is actually research done on the subject.
    - The results of using speed cameras are not very hard to measure (and to me at least they seem pretty conclusive).
    - I can’t help but thinking of web development amateurs trying to justify using tables for design when I read this. That is - while there are arguments seemingly based on common sense, they have been proven wrong, irrelevant or insignificant by practical research by professionals.

    Why not read some background information on Vägverkets website

  22. I completely agree with all of the above, Roger. Although speed cameras do prevent speeding in the actual area they’re located (which is about 50 m before and after the camera), they do nothing to prevent speeding (and therefore also accidents) on the road as a whole.

    I live on an island on the west coast of Norway called Karmøy. If I remember correctly, there are 5 speed cameras on a total of 60 km of road. One of those cameras are located in the middle of a downhill — which means you have to break (while looking at your speedometer) in order to not get caught by the camera.

    That’s what I call dangerous.

  23. In California, there are some cameras at intersections, but I had never heard of speeding tickets being given out.

    Great read, thanks for the off-topic post!

  24. I just use my jetpack.

  25. Here in Canada it’s different in each Province as driving and roads are provincially regulated.

    Where I grew up, (British Columbia), there was “Photo Radar” for a long time, then a few years ago one party promised to get rid of it within 6 months of winning an election, and they won so it’s gone. There the units were all mobile so you had to watch for a van at the side of the road, similar to watching for police cruisers.

    In other provinces they have some fixed location cameras and use mobile units quite a lot, but I believe that British Columbia is not the only Speed-Camera-Free zone.

    Red Light cameras are used pretty much everywhere I believe, and I think they’re a great idea - there’s no reason to run a red, (unless I suppose if you do it very carefully to get out of the way of an ambulance).

  26. Of course if individuals took it upon themselves to not actually speed then the government wouldn’t be taking it on themselves to collect revenue from us for doing so. Unfortunately there is a correlation between speed and fatality even if its only one key element - ie alcohol, drugs, youth.

    Statistically one would think an age sensor, one which could detect someone under 25 who is therefore more likely to be in an accident (I’m assuming male), would be in place by now. OK that was just funnin’.

    Seriously Roger we have to take some responsibility for our actions. That being said cameras are scientifically vulnerable in a court of law and several cases have been won against such fines. Also a little trick they use here is if one digit is obscured on your numberplate then they’ll send out ten fines to the likely suspects. Funny thing is they then get more than one person paying it simply from not reading the fine closely. Seriously.

  27. Matt, yes and eating a hot meat pie while driving! And how many people have coffees on their way to work while driving?

    Mobiles are illegal here while driving but thats about it and its policed quite strongly.

  28. Maybe it sounds stupid, why make cars go more than 130Km/h? Nobody will drive a BMW or an Audi, and never mention a Porsche or Ferrari, at that speed.

  29. August 1, 2006 by kungfukenny

    Just to give things a bit of a twist. I was caught on camera doing nearly 50mph through a 30 zone on a decent into a local town …. whilst I was out training on my bike, the camera went off and caught me and four of my mates peddaling like hell past the camera.

    Now, what if ….

    I’m in my car, being a good lad and driving past the camera at 30mph at the same time one of my mates is pedalling past me doing 50, he triggers the camera and I get the speeding ticket, or would the camera be able to work out which object was travelling fastest?

  30. August 1, 2006 by Stephen

    It’s my opinion that the more laws you have, and the more cameras you put up, make the laws less effective then if there had been none there in the first place. I think speed limits aren’t necessary and we should focus more on catching wreckless drivers and those under the influence. That’s far more of a killer than just going fast.

  31. August 1, 2006 by Soup

    I couldn’t politely disagree with your opinion more.

    They’ve been statistically proven at intersections to finish red-light-running, something you alluded to. Now they’re turning to straight roads of highway or otherwise that suffer from insano speed freaks who rarely, by the way, suffer from any of the four points you mentioned would help: camera intersections only, banning phones, nabbing drunks, and teaching people how to drive. Those are rarely present, people speed dangerously anyway.

