back to article DfT denies deliberately misleading on speed cam stats

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 …


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  1. Adam Foxton

    That's almost a shame

    I like the idea of Red Light Cameras. Traffic lights are a requirement for a properly flowing traffic system (in most urban areas, anyway). Catching people who jump them is a good thing- you need the confidence to know that a green light means "unless there's an ambulance/police car/fire engine, it's safe to proceed". Several times (Easily into double figures) in the last couple of years I've been driving past my local Tesco at night and someone's shot through a red light (comfortably under the speed limit, I might add), forcing me to emergency-stop or swerve to avoid them.

    On the other hand, people who are speeding on that road mostly seem to stop for red lights... as do the indicator-less Audi and BMW drivers and the chavved-up Corsas.

    Speed cameras are, for the most part, just a cash cow though. Down with this sort of thing!

    1. The BigYin


      Traffic light cameras get a big thumbs up from me. I'd also like to see yellow-box cameras.

      Both connect to frickin' lasers! >;-(

      1. Tom 35

        Red light money makers

        They were going to put a bunch of red light cameras in Toronto, but the contract was cancelled. The contract required the city to shorten the yellow lights so more people would get caught, but Ontario would not change the law that set the minimum length of yellow lights. It was not about safety, it was about making money.

        Google "short yellow"

        In theory red light cameras should be fine, as Red is Red, it's not like a speed limit that is dependent on road conditions and NIMBI efforts to shift traffic onto a different street... A road posted at 80 is safe at 100 on a sunny day with light traffic, but suicide at 80 in a snow storm but you don't get hit by a camera for that. But as soon as they game the system with short yellow lights they are worse then nothing when people stand on the brake to avoid getting hit with a big fine and points.

    2. ChrisC Silver badge

      No no no

      "you need the confidence to know that a green light means "unless there's an ambulance/police car/fire engine, it's safe to proceed""

      Absolutely not. Short of raising a whacking great barrier across the stop line whenever the light turns red, there is no way to prevent someone driving through a red light. Cameras can only ever persuade people not to do it, they can't physically reach out and prevent someone from crossing that line if they're simply not arsed about being caught on camera (stolen car, cloned plates, unlicenced driver etc.) or if they've failed to spot the red light.

      Do as the Highway Code tells you to, and treat all green lights as an indication that you may proceed IF the road ahead is clear, regardless of whether or not the lights are being "enforced" by a camera. Hell, you've already pointed out the need to keep an eye out for emergency service vehicles, so you know that seeing a green light can never guarantee you a safe route through the junction. Get into the habit of checking the junction is clear every time, rather than assuming it to be in the absence of any blues and twos, and you won't need to rely on other road users obeying the cameras/noticing the red lights.

  2. Dick Emery
    Big Brother

    One day...

    ...all vehicles will have a chip inside and a signal that is sent to restrict the speed in whatever zone you are driving. It will also monitor you for deviant behavior and automagically call the pigs if you are caught using a mobile, eating, drinking or fiddling with your gearstick in an inappropriate manner whilst at the wheel.

    1. Christoph

      Deviant behaviour

      It will also monitor for children in the car, and then check whether you are licensed to be in the presence of children.

    2. The BigYin

      It's almost here

      If you have a fairly new license plate, it will have an RFID chip. EVSC/ISA is mooted and Galileo is up there to do the tracking. You pretty much get this with charge-as-you-drive anyway (which is almost certainly on the way - making drivers pay at least 4 times for the roads).

  3. Funkster

    Anti-tailgaiting cameras?

    Sounds good to me, just disable the speed trigger and I wouldn't mind those at all.

    1. The BigYin

      You already have two of those

      Eye-ball mark one. Simply slow down and the the prat go past (assuming it's safe to slow down of course).

  4. Ken Hagan Gold badge

    Even after the correction...

    ...the figures presumably suggest a ~20% reduction in these kinds of accident.

    That means the folks who have just switched them off have just taken an action that will increase the accident rate by 20% (or so). Are the electricity savings greater than the legal slush fund the authorities will need to set aside to pay off ambulance chasers?

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge

      How so?

      Given that, from year to year, you can get that much of a change in accident rates through mere chance, it's not a very reliable metric. There is no real comparison, except to say that accident rates at the place where the camera was placed dropped by an amount that is actually within the bounds of statistical error. You can have a 100% change in accident rates on a particular stretch of road from year to year without changing anything, so any claim made for a camera would have to be very, very thoroughly researched and evidenced. So far that hasn't been the case, and what evidence has been presented is usually found lacking on closer examination. As in, they claim one figure and then later claim another.

      What about all the places where cameras haven't been placed?

      What about accidents that happen just out of the range of the camera?

