Did speed cameras make our roads safer?

Driving instructor Ian Humphrey, a member of RoSPA and BRAKE road safety groups, next to the speed camera in Pytchley Road

Driving instructor Ian Humphrey, a member of RoSPA and BRAKE road safety groups, next to the speed camera in Pytchley Road

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Is it time to switch our speed cameras back on?

Northamptonshire’s bright yellow cameras, which split opinion among motorists, were turned off in April 2011 when the county council axed the Casualty Reduction Partnership after the Government withdrew its road safety grant.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage.

Councillor Andre Gonzalez De Savage.

However, 2012 saw 36 deaths on Northamptonshire’s roads, including five in five days over the Christmas period, and almost double the figure of 19 deaths in 2011.

That ended a five-year trend which had seen continual decline in the number of road deaths. Fatalities had fallen every year since 2006, when 74 people died.

Northamptonshire Police and Northamptonshire County Council say their initial investigations show last year’s accidents were not linked by any common trend but some of those living near speed cameras say the roads have become more dangerous since cameras were switched off.

Derek Whitehouse has lived in New Road, Geddington, for 25 years. His home is just yards from one of the village’s speed cameras.

40mph signs

40mph signs

He said: “One of the biggest things I’ve noticed is how difficult it is to get out of my driveway. I have to reverse out, and when the cameras were making people slow down to 30mph then other drivers were a lot more likely to let you pull out.

“Since the cameras were turned off I might have to wait until 50 cars have gone past before there’s a gap.

“I would suggest that some drivers who know the cameras aren’t working are taking advantage of the situation.”

Barbara Alderman has lived in Geddington since the 1940s, near the speed camera located at the village’s northern entrance.

She said she has not noticed any changes in the behaviour of motorists since the cameras were turned off last year, but does credit their installation with reducing accidents.

She added: “There used to be quite a lot of accidents near the Queen Eleanor turn, but not many of them were serious.

“But since the cameras were put in 15 or 20 years ago I can only think of a few accidents.

“I think the cameras did a good job though. People used to joke when they were first put in that if you missed one of them you got caught by the other.”

Shirley and Peter French have lived in Great Harrowden, close to their village’s 40mph speed camera, for 20 years.

Mr French said he has seen cars zip along the A509 past his home well above the 40mph limit since the switch-off.

He added: “I think it’s worse than ever.

“At peak time if I’m trying to get out of the driveway I can sometimes sit there for five or 10 minutes waiting for a gap.”

However, Mrs French said the fact that some cars exceed the limit by so much sometimes, ironically, means there are bigger gaps in the traffic.

She added: “There used to be an accident by the crossroads in the village about once a month before the camera was installed and there were only a few after the camera was put in.”

Kettering driving instructor Ian Humphrey is the treasurer of the Northamptonshire branch of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents as well as being involved with road safety charity Brake.

He said speed cameras did a good job and the fact that some counties have them switched off and others are still operating is confusing for motorists.

He added: “Some counties have even covered them up, at least the ones in Northamptonshire are still visible so they can act as a deterrent.”

County councillor Andre Gonzalez de Savage said: “Road safety officers investigate every accident to look for causes and emerging themes.”

The county council said despite last year’s spike, the figure of 36 deaths on the roads was the fifth lowest since record keeping began 50 years ago.

Northamptonshire Police and Crime Commissioner Adam Simmonds said: “I hear what people are saying about speed cameras and about road safety.

“But cameras are not the only answer. We also have to help people drive better.

“It is the responsibility of the driver.”

Historic highs

Despite last year’s spike in road deaths, the figures are far lower than those recorded in the 1970s and 1980s.

The county saw an average of 90 deaths a year on the roads in the 70s, and 85 a year in the 80s.

The highest tally recorded in any one year was 1989, when 108 people died in fatal accidents.

Since the turn of the century, 2006 was the year which saw the most fatal accidents as 74 people died.

FATAL FOUR

Police in Northamptonshire will be hitting the roads to catch drivers not wearing their seatbelts during the coming month, the force says.

Failing to belt-up is one of the four most common causes of fatal accidents.

The other three, according to police, are driving under the influence of drink or drugs, using a mobile phone at the wheel and speeding.

Officers have been focusing on different elements of the Fatal Four at different times of the year, such as over Christmas when they concentrated on drink driving.

As well as stopping and dealing with motorists who are breaking the law, police say they will also be trying to simply raise awareness of the real risks involved in not wearing a seatbelt while driving.

Both drivers and passengers are expected to wear a seatbelt while travelling on roads in the UK.

Anyone caught not wearing one can be issued with a £60 on-the-spot fine.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire Police said: “Someone not wearing a seatbelt involved in a collision is more likely to die than someone who is wearing one.

“That is why it is vitally important that all people travelling in vehicles spend just a few seconds belting up before every journey.”

Sgt Jon Hodgson, from Northamptonshire Police’s road safety team, said the message was simple.

He added: “The Fatal Four theme for January is seatbelts.

“Get it on! It only takes a second.”

FESTIVE CRACKDOWN

Northamptonshire Police arrested more than 80 people for drink driving over the festive period, the force has revealed.

A total of 84 people were arrested up until Christmas Eve.

Officers were also on the roads over the New Year’s Eve period, but the figures for arrests over that weekend have not yet been released by the police.

A spokesman for the police said the focus this year was on reminding drivers that they can still be over the legal limit the morning after an evening of heavy drinking.

They were also concentrating on younger motorists aged between 17 and 24, who in previous years have made up between about a quarter and a third of all those found to be over the limit.

The figure represents a slight drop on last year’s total of 117 arrests, although that number includes the New Year period.

A Northamptonshire Police spokesman said: “Officers carry out breath tests throughout the year as part of our Fatal Four campaign, not just at Christmas, and at all times of the day and night.

“Any amount of alcohol can impair your driving, even if you are below the legal limit, so we would advise people to abstain from drinking alcohol completely if they intend to get behind the wheel.”

In 2011 police made a concerted effort to crack down on drink driving over the festive period and they breath tested more than 2,500 people, which resulted in 117 arrests.