    We have a road here that’s a 30mph stretch next to long fields and farms. A little girl checking the family’s mail was trucked over at about 9am. The culprit was no cell-phone talking, drunk speedster. He was just going too fast and she stepped out. Cameras prevent crap like that, and it’s proven. TIME just finished an article about stretches of highway with 4000 speed violators dropping to 1000 within the next few days of a camera’s installation.

    This isn’t about more laws. It’s about enforcement, and using technology to properly do it. It’s the middle ground between speed limited cars (a bad idea) and a few policeman roaming the street (the only idea we’ve had).

    Yes, I speed, and I’m no hypocrite. But if it means less road-raged pedestrian killers, I’d be happy to see one anywhere.

  32. August 1, 2006 by DRoss

    Ahh, I remember the old car days - now I’m living in NYC where it’s more of a pain in the ass to have a car…but I see where youre coming from.

    You mentioned they had to indentify the driver…how bout throwing on a ski mask or maybe a wig before you pass the camera by?

  33. Ah yes, the old speed camera debate!

    Sorry, but I have to take the contrary view to most folks here and agree with Soup. Everyone knows there are speed limits, those limits are mandatory (ie. not optional because you’re going downhill or need to overtake that guy doing 5kph below the limit, etc) so if you exceed the limit EXPECT and ACCEPT the consequences. The fact that most of us get away with it most of the time doesn’t change the fact.

    Personally, I don’t have a problem with revenue raising either. If the government can collect money off people who choose to break the law, then that it less in taxes and rates it will get from me!

    We also have random breath testing here for alcohol. Same deal - any time of the day or night, you can be stopped and asked to breath into the machine. Over the limit? Tough luck! Everyone knows the rules.

    Must be getting all conservative and old fashioned in my old age …

  34. Yep, we have them here in Australia. In my state they’re not fixed though - they’re in vans/4WDs that get parked on the side of the road. They aren’t especially creative about placement though, some of them may as well be fixed!

    I don’t think they’re an especially effective deterrent - they just come across as revenue raisers. Getting a photo in the mail lacks the impact of a Police Officer pulling you over, for a start. People just speed on unawares and get mad later when the bill arrives. They don’t get the sense of being wrong, they feel like they’ve been wronged (even though they did break the law).

    The cameras aren’t supposed to be hidden or parked on hills either, but they frequently are. Police have been caught out many times using dodgy tactics to issue fines - it doesn’t help the issue at all!

    From what I can tell the Police are starting to make a bigger effort to visibly patrol and pull people over - for a while the speed cameras seem to be the only speed enforcement out there, which meant there were no officers around to catch reckless drivers and so on.

  35. Steven (Tew): Hey - my family’s from Northamptonshire too mate!! You’re not kidding about the number of cameras in that county - it’s crazy! Far too many…and in daft places where they don’t need them. Sorry to hear about your crash - that’s horrible luck.

    nortypig: Hahahaha…eating pies…yeah - pies too! Really though, driving while smoking is a BIG problem in the UK - as the drivers who are smoking at the same time usually don’t have both (or any!) hands on the steering wheel and are distracted from driving…it’s as much of a problem as any mobile phone use. You’re lucky the unlawful use of mobile phones while driving is enforced where you are…it’s a bit pathetic here and makes a nonsense of having that law altogether.

  36. August 1, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Wow, lots of people have opinions on this :-). I also see that there are some who disagree with me and have no problem with speed cameras. Good for you. My problem with the cameras is not that they prevent me from driving as fast as I like (without being fined or losing my drivers’ license), but rather that they are a waste of tax payers’ money that should be spent on better things (better roads, police cars patrolling the roads, more alcohol screening).

    Each country seems to use cameras in their own special way, so it’s difficult to compare. I can only really speak for the way the cameras work here in Sweden, and my personal experience (with no hard data to back it up) is that I have been closer to having an accident on road sections that have cameras after the cameras were installed than before. People in front braking when they see a camera, people behind me driving much too close, locals knowing exactly which cameras are actually active and which are just dummies, and people hurrying to overtake just after they pass a camera are a few reasons. It is very stressful.

    Again, I’m not against cameras if they are placed where they actually make a difference and people can see that and respect them. Road crossings are one such example. But when they are strategically placed to bring in the most revenue while hiding behind the “speed kills” mantra just annoys me and makes me disrespect the cameras.

