A study by the consumer organisation Which? has claimed that fewer than half of the approximately 3,000 speed cameras currently installed on English and Welsh roads are currently operational.
Detailed analysis of responses provided by police forces following a Freedom of Information request by researchers at Which? found that only three police forces, Cumbria, Sussex and West Mercia, had 100% of their cameras in operation.
Several police forces – Dorset, Hertfordshire, Merseyside, Norfolk and Suffolk – refused to answer, while four areas – Cleveland, Durham, North Yorkshire and Wiltshire – do not currently have fixed speed cameras at all.
The study is published just a month after road safety minister Mike Penning revealed that local road safety partnerships were to be required to make available detailed data regarding the cameras they operate.
A spokesperson for Which? told the Daily Mail: “People probably know that some fixed speed cameras don’t contain film.
“But it may come as a surprise to discover than less than 47 per cent of the fixed speed traps in England and Wales are operational at any one time.
“The figures show that your chances of being caught speeding vary greatly, depending on where you’re driving.”
Shortly after last year’s general election, the new coalition government said that it was ending the so-called ‘War on the Motorist’ and would not provide funding for new cameras, at the same time as slashing 40% from the Road Safety Grant.
Since then, a number of local authorities have decided to switch off a number of cameras they operate or reduce the number of cameras working as they attempt to balance their budgets, including in Oxfordshire where Thames Valley Police is reportedly considering assuming responsibility for the devices.
That in turn has given rise to a heated debate between road safety campaigners on the one hand, who say that the cameras are an essential tool in reducing the level of deaths and injury on Britain’s roads, and opponents of them, who claim that the devices are little more than a means of raising money from motorists, and on whom the point seems lost that if drivers were adhering to the legal speed limit in the first place, they would have little to be worried about.
Katie Shepherd of the road safety charity Brake told the Daily Mail that speed cameras “help to stem the huge cost to the economy of road death and injury.”
However, it appears that most respondents to a survey by Which? did not agree, with only 47% saying that they believed the cameras made the roads safer, while 83% believed that cameras only caused drivers to slow down at specific locations instead of bringing about a change in their general driving behaviour.
In the Which? report, only 12% of the 117 cameras installed in Derbyshire were found to be operational, a similar proportion as was discovered in Gloucestershire, which has just 26 cameras, and neighbouring Thames Valley, which has 238.
The lowest rates of operational cameras were found in the two of the three areas that outside London have the highest number of speed cameras – just 10% of Lancashire’s 287 cameras are working, and 11% of the 263 installed in Staffordshire. In the West Midlands, which at 304 has more cameras than anywhere else apart from the capital, 17% were working.
Just over half – 56% - of the 468 speed cameras in the Metropolitan Police area were working, and in the capital, there are also four cameras in the Square Mile, policed by the City of London force, two of which are currently out of commission.
Details of all police areas appear in a graphic accompanying the Daily Mail report on the Which? report, the newspaper giving the list the title ‘The Speed Trap Postcode Lottery’ just in case anyone was unsure on the newspaper’s line on speed cameras.
Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.