In recent months, discussions regarding speeding and road safety have been gathering momentum.
On the back of the government’s budget cuts to traffic funding, solutions surrounding how to police the UKs roads have been bandied about with increasing frequency. While no obvious solution, that is both logical and economically feasible, has been achieved, the only conclusion to be drawn is that opinion remains split.
More speed cameras
A recent survey by Brake has indicated that the majority of drivers would support a reduction in speed limits throughout the country, and the same survey also showed that the best way to encourage adherence to speed limits is through higher levels of enforcement in the form of speed cameras and a more overt police presence.
Out of 942 drivers surveyed 92% wanted 20 mph speed limits around schools. 60% wanted 20 mph speed limits around homes, and 56% wanted 20 mph speed limits around all areas with lots of people on foot and bicycles.
Despite the ethical intentions of the driving public however, 36% admitted to doing 35 mph and over in a 30 mph zone at least once a week, while 20% admitted to breaking the 60 mph limit on rural roads at least once a week.
The findings fall in line with a recent academic study that also showed that drivers did intend - and in fact want - to drive according to speed limits, yet still found themselves speeding; which according to Brake, highlights the importance of enforcement.
However, recent government action has shown a willingness to do away with the most popular form of speed management; the speed camera.
Speed cameras are notoriously expensive to maintain and install, and on the back of recent cuts they have been deemed too expensive to keep. Swindon local council turned off its speed cameras on 31 July while Greater Manchester looks set to lose some of its 254 speed cameras.
The Brake survey has shown that public opinion generally favours speed cameras. A similar survey by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) also showed that 70% of people approve of safety cameras.
Less speed cameras, less accidents?
In light of both public opinion and the results of private research, it is obvious that speed is a complex issue on UK roads. It has been indicated that road users both support speed limits, yet actively flout them and the government is actively looking to reduce road traffic accidents while at the same time is cutting transport funding.
To complicate matters further, figures for the period of September-April in Swindon have contradicted logical belief and shown a reduction in road traffic accidents and fatalities in Swindon, since the switch-off.
Peter Greenhalgh, a local councillor in Swindon with responsibility for transport said: “I think our decision has been vindicated because here in Swindon we have seen a slight fall in the number of accidents.
“We have been able to invest the money we were spending on cameras in other physical road safety measures such as vehicle-activated warning signs."
Brake on the other hand have said that the figures provided for Swindon are based on too small a period of time, and are therefore not indicative of whether speed cameras do or do not work.
Yet, based on the findings by Brake, public opinion and the figures from Swindon, the answer need not lie simply in speed cameras. As Greenhalgh indicated, money saved on speed cameras can be spent elsewhere.
There are irrefutable dangers caused by speeding, yet it’s policing is so much more complex. Whether the answer lies in speed cameras, or alternative policing measures, the only certainty that remains is that the debate is set to rage for a while yet.