    DRoss: Yeah they have to identify the driver, so there actually are people who wear ski masks and speed past the cameras :-D.

    I often flip down the sun shade and hide my face behind it as I’m passing a camera even though I’m not speeding. I don’t trust the cameras to be properly calibrated, so if they are set to the wrong speed at least it will be easier for me to avoid paying a fine for something i didn’t do if they can’t identify me.

  37. Apparently, they do make driving safer:


    I think there are better ways to make driving safer, but your conclusion (that they do not make driving safer) appears to be based on guesswork rather than facts.

  38. August 1, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Yes, my conclusion is based on the fact that I am a much more dangerous driver when there are cameras.

  39. @Alan, how would sending you on a speed awareness course suit their purpose? Not only would they not get your 60 quid, but they’d have to spend money providing the course. Plus, if it worked, they’d be limiting their chances of stinging you for 60 quid in the future. That’s never going to work.

    It’s very simple to deal with speed cameras - just watch the edges of the road for speed limit signs and for cameras, whilst spending the rest of the time glued to the speedometer. If you can cast the odd glance at the road ahead, that’s a bonus.

    Like Roger, I know my driving is worse in speed camera afflicted areas than in those less blighted. I don’t believe this can have a positive effect of safety. I’m also cynical about the siting of many cameras - if they really wanted to get people to slow down to a particular speed at a particular point, why not stick a speed limit sign on the back of the camera?

    I’m also unconvinced by “independent studies” produced by the people responsible for foisting the cameras on us. There’s a good critique of the “35% fewer deaths” red herring at http://www.ex-parrot.com/~pete/notverygoodatstatistics.html

  40. I think in the UK they’re going to be expanding their uses to including catching people with out tax, MOT etc etc.

    I whole-heartedly hate them. I am unlikely to speed in towns and low-speed areas as it’s pointless and the risks far outway how many minutes I might take off my journey. But when they have them on roads with a national speed limit it’s just a joke. You know people will just speed up again after them.

  41. August 1, 2006 by Adam

    Gee - I’m glad I live in the US where the police can’t stop without cause and force you to take a blood alcohol test. I often semi-seriously comment on the police-state we seem to be turning in over here. Maybe we still have a ways to go however …

  42. August 2, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Chris: Thanks for the link about statistics. Very good reading.

    Adam: They don’t force you to take a blood test here unless the breath test is positive.

  43. August 2, 2006 by Mark

    @Alan: how fast do you think you should be allowed to drive in your car? Are you certain you have seen all the hazards? Perhaps the people who set the limits had a reason you don’t know (although, admittedly, probably not!).

    @Dominink: “Here in Germany we have those speed cameras even on the autobahn and it’s really dangerous when the person in front of you brakes because he thinks he’s too fast”.

    No, it’s annoying when that happens. It only becomes really dangerous when you are driving too close.

  44. August 2, 2006 by Alan

    @Chris: You still have to pay the fine plus costs for the course. At the time i wrote this (see below for my views now) i was under the opinion that being more aware of the consequences of driving at speed.

    @Mark: I wasn’t saying that because my car is cable with dealing with greater speeds than most other cars that i should be able to drive at a higher speed. All i was trying to say was that at the speed i was doing, as long as i re-acted to the situation, i know that the car could more than cope with it.

    My views to the whole “speeding” taboo have changed hugely after doing my CBT (Compulsary Basic Training, which is required to be able to ride a motorbike on the roads). It’s not speed that is the biggest danger on the roads, it’s other peoples manner on the roads. Being on the bike and in a enviornment that i’m not used to you pick up on different things and see things on the roads from a different point of view. For example cars pulling out of junctions, bus drivers not paying attention to the road and drifting across the road straight at you, etc. I think the biggest problem is not people exceeding the speed limit, it’s those that drive under it. For example driving to work this morning, i was sat behind a car in a national speed limit on a single carrage way (60mph). There was nothing in front of the car, the road was straight, excellent visibilty yet he was doing 40mph. There was traffic coming the other direction so i was unable to pass. It wasn’t long before the traffic started to build over the 4 mile stretch of road. At that time of the morning, if someone is running late that on car will spot a gap in the on coming traffic and try to overtake. Not only putting themselves at risk, the oncoming traffic, the car they are passing and all the cars following. As they are all queued up not adhearing to the “2 second rule”. Where as if the lead car was sticking to the speed limit all the following traffic will be spaced out better and the chances of some having to take a chance to overtake is greatly reduced.

