Friday, 11 May 2007

Caught at Speed - the Public & Safety Cameras

Today I step away from politics, though I noticed that 'The Daily Telegraph' a newspaper I am hardly a fan of had the headline 'The End of New Labour' and it appears they agree with my diagnosis that it has been the personal party of Tony Blair that has been in power in the UK for the past ten years, not something broader or more firmly established.

Today I am turning to speed cameras or safety cameras as they seem to have been rebranded. They were invented in the 1950s using film and have grown in use in the UK since the 1980s especially with the introduction of digital ones in the following decade. They are used for various purposes to catch people jumping traffic lights that are on red or driving down lanes reserved for buses as well as photographing people who are breaking the speed limit. The UK is one of the most monitored countries in the world in terms of cameras and CCTV (Closed-Circuit Television) but I have no problem with the ones that catch people making traffic violations. I drive 60 miles (96Km) and stick to the speed limits. In the UK the highest speed you can drive on a public road is 70mph (112kph) but daily I see people driving at 90-110mph. The stopping distance at 70mph is the length of 24 cars, but most drivers leave just room for 2 cars stopping distance. Even at 30mph it is the length of 6 cars, double what it is at 20mph. On average locations where there are speed cameras serious injury and fatalities are reduced by 22%-40%, the fact that it is not more is due to the fact that many drivers are not even paying attention to the road, are still on hand-held mobile phones despite the increased penalties or expect pedestrians simply to get out of their way.

You would think that the bulk of the population would have no problem with speed cameras, but you are wrong. They are the source of constant complaint in public and even radio DJs complain about them constantly, portraying them as a form of tax or a way for the police or local authorities to raise money. There have been attacks on speed cameras with people setting light to them or trying to blow them up. Speed cameras are not a toll on our roads, if you stick to the speed limits you will not get caught by them; you will not have to pay a fine. The same applies to traffic light and bus lane cameras; they help keep you the driver alive as well as people around you. They are there for a purpose. It might be a big business to supply these cameras, I accept that, but they would raise no revenue if everyone drove by the rules.

The main complainers about speed cameras are men (and some women) who drive large and fast cars and feel that they are outside the law. Why should they have one set of rules and the rest of us another? Why should they be permitted to put the lives of people at risk just so that they can show off their wealth and status. Even if they do not care about their own lives they need to be made to care about those who have no ability to choose in these situations - the general public and the passengers in the cars these maniacs are driving. Many of those who oppose speed cameras stand very strongly on law enforcement. They want longer prison sentences, they want the death penalty, but for their own personal offences they want no restrictions. If they support the removal of speed cameras, should they not also support the removal of CCTV from shops so that people can have the 'right' to freely shop lift? Should they not also support the removal of cameras from cash point machines so that people can have the 'right' to commit card fraud?

Why is the freedom to drive fast and to kill different from the freedom to commit other crimes which society has decided should be stopped? We do not live in primeval times, we live in a society which these people profess to support; they need to learn that that means taking responsibility and not being driven by childish urges. If they grew up and took their responsibilities seriously there would be no need for any speed cameras at all because everyone would be complying with the laws of the road not trying to subvert them.

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