Don't blame the budget cuts

We recently released some research about speed cameras. Since then, there has been a lot of discussion in the media of the cost and effectiveness of speed cameras.  Oxfordshire County Council has chosen to cut funding to the Thames Valley safety camera partnership and there has been the one year anniversary of Swindon’s decision to axe speed cameras.

In the last few weeks it has been striking how quickly councils have moved to reassess the effectiveness of cameras. Oxfordshire County council ducked the issue and said that they were merely passing on cuts imposed by central government. But, although the road safety grant has been cut – from £95 million to £57 million – it is entirely down to local authorities how they use the money they receive.

It is very interesting that when difficult decisions have to be made because of essential cuts in budgets, local authorities have been looking to axe camera partnerships, which for two decades have been the sacred cow of road safety policy.

Our research shows that the shift in road safety policy towards focussing overwhelmingly on enforcing speed limits and punishing motorists using speed cameras has done little to improve safety on the roads. Cutting budgets will hopefully prompt local authorities to think again and ensure that enforcing speed limits is just one component of a more balanced policy. Many have argued that the decision to cut cameras will ultimately result in higher road casualties. However Swindon’s experience shows that abolishing cameras does not lead to higher road accidents and broadening road safety policy beyond the obsession with enforcing speed limits is a good thing for road safety. 

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