Speed cameras might be on their way out. Whilst many motorists breathe a sigh of relief, ‘safety campaigners’ have been angered by moves by the Government to cut spending on road safety and withdraw funding for new and existing speed cameras.
The ‘safety camera’, since its introduction in 1999, is purported to be a ‘life-saver’. The police, having carefully stipulated their objectives regarding the success of speed cameras, and how they have been met under their evaluation criteria, are speaking out on the government cuts. Sir Ian Blair (now ennobled) claimed that speed cameras are proven to cut road deaths, and thus we should be in favour of them, and Britain’s current most senior traffic policeman, Mick Giannasi, commented: "If nothing is put in place, speeds will rise and casualties will grow." Even if true, both suggests that the end always justifies the means. On that argument, you would bring back the death penalty.
In fact, the removal of speed cameras in Swindon has done nothing but see the number of accidents stay exactly the same. On the other hand, the number of people killed or injured at sites where speed cameras are placed has decreased by 67% in Devon. However, whether or not speed cameras do slow people down at particular sites, measuring speed at just one instant in time, does not put the rest of their driving under duress. It also means they are not looking at the road, at other vehicles – the speed camera becomes the greater threat. Indeed, they penalize people who might, for an instant, exceed the speed limit because they have their eyes on the road rather than the speedometer.
Coercion is what funds the policing project that brings in just under £100 million per annum for the Government. The free-market economist Walter Block blames the 40,000-a-year deaths on U.S. roads on the nationalization of infrastructure, expounding that proximate causes are blamed, and then attempts are made to deal with them, when the ultimate cause is bad management on the part of the government. A privatized road would see money from any safety measures implemented (and, who knows, they might be far more effective than the camera – perhaps then we would have something to compare it to!) put back into maintaining the road and road safety.