    This is where my idea of doing a course to educate drivers of their driving and the consequences of their driving style would be benefical to all. I’m not saying that i’m the best driver in the world, which i’m sure a lot of people think they are. I admit that i’ve picked up bad habits, but now that i’m aware of them i’ve made a point of trying to address them.

  45. @Roger: (About the “covering your face protects you from being charged”) I belive that has changed, but I’m not sure. I think they now charge the owner of the car (reg plate) and then it’s up to him/her to demand money from whoever drove the car at the moment.

  46. There’s some more stuff on speed camera stats here . It’s a lot more reasoned than the URL would lead you to expect, btw!

  47. Despite your frustration Roger, it seems they’re here to stay! Apparently they save lives despite all the other problems you listed above. It’s hard to argue with statistics!

  48. August 3, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Jakob: Read the documents Chris Hunt linked to (Not Very Good at Statistics and Speed Camera Policy will result in Speed Cameras ‘causing’ accidents) and find out why it’s very easy to argue with the statistics in the case of speed cameras.

  49. I couldn’t agree more. Everything you said is true and it happens just the same here in Brazil. They won’t place more speed signs, and we even get speed limits down to 50km/h.

    Seems, at least in here, they simply like to collect money from innocent drivers. :/

  50. August 4, 2006 by Martin

    We get speed cameras in Australia. Every night, our nightly news on TV always advertise speed camera locations for the following day, because us Australians don’t like the police service going about being secret about their speed camera locations, hiding in bushes and what-not.

    Anyway, quite a few people smashed some of our multinovas (very expensive camera equipment, which is about a quarter of the cost of an average Australian house!), and some argued that speed cameras aren’t that accurate because sometimes it gave the impression a car was speeding which otherwise isn’t really speeding, and the practice of using speed cameras is probably a simple exercise in raising revenue for the police coffers (coffers is another word for funds) instead of saving lives.

    The end result in the past several years of speed cameras in Australia: they don’t do much improvement in driver safety because I believe changing people’s attitude to driving is more effective than punishing people for speeding.

  51. The problem with speed LIMITS in general is that they’re too er.. generic.

    For instance, the speed limit is 30mph is most suburban areas in the UK. This means that someone can drive past a line of cars, through a housing estate with kids playign nearby thinking to himself “hmm, 30mph - i’m fine”. The SITUATION may warrant a 15 or 20mph speed limit, but then… we as the general public aren’t allowed to think for ourselves are we =)

    At the opposite end of the scale is the maximum speed limit on motorways. 70mph. What a joke.

    I always travel at 90mph on clear roads, as a) i’m comfortable at that speed and b) i’m actually getting somewhere quickly. Cars are a LOT safer nowadays and can stop much quicker. The real danger on motorways is the idiot “look how safe I am” pensioner, tootling along a sliproad and joining the motorway at 35 - 40mph, into ~60+mph traffic.

    I do believe that perhaps 100mph is getting a bit silly however, becuase not many people woudl be able to safely control a car at that speed if anythign bad were to happen. At the moment 100mph (or 30mph over any speed limit) is punishable by a ban. I propose raising the speed limit to 90mph, while retaining the 100mph ban cap. It won’t cause ANY more problems because people already travel at that speed, 70mph is just far too slow on a clear, dry, wide road.

    As for cameras… we currently have a situation on my way to work whereby there are roadworks on the motorway which are a 40mph zone (formally 70mph). Once the roadworks end, there is literally a 1/2 a mile extension to the 40mph limit, with a speed camera at the end of it. Now I ask you, if this is for safety, why isn’t the camera enforcing the 40mph limit throughout the roadworks to protect the workmen, instead of being 1/2 a mile away where by rights the sped limit should be EASILY returned to its 70mph limit.

    And don’t get me started on 50mph limited lorries overtakign one another on the motorway at.. 50mph each.. aaaarg!

