Has Britain given up on speed cameras?

A newspaper discovers that almost half of Britain's speed cameras have been turned off, many permanently. Is this the end for a technology that has always been viewed with suspicion?

ITN News Screenshot: Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Britain has always led the world in the most important things. Like humor and diffidence.

However, evidence emerging from the land of a very long-lasting monarch is that the nation's grandees may have given up on speed cameras.

A survey by the Sun (yes, yes, I know) suggests that almost half of all the speed cameras in the green and pleasant land have been turned off. The figures, indeed, are startling. In the London area, 565 out of 754 cameras are apparently shuttered. And in the West Midlands, 250 out of 326.

The cause of this bizarre enlightenment is reportedly a cut in government subsidy. One police force, in leafy Avon and Somerset, turned all of its speed cameras off last year and speed-related accidents reportedly fell by 31 percent.

This trend seems to be burgeoning all over the world. Arizona declared that it would turn off all its highway speed cameras in 2010.

It's not merely that the cameras seem to have dubious efficacy. It's that too many people began to realize that the technology was begin manipulated by local authorities simply to make money.

Indeed, the Telegraph reported that Britain's cameras caught 600,000 people in 2000. The Brits must have invested in faster cars and recklessness by 2007, as 1.8 million people were nabbed in that year.

The U.K. policeman (now retired) originally responsible for introducing the cameras, Roger Reynolds, told the Telegraph: "When you put a camera in, the number of speeders always reduces. Suddenly there's no money coming in, so they drop the trigger speed from 38mph to 35mph to pay the bills. What good did that do but alienate the public?"

Many of the cameras that still appear to be operating are, indeed, dummies. They use a basic form of Doppler radar that merely triggers the flash. These cost a mere tenth of the real thing.

Before drivers begin to celebrate something that might seem like a step toward sanity, they surely have to know that more technology is on its way to offer further torture.

Siemens, for example, has had great fun creating average speed cameras called SafeZone. These talk to each other via 3G and make you understand that you are being tracked for a longer distance. While SafeZone has been very successful in a trial around a school, one wonders how long it will be before local councils think it a bounteous money-spinner.

I mention this because the Siemens site happens to helpfully mention this: "SafeZone innovative camera technology means the systems can be installed at significantly lower cost than fixed camera systems."

Another development that might also lead to municipal income is the tire camera. This, as Auto Express reported, is a very simple scanner built into the road. Yes, it helpfully checks your tire tread. If it is below the legal limits, you get a bill.

Ingenuity is endless, isn't it?

 

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