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Nearly 200,000 motorists caught, prompting complaints of Big Brother encroachment

Nearly 200,000 motorists have been fined a total of £8m in the past year after being caught by Smart cars fitted with CCTV cameras, according to a new report.

The report, from campaign group Big Brother Watch, says that more than 50 CCTV Smart cars are patrolling 31 council areas and raised the equivalent of £322,789 last year for each town hall that uses them.

The cars are used to film motorists who use bus lanes or who are judged to be driving without due care and attention.

Councils argue that the vehicles are helping to cut number of accidents, but motoring organisations have protested that they amount to a creep of "Big Brother" monitoring.

The 25 councils that released data said they raised a total of £8,069,715 from 188,000 motorists between April 2009 and March 2010.

Dylan Sharpe, Campaign Director of Big Brother Watch, said, “The CCTV Smart car represents a very dangerous escalation in Britain's surveillance society. The vehicles are sent out to catch people and make money, with road safety only an afterthought. £8 million is an eye-watering amount to take in fines in just 25 councils. It is surely only a matter of time before more councils start using these cars. The Coalition Government must act now and prevent that from happening.”

Lifelong lover of most things cycling-related, from Moulton Mini adventures in the 70s to London bike messengering in the 80s, commuting in the 90s, mountain biking in the noughties and road cycling throughout. Editor of Simpson Magazine (www.simpsonmagazine.cc). 

24 comments

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mrchrispy [454 posts] 6 years ago
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Its a fundamental human right to use the phone whilst nipping down the bus lane in your car, the councils are just harvesting cash from the honest motorist.

This is ridiculous, drivers should be free to break the law without the risk of prosecution.

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 6 years ago
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I agree, this is ridiculous. It is just the thin end of the wedge. Drivers will end up having to obey the law all of the time!

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bowler [2 posts] 6 years ago
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Raise the fine... 10x
Could well pay the national debt this way.
Fed up with motorists...
Quadruple the raised fine for those talking/holding a mobile phone.
mind you as with all Government fines what percent were actually paid?

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 6 years ago
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On my commute by motorbike to work yesterday I saw three people talking in cellphones while driving. One drew alongside me at the lights so I immediately started revving up my motorbike. He looked a little cross that his important call was being disturbed and closed his window.

I do wonder why more people aren't caught. I've no sympathy for all the whiners moaning about having to pay fines for dangerous driving behaviour they know they're not supposed to do.

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badbunny [71 posts] 6 years ago
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People who complain about infringements of human rights, are generally the people that think the law does not apply to them. As the standard of driving in the UK gets worse (on my 20 mins journey to work I see at least 1 idiot flouting the law) this is a method which we (the collective 'we') could employ to reduce cars. People need to understand that driving is a priviledge and not a right.

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handlebarcam [653 posts] 6 years ago
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I hope Big Brother Watch is likewise campaigning against other terrible infringements on people's privacy, such as: air traffic control (shamelessly monitoring pilots with their evil radar technology), gun legislation (requiring licenses before people can purchase harmless shotguns) and local authority hygiene inspectors (performing surveillance in the form of unannounced visits to restaurant owners, and fining them for innocently pursuing their hobby of cockroach breading.)

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handlebarcam [653 posts] 6 years ago
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Hmmm, clicking that link to Big Brother Watch, I notice their web site uses an awful lot of cookies, for a privacy advocacy group. But then doing a WHOIS lookup on their domain, it is owned by the Tax Payers' Alliance, so perhaps privacy isn't their only agenda.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

cockroach breading

that conjures up some nasty images. scampi anyone?  4

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Recumbenteer [166 posts] 6 years ago
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mrchrispy wrote:

Its a fundamental human right to use the phone whilst nipping down the bus lane in your car, the councils are just harvesting cash from the honest motorist.

This is ridiculous, drivers should be free to break the law without the risk of prosecution.

Sadly, that would appear to sum-up the typical Daily Fail reader!

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Simon E [2725 posts] 6 years ago
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We wouldn't need speed cameras, speed humps, myriad signs, red paint and street furniture (not to mention less work for traffic wardens, A&E staff, police, fire crews, funeral directors, bereavement counsellors etc etc) if drivers simply FOLLOWED THE RULES!