  52. August 5, 2006 by Ryan

    I’ll tell you what’s more annoying and dangerous than speed cameras….MORONS on the road who do not respect other drivers! Most of the time they speed, drive right up your ass, overtake dangerously etc

    Get rid of them first and we’ll have much safer roads.

  53. Sorry. I haven’t read the discussion here yet. But still I’ll quote at lenght from an article from Göteborgs-Posten today (Rogers local paper of record) [my translation]:

    Eight kilometers lower average speed and 40 percent lower speed limiit violations with the new speed cameras. - It would not be possible to achieve the same decrease with manual trafic surveillance, says Bengt Karlsson, trafic police chief in Gothenburg.


    For a number of years Vägverket [Sweden’s Traffic Authority, my remark] and The National Police Board have had a pilot scheme with automatical speed cameras at a around fifty road stretches around Sweden. Already they have seen positive effects on the motor traffic in Västra Götaland [Roger’s part of Sweden, my remark].

    - The average speed has decreased and we’ve had no fatal accidents [my emphasis] on the surveyed roads. […]

    You don’t need to overtake another car that’s doing 80-85 in a 90 road. You’re not supposed to go over the limit to overtake another car. If you have to go over the limit to overtake another car there really is no need to overtake the other car.

    But then again, maybe this is why you strive for accessible web sites Roger, you’re really aiming for being a traffic victim in need of accessibility initiatives. (Sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

    I got to words for you Roger: Public Transport.

  54. That’s two not to words.

  55. August 6, 2006 by John Vance

    Re speed cameras. It seems to me like yesterday that a technician said that RADAR speed cameras were not suitable for detecting speeding drivers. They were the target for all kinds of in-accuracies and could not be seen to be very accurate. I am fighting a speeding case which involves a certain state government which does not scientificaly test these cameras. They need to be tested using accredited labs and personel. This is not being done. The operating manuals are being hidden and so are the manufacturers test instructions. Its also rather callous,as in the the licence for these device it states ” these devices must be able to accept interference” In other words the bands used is not interference free.. Rather great, as in some countries mobile phones frequencies run near these frequencies, and if tests for interference is not being carried out, we have a major problem. So if your phone sends out a changed location signal, which it does in the vehicle is moving, the RADAR device can get the wrong reading. It accepts any RF signal if it is overwhelmed. Anyone know about this?

  56. August 6, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Kal: Read the articles about statistics interpretation linked to in previous comments and see why the positive effects Vägverket is reporting would likely be the same even without speed cameras ;-).

    No need to overtake? Is it better to have a huge caravan of cars driving 10 km below the speed limit? Maybe it is, but that sure causes extreme amounts of frustration in many drivers. And even if I were to stay behind that 80 km/h driver (who is likely to stay at that speed no matter what the limit is) there will be others who won’t have that kind of patience.

    Responsible driving can mean temporarily exceeding the speed limit to safely overtake a slower car.

    I’m not looking to be a traffic victim. I am in no way advocating reckless driving, only stating my opinion on the insulting waste of tax payers’ money that speed cameras are and the aggravation and reckless behaviour they cause among drivers.

    Public transport would be useful if it worked well. However, in most parts of Sweden public transport is a joke. An expensive, uncomfortable, time consuming, and dirty (referring to the disgusting interiors of trams, buses, and trains) joke.

  57. Maybe it sounds stupid, why make cars go more than 130Km/h?

    mini-d, where do you think the latest developments in braking technology, traction crontrol, suspension, grip and road-holding come from - you know, to make cars safer? That’s right, it’s developed for the supercars by Porsche, Ferrari, etc, before trickling down to the rest of the cars out there.

