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DfT denies deliberately misleading on speed cam stats

As Swiss prepare for new supercams

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The Department for Transport last week denied deliberately misleading the public by exaggerating claims of the beneficial effects of speed cams.

This follows an exclusive report in The Register, revealing that the DfT now accepts that its claim that speed cams on average lead to a reduction of 42 per cent in the Killed and Serious Injury (KSI) category on the roads may have "unwittingly" misled the public.

Although the headline reduction in KSI at speed cam locations reported in a 2005 study was 42 per cent, a review by academic experts in the field of transport statistics showed that more than half of this effect was not due to speed cams, but to other completely unrelated factors.

Despite this and the fact that the DfT’s own report included the academic critique, the figure almost always quoted in official publications was 42 per cent. When we first raised this issue two years ago, the official line was that this was the "correct" figure – and the department would not budge from that assertion.

Last week, all that changed, as a spokeswoman told us: "This was basically an oversight and it will be corrected."

So why had the figure not been corrected before? She added: "The alternative views were always available in the report, which was made publicly available at the time."

She also categorically denied any link between the government’s apparent U-turn on speed cam policy and the DfT’s desire to reduce the headline figure.

Meanwhile, events are moving fast as at a meeting last Tuesday Oxford County councillors slashed funding to the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership (TVSRP) by £600,000 following a reduction in cash from central government.

TVSRP responded by stating that this effectively meant the end of the speed camera experiment in Oxford, and according to official sources the body has spent the last week gradually winding down the service. As of yesterday (1 August), the county’s 72 fixed speed cameras, seven red-light cameras and 89 mobile cameras are no longer snapping at passing motorists.

This follows similar action in Swindon last year – but while Swindon merely switched off a handful of fixed cameras, the Oxford action is much further up the scale. A spokesman for TVSRP told The Register that it had concerns about the safety effects of this decision, citing long-term research by TVSRP that appeared to suggest a 36 per cent reduction in KSI within the county as a result of speed cams, even taking into account regression to the mean effects.

As some British motorists celebrate their new-found liberation from automated policing, inhabitants of the Swiss city of Geneva may soon be complaining about a new generation of speed camera that is supposedly capable of detecting up to 10 kinds of traffic offences.

According to Le Matin, quoting a story in local newspaper Le Matin Dimanche, the cameras will initially focus on conventional matters such as speeding and red light offences. They will go into service at the end of August.

However, they are also capable of picking up motorists who tailgate, fail to give way to pedestrians or to traffic on the right, and those who overtake in a dangerous manner. These capabilities will gradually be enabled in a pilot run by the Swiss Police.

Unlike current cameras, which can monitor only two lanes, the new super camera can allegedly watch four lanes at a time, following up to 22 vehicles simultaneously over a distance of 500 metres.

Following initial testing results, Jean-Marc Pecorini, head of Geneva canton's traffic police, told the newspaper: "We are very satisfied with the equipment."

The new Trafistar SR590 radar system is built by Zurich-based, Multanova. ®

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