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Traffic wardens turn to calculators, clampers target ambulances

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In fact, all that the council has done is suggest that it makes sense to review whether the £400,000 a year spent on speed cameras represents best value for money. It is intending to report back and take a decision by September.

This, according to Ms Snelgrove, is “playing politics with lives”. Noting the approaching school holidays, she thunders: “By trying to remove the speed cameras in Swindon the council has effectively invited every boy racer in the country to come here.” Given the pace at which local government works, the thought that they might actually make a decision and have the cameras switched off in time for this summer’s holidays seems highly improbable.

In an exemplary piece of no-commentry, Ms Snelgrove’s office ripostes that she has nothing to add – before adding that “people reading the story in the national press will think the cameras are due to disappear tomorrow”.

More fun, as it is revealed that Mr Bluh was himself once banned after an encounter with a speed camera.

Much more serious, though, is the way the camera policy continues to be rammed down the nation’s collective throat without a full debate on the statistical evidence behind it. The great and the good (including the Department of Transport and Ms Snelgrove) all make much of claims that cameras reduce deaths on the roads by about 100 per year.

How mean can you be

Look more closely at the research they cite, and you will notice that this does not take account of selection effects such as “regression to the mean” – although another report (pdf) states that the latter was considered and cameras still had an effect. But presumably not quite as large.

The problem is that cameras are sited in places where the death toll in preceding years exceded some notional guideline. That might be because that spot was intrinsically “unsafe” – or it might be no more than a random fluctuation. This is the "selection effect" the DoT obliquely refer to – and without decent analysis of precisely how it affects figures, precise claims remain dodgy.

Not that this stops the government from making them.

Still, not all is doom and gloom on the motoring front. Lotus has just announced “project eagle” – its first new sports car in more than a decade. The official name will be announced at the British Motor Show next week. It seats four, has a top speed of 160mph and can go from 0-60mph in less than five seconds. If you happen to have a spare £60,000 or so to spend, you should put your name down now to buy one next year. ®

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