  58. Hi Roger. I work for the Highway Safety Research Center at UNC, and I’m afraid the facts do not support your hypothesis of how speed cameras make driving less safe. Here are a few facts about them:

    • In Victoria, Australia, speed photo radar was introduced in late 1989, and police reported that within three months the number of offenders triggering photo radar decreased by 50 percent. Deaths fell 30 percent in 1990 compared with 1989. The percentage of vehicles significantly exceeding the speed limit has decreased from about 20 percent in 1990 to less than 4 percent in 1994. (IIHS, 2003)

    • Research from British Columbia, Canada, shows a 7.4 percent decline in crashes and up to 20 percent fewer deaths the first year speed photo radar was used. The proportion of speeding vehicles declined from 66 percent in 1996 to less than 40 percent today, and researchers also attribute a 10.5 percent decline in daytime injuries to photo radar. (IIHS, 2003)

    • If the United States had implemented the speed control policies of the United Kingdom during the 1990s, and had it not raised speed limits, there would have been, at the minimum, some 6,500 to 10,000 (16-25%) fewer deaths per year. (AJPM Feb. 2006)

    You can find more info at…

    http://www.saferoads.org/issues/fs-speed.htm http://trb.org/news/blurb_detail.asp?id=6596

  59. August 11, 2006 by Roger Johansson (Author comment)

    Zoe: Statistics or not, I can guarantee you that I am a much worse driver on road sections that have speed cameras because they steal all my attention. I also know from talking to people I know that many others feel the same.

    As for statistics, the links provided in previous comments (I repeated them in comment #48) show that there is good reason to question it.

    I will never respect speed cameras until they are only used where they make sense instead of being placed, hidden and camouflaged to leech as much money as possible from motorists.

  60. Roger,

    I don’t know who wrote the information at the links you provided — is he a transportation researcher or statistician? The links you provided question the methodology of certain studies, but I don’t know that this person has any authority to question such methodology, nor do I know whether the methodology he questions, even if it really is problematic, was used in the studies I linked you to. I can’t give you details on those studies because I myself am not a researcher (I’m a web designer) — but I can tell you that IIHS and TTI are very well known and well respected research institutions. Unless you have the authority and knowledge to dispute their research, I think it is unwise to simply assert that speed cameras make driving less safe across the board. Feel free to asser that the specific speed cameras you have encountered have perhaps made you drive worse and definitely annoyed you, but that’s about all you can safely assert.

  61. August 16, 2006 by Erik Gustavsson

    Ok, I confess. I don´t like speed cameras, and I like to drive fast. However, I like to drive fast when it is reasonably safe to do so. I am very cautious (coward) when it comes to overtaking and I try to keep a safe distance to the car in front of me. I simply don´t want to risk anyone else because of my need for speed.

    Traffic cameras are a good way of forcing me becoming a law obiding citizen, since I have no whish receiving an ugly portrait and a fine in my mail. I can see on the roads that many follow my example.

    Traffic cameras does not however stop, what I think are the most dangerous offenders. On the opposite. I think the cameras brings out the worst in some people.

    What I am talking about are the people that shows up in the rear view mirror and gets so close you cannot even make out the mark of the car since they are too close to your rear. Sometimes they flash their headlights when you dont immediately hit the side of the road, sometimes they overtake you right before hill crests or curves where overtaking is forbidden. Almost every day you can read about families being whiped out by some car “driving in the wrong lane by unknown reason”. When the traffic tempo is slowed down, these people get more “opportunities” to behave like that, thus creating more incidents and accidents.

    As for creeping up right behind my rear fender flashing the headlights.. it doesn´t matter how fast I drive.. apparently there are some special permits issued with every BMW, because I can drive at a 140 km/h on a 90 - 110 km/h road and still have to move over rapidly because of a sudden appearance of a often black, often BMW, blinking and slipstreaming in my rear view mirror.

    Unfortunately speed cameras only detect speed..


  62. August 16, 2006 by SlowDown

    I recently had to go on a speed awareness course because I was caught by a camera and originally thought the same as you idiots that cameras are a waste of time - however in England they only put cameras in places where at least 3 people have been killed so they are not just there to make money as it basically costs millions of pounds to scrape people off the road and they get less than half of that in revenue from the cameras. So basically stop bitching - if you have to break because you see a camera you are going to fast and even if it means you slow down for that short space of time you may have just stopped yourself from being another statistic that leads to another camera being put up.

  63. August 17, 2006 by Steven

    Sorry Soup but speed scameras do not work.

    They are purely for revenue raising purposes and nothing more.

    The governments can be a lot more creative in making sure less people are killed on the roads but we must accept that driving is a dangerous activity and people will die. Unless of course we drive at 1mph in bubble wrap cars?

