Stories in last week’s Daily Mail and Sunday Times revealed that the Highways Agency is preparing to flood certain sections of the M1, M6 and M25 with what can only be describes as ‘stealth’ speed cameras that could well be coloured grey (as opposed to the normally bright yellow) in an effort to “control traffic and prevent jams” or, if opponents of the plan are to believed, to extract money from drivers.
Who do we believe? Let’s look at the facts of what’s happening.
It’s all to do with attempt to catch motorists travelling at more than the 70mph speed limit along many of the busier motorway routes (that include the M1, M6 and M25) as a matter of course, rather than just when there are roadworks as is the current norm for safety reasons.
But instead of them being coloured yellow as they are at the moment, they may well be kept at a neutral grey so that they don’t stand out at all against the British skyline – and it is this that leads to opponents of the scheme labelling the efforts a pure money-making exercise in keeping with the schemes of some ‘safety camera partnerships’ that have speed cameras set up in vans parked on bridges above the carriageway.
But Highways Agency officials say that this is an effort to help prevent jams and allow traffic to flow better by using the cameras as part of their plans to control speed limits and open hard shoulders to traffic during busy periods.
We are all guilty at some stage of motorway speeding as a recent Autocar revealed (with 94.6% of motorists polled admitting to it) but critics fail to see how less-visible speed cameras will slow drivers down.
Roger Lawson from the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) who actually want the speed limit INCREASED to 80mph, said: “We are opposed to speed cameras in general. The evidence of their success in promoting safety is not good and in reality what is happening now is that the police are using speed cameras to fund their other activities through speed awareness courses. If these cameras are grey rather than yellow they are going to be harder to spot and so will have no impact in slowing traffic down. If there is a good reason for the traffic to be slowed down then the cameras need to be as visible as possible.”
I don’t think that an increase is likely – it has been considered by politicians but it has gone no further than that – because there are already plans under consideration with regards to a section on the M1 between Derbyshire and South Yorkshire where there are plans to reduce the speed limit to 60mph between the hours of 7am and 7pm to ‘help out air pollution’..
So these new cameras – dubbed Hadsec3 (Highways Agency digital enforcement camera system 3) – are looking to be in force over more than 100 miles of motorway within two years, with more planned later to cover a total of 400 miles of motorway at the end.
A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “These are not stealth cameras - they are more visible that they were before. These motorways are not about speed limits. They are about smoothing the traffic flows and increasing capacity.” And the spokesman then added that: “The onus is on the driver to abide by the speed limit” – which is true. But why change the colour if yellow is pretty visible at the moment and is certainly some sort of deterrent to motorway speeding?
Over the past 3-4 years, some police forces have not used speed cameras as much to catch speeding drivers, allegedly down to the fact that the tickets at the time cost a lot of time (and money) to process. But recent digital technology has not only made it a lot cheaper to process but also easier to install, monitor and collect information.
So is it money-making or safety-keeping? I guess that all depends on which side of the fence you decide to fall on, but the simple fact remains that if drivers did not speed, then they would not be needed.