Speed cameras cull to save drivers £5m

You can almost hear the sound of car horns beeping in celebration. Speed cameras in the West Midlands might be used less than 10 days a month.

You can almost hear the sound of car horns beeping in celebration. Speed cameras in the West Midlands might be used less than 10 days a month.

The result would mean drivers save up to £5 million a year in fines between them.

There is hard economics involved in the plans to cut speed cameras.

Motorists may think they are a cash cow for police forces, bringing in revenue from those caught out.

But the cost of processing the old style wet film, coupled with the even more prohibitive cost of upgrading the West Midlands' 304 camera housings to digital models, means they either barely break even or actually make a loss.

The Government road safety grant has also been cut from £4.5m to £1.8m. Funding for police road checks to catch motorists not wearing seat belts or using mobiles has been cut from £120,000-a-year to £75,000.

Plans to shut off some speed cameras in Staffordshire were approved at Staffordshire County Council's cabinet meeting last night. Staffordshire Safer Roads Partnership, which operates 263 fixed cameras in the county, faces an £800,000 cut in its £2m budget for 2011-2012.

It says any axed camera casings will remain in place to act as a deterrent.

Transport bosses are concerned about the effects of using the cameras less.

In a report John Anderson from the Chief Engineers and Planning Officers Group for the West Midlands, says that speed cameras cut the number of people killed or seriously injured in accidents by up to 40 per cent.

He says: "Over the last 10 years, the West Midlands has made significant progress in reducing the number of road casualties. In 2009 the number of people killed or seriously injured on roads in the Area had fallen to 999 compared with the 1998 total of 2,062.

"Data shows that in the metropolitan area once a safety camera has been installed at a specific location, in the three years after being commissioned it reduces collisions at that location by 30 per cent to 35 per cent.

"The targeted, systematic approach to safety camera installation associated with a range of other measures has significantly contributed to the overall reduction in the area of 436 killed or seriously injured (KSI) people in collisions since 2001.

"This equates to a reduction of around 40 per cent at camera sites or 10 per of all KSI in the region, despite cameras covering less than four per cent of the highway network.

"In the last five years the proportion of people driving at excessive speeds at camera sites has dropped by around 25 per cent, even though the cameras, in many cases, had been in place for over a decade."

But campaigners disagree and say the cameras actually cause more harm than good.

Claire Armstrong, founder of the Safe Speed group, says: "Drivers can be distracted when they see a speed camera and then automatically have to look at their speedometer, rather than keeping their attention focussed on the road."

She says the group advocates the use of light-up signs which only activate when a driver is going too fast. West Midlands Police will not reveal the exact locations of the speed cameras it classes as red, amber, green or dummy because of vandalism.

Almost one in three cameras in the West Midlands is already a dummy, which police say have "no enforcement activity".

In the Black Country, Birmingham, Coventry and Solihull there are 89 cameras which are "effectively housings" with no use. Sandwell has the largest number of dummy sites — 23 out of its 57 cameras.

Walsall has 18 dummies out of 48 while in Dudley it is 15 out of 40, and Wolverhampton has four out of 40 which are in fact dummies. Despite that West Midlands Police still swelled its coffers by £2.4m in 2008 and £2m in 2009 thanks to money made from speeding fines.

Staffordshire raised £1.2m and £1m in the two years while magistrates courts in Staffordshire and the West Midlands each raised £1m in 2007 and 2008.

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