Throughout the UK, just over four people are caught speeding every minute – or around 6,000 every day. Avon and Somerset police top the league table, at around 548 a day, the neighbouring force, Wiltshire, are at the very bottom – just 1,191, per year.

Do drivers immediately speed up when they reach Avon and Somerset? Or is there something more to it? Is it the heady thought of a holiday in the south-west that’s causing the problem? How can there be such discrepancy?

Data analysis

Thoughts turn to the oft-used phrase “revenue raising”; lowering the threshold for what constitutes speeding is simple enough, except in this case, Avon and Somerset’s police are adhering to the NPCC (formerly ACPO) guidelines of 10% + 2mph, ie, 30mph would need a minimum of 35mph to trigger an incident of ‘speeding’.
Similarly, Wiltshire hasn’t relaxed the speeding guidelines either.

It’s only by looking into the statistics that we get a clearer picture as to where the disparity may stem from; 100% of the offences in Avon and Somerset were caught by a safety camera, and out of the 1,191 motorists speeding in Wiltshire, 0% were caught by a camera.

While many forces are cutting the use of fixed speed cameras, either through a budgetary deficiency or other means, Avon and Somerset have 96% of their speed cameras active. Only five other forces (that responded to a Freedom of Information request) had the same percentage or higher, and out of those areas, only one force had a greater number of cameras; Nottinghamshire (with just 27,155 offences caught).

RAC Foundation

The study has been carried out by Dr Adam Snow from Liverpool John Moores University for the RAC Foundation, as part of some wider research into speeding offences and how they’re dealt with throughout the nation.

The biggest takeaway from the study is that speeding seems to be on the up, the increased use of speed cameras has had a dramatic effect on numbers caught (Avon and Somerset recorded a 416% increase in detections between the period 2011 – 2018), and that there seems to be no cohesion as to how the offence is dealt with – Derbyshire sent just 1% of speeders on a Speed Awareness Course, Durham topped the list at 60% being offered a SAC.

It’s easy to decry the use of speed cameras, and they do have their flaws, but it could be argued that they’re doing part of a job, of which has all but been made redundant thanks to budget cuts and reprioritisation. Steve Gooding, RAC Foundation director says: “A lot of it will come down to local policing priorities, it’s the job of the police, crime commissioners, and chief constables to target resources appropriately, recognising the issues of local concern”.

It’s worth noting that Avon and Somerset have over 130 active community speed watch schemes running, although being caught through the scheme means a stern warning, rather than penalty points.

The top five

The areas with the most offences detected are:

Avon and Somerset (27 of 28 cameras active)
West Yorkshire (98/396)
Metropolitan Police, inc City of London (figures only for City of London 4/4)
Thames Valley (no figures released)
Greater Manchester (43/177)

It’s no surprise to learn that the areas with the least detection rates have at least two without cameras, although it’s believed to be three.

Wiltshire (no figures released, but press cuttings say cameras deactivated in 2010/11)
Durham (no cameras)
Derbyshire (10/112)
Cleveland (no cameras)
Kent (19/77)

Unfortunately, there is no dataset for road traffic collisions available for Cleveland and Durham, which would give us a good indicator as to just how ‘safe’ safety cameras are, but if road safety campaigners are to be believed, then surely Durham and Cleveland would be an accident hotspot, figuring in national news on a regular basis?

For the record, we aren’t saying that all safety (or speed) cameras are focused in revenue generation, with absolutely no need for them to be there, but it gets back to what is appropriate speed, and until they’re able to distinguish the difference between appropriate speed, and ‘speeding’, then perhaps the discretion of a traffic officer may always be the favoured option.

Crime fighting technology

We’re used to technology playing a bigger part in our lives, be that in an official capacity or for our own personal benefit, and surely it’s only ever going to increase. We often hear of people bemoaning the fact that driving standards seem to be falling, but as sensors get evermore intelligent, they could just be the saviour of driving standards, perhaps even encouraging change on a societal level, but then of course any change would be subject to the cry of ‘Big Brother is watching you’.

Should we rely on technology to aid driving standards? Do you think that technology can be used to improve our journeys? Or are we heading in to the abyss of machine dominance? Let us know in the comments.

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