Why is this so difficult for so many people? I manage it when I drive my car or ride my bike, but I'm not particularly gifted (though I'd be pleased if someone who knew me said I was  3 ).

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graham [17 posts] 6 years ago
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How does a camera car parked on the side of a road filming people help to reduce accidents? It doesn't. Any more than a 'Safety Scamera Partnership' van does. These are easy option revenue-generating measures which only work on against law-abiding motorists. Islington Council know this - Hackney and Dalston in particular have a high level of unregistered, incorrectly registered, untaxed, and uninsured vehicles on the roads, being driven by unlicensed drivers. What's being done about that? They have some Smart cars taking pictures of them! It's pathetic.

Stop faffing about and put some police on the beat. Stop those infringing, detain them for an hour or two. Issue on the spot penalties - failure or inability to pay should see immediate confiscation of goods or the relevant vehicle, to be returned on payment of the fine.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

These are easy option revenue-generating measures which only work on against law-abiding motorists

If they're law-abiding, how come they're getting fined?  39

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graham [17 posts] 6 years ago
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C'mon Dave - you know I'm talking about those who buy their cars, tax, insure & MoT them. I'm not saying they didn't break the law, commit an infringement, or whatever! If a driver does something illegal, then they should be reprimanded, punished, fined... Whatever is appropriate.

Putting people in charge of rectifying this means that bad driving - and cycling - receives direct attention. And those who shouldn't be there in the first place are also caught.

Let's get some perspective. Fining motorists and charging exorbitant amounts of tax because someone wants to own a car is what is keeping this country going.

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cat1commuter [1421 posts] 6 years ago
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dave_atkinson wrote:
Quote:

These are easy option revenue-generating measures which only work on against law-abiding motorists

If they're law-abiding, how come they're getting fined?  39

Touché!

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ChelmsfordStorey [4 posts] 6 years ago
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To be honest I am aggravated by the majority of posts on this article. I entirely agree that those talking on their mobile phones should be fined and extensively but the sad fact is these smart cars do not do this. They don't film a driver using a mobile phone they film a driver parked with there back wheel on a double yellow line because their car would not quite fit in to the parking space or a driver who has their vehicles wheels on a zigzag line near a crossing because there is a a que of traffic... Fines are generally £50 a time and I can assure you I am a law abiding citizen (or would like to think I do my best). These enforcement officers will film anything if they believe they may be able to make a quick buck from it. It is a stealth tax and does not cut accidents down in the slightest. For the people who have posted messages on this article stating that the fine should be x10 and those who are the so called 'law abiding' individuals, I do hope you receive a letter in the post soon from Swindon so you also experience how unjust the system really is.

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handlebarcam [653 posts] 6 years ago
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Anything that makes drivers more aware of their car's dimensions is fine by me. Anyone careless enough to park with their wheels where they shouldn't be is likely to be careless enough to pass a cyclist without giving enough room. And if it is "stealth tax" then great. Antisocial behaviour - and since the smoking ban driving a car has become the most antisocial thing a person can legally do - should be taxed.

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ChelmsfordStorey [4 posts] 6 years ago
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Maybe they should fine cyclists then who can not cycle in a straight line? I have seen plenty of dangerous cyclists on the roads and why are you assuming drivers are not aware of the dimensions of their cars? Maybe cyclists are not aware of the dimensions of their bicycles! Everybody makes small mistakes (drivers and Cyclists included) and it does not mean that warrants a £50 immediate fine.

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handlebarcam [653 posts] 6 years ago
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Bicycles haven't significantly changed in dimensions in over a century. Cars grow wider and wider with each new model. I've been passed dangerously by too many huge 4x4s to count. Either they are all psychopaths or, more likely, they learnt to drive in something like an old Mini, and don't fully appreciate the fact that something like a Range Rover is a couple of feet wider. They are also almost a foot wider than the original Range Rover, which was considered a large vehicle in its time, and much rarer on the roads than the latest version is today. Even "compact" cars like, say, the Ford Fiesta, have grown about 15 centimeters over the last 10-20 years. You know what else has grown over that time period? Complaints from drivers about cyclists "taking up space on our roads", either because they think they "can not cycle in a straight line" or just because they are there at all, and not paying "road tax." Oh yes, and inconsiderate parking and driving of the kind that presumably precipitated the need for councils to act, and raise fines to a level where they will cause the drivers to think - 50 quid seems about right.

