There are now thousands of speed cameras across the UK, and Birmingham and the West Midlands seems to have more than their fair share of them.
Most of the cameras are of the Gatso type shown here which flash from behind so as not to dazzle motorists. To an observer they would appear to be strategically placed around the city for maximum revenue purposes rather than for safety reasons.
How many people do you know that have a speeding fine? If you are reading this then the chances are you already have one - or more. The government are keen to tell us that speeding camera saves lives. However, many are skeptical of this statement citing numerous reasons why they are actually a danger. Others see them as purely another stealth tax on motorists.
The main objections against cameras seem to be:
- They are perceived as being used purely for revenue purposes
- They cause motorists to be more alert to cameras and speed signs than the obvious dangers of pedestrians and other vehicles
- They encourage motorists to brake sharply when they see them late and have even been the cause of accidents as a result.
- They penalise the legal road users and not those driving without MOT, tax and insurance who the cameras never find and who are untraceable to the cameras. In fact they may encourage road users to not register their vehicles on the road.
There are large numbers of UK citizens with points on their license as a result of these cameras. Many are law abiding motorists who have driven safely for years with no speeding points or prior convictions.
So prolific are these cameras that it is estimated that over a million motorists are just 3 points away from a driving ban. Many insurance companies now ignore speeding points and premiums remain the same for many drivers despite having 6 points or more on their license.
A large number of motorists accept responsibility for speeding and have no objections if caught in the traditonal way by a police officer or squad car. Their objections appear deep routed in the way in which speed cameras have been introduced and used on our highways.
For example, can it be right to approach an underpass in bright sunlight, miss the sign that instructs you to change from 40 mph to 30 mph, and be zapped by a speed camera which is bolted to the tunnel exit wall?
Is it right that the speed cameras can suddenly be installed in areas which were previously 40 mph limits, reducing them to 30 mph and placing a strategically discreet camera to maximise the revenue from speeding fines?
The very nature of these cameras make it possible for a new installation to catch an unwary motorist more than once, resulting in multiple tickets in a very short space of time.
According to one website, the West Midlands SCAMeras this county is one of the worst areas for speed cameras in the whole of the UK.
Motorists in Birmingham are also not able to benefit from the Speed Awareness Courses which can prevent running up points on the license quickly.
There is some good news. Depending on where you live, your chances of picking up a fine can vary. The cameras on busy roads have a capacity of around 400 photos before they need new film which means many are empty when they flash you.
In some parts of the UK only 1 in 9 cameras have film in them at any given time. Sadly, in the West Midlands this does not seem to be the case. A high ratio of them work very efficiently.
The unpopular Gatso cameras have now become the target of angry motorists. In several incidents around the UK, including the West Midlands, speeding cameras have been attacked. In some cases they have been uprooted and smashed. The new tactic seems to be to set them alight.
With each camera costing around £25,000 and with over 4000 of them installed on British roads, this could turn out to be expensive for the authorities.
There are of course people that love them. Generally pedestrians and bicycle riders. There are even instances of the Gatso being copied by householders and placed near a road on private land to slow down traffic.