Don’t rush to ditch cameras – lives may depend upon them

Speed cameras. Don’t you just hate them?

I drove to Conwy recently and while playing I Spy with the little ’uns it occurred to me that the obvious pick should be the horrible grey and yellow stumps dotted along the roadside.

I thought we had it bad enough round here but you would be forgiven for thinking that North Wales was the boy racer capital of the world given the amount of cameras they’ve got.

Now before you ask, my licence is clean at the moment – but only just. The three points I picked up for doing 46 miles per hour on that very short 40mph bit of the A50 have only recently expired.

Yep. Six miles an hour. I wasn’t best pleased. It’s hardly like any pedestrians cross that bit of the A50, is it?

I hated the stigma of having points and I wasn’t too chuffed with the fine, either.

I confess, like a lot of motorists, I’ve enjoyed the guilty pleasure of a good chuckle when hearing of vigilantes spraying paint on the lenses of speed cameras or covering them with black bin bags.

Thus you might think I’d have been pleased when I read yesterday that the powers-that-be in Staffordshire were considering removing some speed cameras. You would be wrong.

I understand full well why people living in Sprink Bank Road, Chell Heath – and many other communities – want to keep the devices that have been installed near their homes.

On July 21, 1990, I was returning to my friend’s house after a night out in Hanley.

As I crossed Norton Lane a car sped round the corner and clipped me just as I was about to set foot on the pavement. It threw me 15 feet and I suffered two broken legs. The driver eventually braked, stopped to have a look, and then drove off into the night.

The police accident investigator estimated the vehicle in question had been doing between 50 and 60mph in a 30 zone.

I counted myself very lucky and, when the driver was never caught, I took the view that what comes around, goes around.

Speed cameras may not have prevented me from being hit that night but they may have persuaded the idiot who ran me over to slow down on a blind bend.

They may not be a silver bullet, but they are surely part of the solution to the problem of speeding which still claims the lives of hundreds of pedestrians each year in the UK.

You see, I’ve never really bought the idea that the cameras are just a licence to print money.

It may feel like that sometimes but, let’s be honest, the Government has umpteen ways of taxing us to death and while these cameras may represent a nice little earner I don’t believe that’s their raison d’être.

The truth is that anyone who gets behind the wheel of a car (or any other vehicle, for that matter) has his or her foibles and momentary lapses.

Granted, some people are just terrible, ignorant and downright dangerous drivers who should be taken off the roads.

But the rest of us – and I mean ALL of us – regularly forget that we are in control of a machine capable of snuffing out lives in a heartbeat.

Some of us just day-dream along well-travelled routes, driving by memory as the miles pass – oblivious to new hazards and near-misses.

Before we know it, we’ve reached our destination… we just can’t remember how we got there.

Others eat, read, make telephone calls, send text messages, shave or apply make-up – all while attempting to drive a hunk of metal weighing several tonnes.

We are all as guilty as one another and these occurrences are so commonplace that few of us bat an eyelid.

It’s breathtakingly stupid behaviour and, if our children did it, we’d tear strips off them.

So, speed cameras might be a pain in the backside but, as far as I’m concerned, the more reminders we have to drive sensibly – the more things that drag us back to reality and force us to focus on the task in hand – the better.

No, I’ve done too many ‘death knocks’, as we say in the trade, at the homes of families who have lost people in road accidents to dismiss speed cameras as just revenue-raisers.

The problem is that it is nigh on impossible to prove that any given device has saved lives.

We just have to accept that, by their very nature, they really do.

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