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dave atkinson [6223 posts] 6 years ago
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cyclists are acutely aware of the dimensions of their vehicle, chelmsford. We get that wrong and we can end up dead. hbc is right, and the other thing that has improved immeasurably in cars is the safety of the occupants, to the point where you can pretty much drive with impunity around town without worrying about personal injury. most drivers don't take the opportunity, but many do.

by the by, cyclists aren't required to cycle in a straight line: the poor state of the roads means they have to dodge obstacles that could cause them injury, and they're susceptible to side winds. the highway code acknowledges this and is explicit in its instructions to drivers:

Quote:

Give cyclists plenty of room. They may need to move out suddenly, especially in windy weather and on bad road surfaces. Potholes and cracks often occur near the side of the road and are a big obstacle for cyclists, who have to go round them.

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ChelmsfordStorey [4 posts] 6 years ago
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You guys are missing the point of this article all together. We could have a discussion about good/bad drivers/cyclists all day and it's pointless. I have seen terrible drivers in my time and entirely agree with the quote above. My comment about cyclists riding in a straight line was tongue in cheek but my point is you can get bad cyclists the same as you can get bad drivers.

handlebarcam - I would agree with you that 50 quid seems about right but £50 is the discounted amount if you pay within 21 days of the notice being served. The full amount of the fines are generally £100. If a driver has a good reason to appeal and their representation is rejected by the council (which it generally is even if you have a valid argument) wouldn't you be put off of taking it further to an adjudicator knowing that if you are still not successful your fine rises to £100? It's a deterrent & most will just pay even if they have a valid reason for stopping somewhere such as a medical reason or breaking down.

I take care when passing cyclists and have never hit a cyclist but I have personally had 6 fines through smart cars over the past year for things that are immaterial to road safety. I drive 25,000 miles per year and have never had an accident in the 7 years I have been driving. So HBC if you really think having 1 inch of your car tyre on a double yellow line really makes a driver incompetent then I am surprised you are still brave enough to cycle.

I agree road safety is paramount for drivers and cyclists but smart car cameras are not improving this and if all drivers are that bad surely adding another 50 cars with drivers using cameras at the same time as driving is not helping cyclists!? Drivers are distracted looking out for cameras and the smart cars, searching for their next pot of commission, are not concentrating on what is important either... cyclists! Therefore you have another 50 drivers not paying attention to cyclists and distracting other drivers who should also be doing the same.

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cactuscat [284 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

I have personally had 6 fines through smart cars over the past year

Personally, I'd have stopped doing the naughty things after the first fine and saved myself £250. But hey, that's just me. If your tyre is 1" over the line and then you get fined, and then you park with your tyre over the line *again*, then yes: you're incompetent.

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ChelmsfordStorey [4 posts] 6 years ago
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Then it's obviously too dangerous to cycle on the roads. I'll stick with my safe car driving with incompetence and you can brave it on your bike. Good luck.

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cactuscat [284 posts] 6 years ago
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Quote:

Then it's obviously too dangerous to cycle on the roads

only because of incompetent drivers, not for any other reason.

Don't get fined again, now.

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handlebarcam [653 posts] 6 years ago
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It always amazes me how many motorists expect cyclists to have sympathy for them - for how much they have to pay in fuel costs, fines, depreciation, or because another cyclist you have nothing to do with slightly held them up, or almost scratched their car's paintwork - and are "aggravated" if you offer a dissenting opinion. Then, when you tell them about one tiny fraction of all the shit we have to put up with on a daily basis, they dismiss you, and your opinions, as mad, because your chosen form of transport is "dangerous." Not just online, or at work. I've had people come up to me in supermarkets, to have a moan, just because I am wearing a helmet!