    Red light cameras are proven to increase crashes at red lights and personal injury resulting from those crashes.

    As for the child who got killed, why was she allowed to venture onto a road by herself? It’s a road for gods sake! Trucks are heavy (big mass) and could have killed her even at 30mph.

    Also, if I am drunk, driving on the wrong side of the road and blindfolded, as long as I’m driving under the speed limit I am fine according to the speed cameras. When they get sneaky and hide then there is no doubt they are about revenue.

    Too much reliance on speed cameras is extremely poor policy and is the reason a few countries are moving to get rid of them.

    Inapropriate speed kills not speed per se.

  64. Could not agree more. Here in Belgium we have them everywhere even in places where you are already driving slow, Being fined for driving 50km/hours while you’re coming home at night, driving on an empty 3-lane avenue where you’re not supposed to do more than 40 is just silly. This does not improve anyone’s safety. It’s all about revenue, not safety…

  65. August 22, 2006 by Brian

    …or here is an idea, follow the speed limit by setting your cruise control as you suggested - but give yourself plenty of room in front of your vehicle (3-4 seconds -or more-) so that you can keep from decelerating. Learn to have some patience and remember – driving is a privilege, not a right.

    I have found that by hanging back, taking it easy, enjoying the drive, just relaxing, and respecting other drives. To follow these rules I plan on leaving 10-15 minutes early so I am not in a rush. Remember, planning, just as in project management, is really important if you want a successful drive - I realize this is real hard to learn in this “me first” and “I want it now” world.

    Yes cameras can be annoying, especially if you get caught. The thing I want you to think of next time you get behind someone going 2 mph slower than the speed limit and you can’t pass, or everyone seems to be breaking before and speeding up after a speed camera is - “why am I getting so worked up?” Slow down, take it easy, relax and enjoy the drive!

  66. August 22, 2006 by Brian Krecik

    One final thought, if you really need to get the speed thing out of your system hit a 1/4 mile or circle track where you can speed legally and safely. If you and are close and there are no tracks nearby, hit the autobahn, I hear this is a great experience.

    First and foremost though, remember you are not the only person on the road and that accidents don’t always involve one vehicle. In short, it’s not only your life you are playing with but those around you.

  67. August 23, 2006 by Jonas Geiregat

    I’m from Belgium and must say it’s true I think about half of our cameras are places near intersections. Also only 30% of all cameras are working. So even when you pass a camera way to fast you still have a chance of 70% that you’re not caught. But ofcourse you never know when a camera is on or off. Also I believe static (that is cameras that stay in one place) are wrong, people will know where a camera is placed and will slow down when they come near it. But then ofcourse we also have cameras in cars.

  68. While there are a lot of speed cameras here in Germany, use of cell phones while driving is forbidden.

    I totally agree with you about the uselessness of the cameras on straight roads, and I see exactly the same problems that you mentioned. In fact, many people slow down to about 5 km/h below the speed limit, only to be sure…that’s really annoying.

    Also, I think that repeated driving tests would be a good idea, a least if the driver has reached a certain age. Some of the uber-cautious drivers really can be a danger to other drivers. Like, hitting the brakes on the main street without warning and setting the turn signal (correct english?), if at all, after they have turned…

  69. December 12, 2006 by sahar abd el_ghafour

    no comment

  70. June 21, 2007 by Stan Ratcliffe

    Any one received a notice of intended prosecution based on photo evidence when you know you’ve never been near the place ? Has someone cloned your number plate ?

  71. I come from England and there are a lot of speed camera there. I agree that most people soon learn the location of speed camera and so they don’t really help to limit speed. Also, when you do see a camera you get panicked and could loose concentration on driving. I have an alternative suggestion; in my local go-cart track, when the time is up the staff click a switch and the cars maximum speed dros significantly. The cars are petrol powered and I suppose that the control is done by infrared. It’s probably possible for the authorities to introduce a nationwide system and make it complusory for all cars to be fitted with a transmitter, that literally doesn’t allow the car to go faster than the speed limit. What do you think of this idea??

