Speed cameras reduce the number of fatal and serious collisions in the areas they are installed by more than a quarter, a study has found.The RAC Foundation studied 551 fixed cameras in nine areas of England and found that such incidents dropped by 27% after speed cameras were put in place.
But the research also found that at 21 camera sites the number of collisions appeared to have increased. The foundation has written to 11 local authorities to find out why and to suggest they examine whether the cameras should be moved.
Prof Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said that a report it published in 2010 found that without speed cameras there would be about 800 more people killed or seriously injured each year.
Speed cameras on a highway in the UK
He told the BBC: "Safety cameras are contentious. People dispute whether they work.
"But in fact the general public as a whole like them because they want these roads to be made safer. If cameras were turned off overnight there would be something like 80 people killed extra a year and 800 people killed or seriously injured. So the evidence is very good that on average they do work, they are effective."
The study looked at data from speed cameras in Cambridge and Peterborough, Leicestershire, Lincolnshire, Merseyside, South Yorkshire, Staffordshire, Sussex, Warwickshire and the Thames valley.
So do speed cameras work?
"Yes, they do, is the short answer," says Robert Gifford, executive director of the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety. "A four-year evaluation of their effectiveness concluded that 100 lives were saved every year."
The same study concluded that there was a 40% reduction in the number of deaths and injuries on roads with speed cameras.
There are around 6,000 speed cameras on UK roads, including mobile cameras. Claire Armstrong, who runs Safe Speed, a group that campaigns for more road safety but fewer speed cameras, claims that studies which show their efficacy are "politically biased". "They are a huge distraction," she says. "If you are concentrating on cameras, you are not concentrating on the road." She believes that measures such as more safety-awareness campaigns and advanced driving tests would be more effective, and that as the number of speed cameras increases, there is no evidence of a commensurate reduction in the number of road deaths.
Gifford contradicts her. Road deaths, he says, fell below 3,000 for the first time last year and speed is a contributing factor in one in three road deaths. If you go back 10 years ago, "70% of drivers driving in free-flow traffic broke the 30mph speed limit. Now it's 49%. There has been a big decrease in the deaths of pedestrians, and that is partly due to cameras in urban areas.
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