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?