  72. July 9, 2007 by Guess What

    Ok I’m in the states and when I first heard about these random breath and drug tests in Australia I thought the USA was a police state. I was wrong. Ok everybody is mentioning the same things. Statistics. They can be made to look the way you want them to. Where I live in the western USA speed limits were not a big concern and still aren’t. In fact in Arizona driving to slow in the left (fast lane) you can and will get a ticket for impeding traffic if cars are piling up behind you. The good part is “regardless of speed” Example The limit is 75 mph and somebody is going 80 and cars are piled up behind it. That driver will get a ticket before the speeders will. Why ? because the slow motorist is creating a dangerous situation. Ok you people out there with your” following to close” speech. If you leave enough room somebody will fill the gap. Further slowing traffic as others make room. So now it’s a 20 car pile up instead of a 5 car pile up. That’s human nature and apparently the government is aware of this. (At least our state is) Driving at high speeds across hundreds of miles of open desert at 90mph or more is perfectly normal. All it takes is some moron from back east to go the speed limit and the next thing you know 20 cars are piled up in an accident. The worst part is they are trying to play “cop” and make everyone go the speed limit. The police hate that mindset. The slow person is far more likely to get a ticket than the speeders. So now we have a little suburb that everybody from back east moves to because it’s cheaper than Hollywood or Malibu. Example: They are complaining about the airport noise that was there years BEFORE they moved there. They promptly proceed to make everything the way it is where they just moved away from. i.e Grass Lawns, fountains etc. It’s a desert ! You morons ! So this town full of people from back east decide to put up speed camera’s on a state owned freeway. 8 lanes. The manufacture is based in the same town. So now people are so paranoid about going fast they don’t care that cars are piling up behind them because they are breaking the law by “Impeding traffic”. “Slower traffic keep right” I bet if you asked 1000 people what that means, more than half would not know. So I read the towns stats. What they fail to mention is the number of cars getting rear ended has gone way up. I ask my friend a nurse at a hospital in this town if she’s seen an increase in traffic accidents from people driving on the 101. Yes, mostly neck and back injuries from getting rear ended. Shutup already about following distances. Lets be realistic. If everybody slowed down traffic engineers call it the “ghost effect” traffic will be clogged at locations where people slowed down at for the rest of the day Example 10 miles of the 101 does not have speed cams. They are on an indian reservation. But as soon as they get to Snobsdale the traffic is all backed up from people slowing for the speed cams and that’s where all the rear ending accidents occur. Now the entire freeway is a 25 mph road for the rest of the day. Also there’s been an increase in road rage because people imposing their will on other drivers. (Going slow in the fast lane on purpose) You do get an 11 mph tolerance before mailing your mug shot. So as part of the experiment they disabled the camera’s except ignorant people that don’t read the news don’t know this. So now we have people “going with the flow” in a safe manner. And idiots driving 5 mph under the speed limit in the fast lane. Causing accidents. Speed camera’s don’t call emergency services like a patrolman does. One guy was clocked at 148 MPH in a car with a computer controlled speed limiter for only 120mph Explain that. And where does my driving experience come from? I was a charter motorcoach tour driver for 10 years with over 1 million miles and a perfect safety record. I have seen it all. It’s not speeding nor cell phones. The problem is with idiots that shouldn’t be allowed to drive unless they can they can prove they the have spatial and temporal reasoning to handle a car at freeway speeds. If not, stay on the back roads. I do however have no problem with red light cameras. There’s a big difference between going 95 mph across a empty desert and running a redlight. So at least right now considering the town made $47 million I wouldn’t call that a safety device. It’s a money tree. However many true Arizonians are trying very hard to make speed camera’s illegal. Remember legislators like to drive fast also. I can’t wait until somebody has an epileptic seizure from the photo flash. I feel sorry for that person because I know for myself when I see that flash I jump into “ready” mode. Now you saw the flash, but was the ticket for you? Should you have to worry that maybe the camera got the car next to you. How do you prove it. Talk about anxiety and stress. We have enough of that in our world already. At least with a cop you know right then and there what the problem is. Speed camera’s don’t catch drunk drivers, drug smugglers (or even people smugglers), people with felony warrants etc. It’s only about money, thats all. Our state motto and official bumper sticker “Welcome to Arizona, now go home”

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