      And what about all the accidents that happen within the bounds of the speed limit? Despite the propaganda the problem isn't speed, it's lack of awareness and distraction caused by too much street furniture - including speed cameras. Bad driving, in other words, to which speed merely adds a little more energy. The number of accidents I've seen happen just before passing a camera are too many to list (and, yes, anecdotal - but they were all caused by people who were, up to that point, driving safely though a little over the proscribed speed, suddenly hitting the brakes in order to avoid getting flashed by the camera with the inevitable result of a rear-end collision).

      Speed can increase the damage caused by an accident but speed, by itself, doesn't kill. You can be killed by someone driving at 20 if they hit you right.

  5. MinionZero
    Big Brother

    Another day and yet another step towards a more Orwellian world... :(

    @"a new generation of speed camera that is supposedly capable of detecting up to 10 kinds of traffic offences."

    Yet another day society acts like the ever more boiled frog which just keeps getting hotter, but still fails to notice. :(

    With these speed cameras detecting more crimes, its going to get that we will become fearful of even just sneezing. How long before we have automated copcam #635712 detects driver of vehicle reg ####### with eyes closed for 0.315 seconds whilst sneezing ... 3 points and an automated fine added to licence.

    And then how long before automated copcam #1824612 detects Jaywalker on grass ... name ######### address ############# fine posted automatically.

    Sorry Orwell too few listened to you in time to stop it all :(

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Orwell wasn't warning about the use of technology

      He was warning about the abuse of power.

      Perhaps Godwin's law should have an "Orwell" corollary...

      1. MinionZero

        Enough of this ...

        @Anonymous Coward: you are playing a straw man argument, by trying to misrepresent a split between power and abuse of technology when there is none. The Narcissistic control freaks in society are the people who seek to abuse technology to give themselves ever more power to control others, which is exactly what Orwell warned about.

        Furthermore, this whole infuriating Godwin's Law style stupid anti-Nazi word attitude of denigrate anyone who dares to highlight growing fascist attitudes in society is greatly helping to make matters worse. We need to highlight fascist attitudes if we are to stop them.

        Therefore based on your comments and general attitude, I am forced to conclude that your real intention is that you are one of the people who want such a controlled Orwellian world and so you seek to ridicule me, which is itself yet another straw man argument, by attacking the person and not attacking and overturning the facts about what they say because you cannot other than to attempt straw man argument ridicule.

        (p.s. I have learned Narcissistic people love straw man arguments because its all part of their attitude of gaining an advantage over people with deceitful lies. Which just adds to your profile, leading me to conclude that you do indeed want such a controlled Orwellian world, which is the real intention behind your failed attempts to ridicule me).

        1. blackworx

          Re: Enough of this

          "Furthermore, this whole infuriating Godwin's Law style stupid anti-Nazi word attitude of denigrate anyone who dares to highlight growing fascist attitudes in society is greatly helping to make matters worse. We need to highlight fascist attitudes if we are to stop them."

          ...wheras talking about a hellish future where people are persecuted by yet-to-be-invented technology as if it were fait accompli helps immensely.

          Dude, people hear rants like that and they *switch off*.

        2. Anonymous Coward


          Good luck building up that profile of user "Anonymous Coward".

      2. blackworx
        Thumb Up

        "Perhaps Godwin's law should have an "Orwell" corollary"


        Most sensible thing I've read around here for weeks

      3. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

        Re: Orwell wasn't warning about the use of technology

        Yes indeed. Because contrary to popular belief, not everything in the world ever is 'Orwellian'.

  6. Steve Crook

    Keep school cameras

    Red light cameras should stay. Most speed cameras could go except in areas where the speed limit is 30 or less. Schools still need the protection. Particularly from some of the daft manoeuvres performed by parents dropping off their little prince or princess...

    1. DaveyDaveDave

      What about low-speed daft manoeuvres?

      How will a speed camera (or even a fancy-schmancy Swiss super camera) detect a 'daft manoeuvre' made by a parent? In my experience any road, anywhere near a school at the start or end of the day is a complete standstill, so speed cameras would be even more useless than normal.

      And I disagree about red light cameras as well - with red light cameras, if there's an ambulance at the back of a queue of cars stopped at a red light, nobody can do anything - if they dare to cross the line, they'll instantly get a ticket, and have no way of arguing the case.

      I've never come close to a near miss at a set of traffic lights - not to say that it's not a problem, but, as we all know, green doesn't mean go, it means 'go if the way is clear'.

    2. Maverick
      Thumb Down

      and just what %

      of these 'safety cameras' are there outside schools?

      I'd guess it won't make much change when rounding to nearest 1/10th of a percent *

      * a motoring organisation I was a member of a few years ago did this survey - we found 3 over several weeks of searching that were outside schools, dunno what the present figure will be though in the reported 3500 fixed cameras we now have - not many more I suspect

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      You're making the assumption that speed cameras are only effective where the limit is 30mph or less. This is complete crap. Do minimal research and you will find that many speed cameras in built up areas are not effective. You seem to be suffering from the tabloid disease of "please think of the children"-itis.

      Speed cameras are at their most effective where it would be impractical other road safety measures. Where the limit is higher such things as chicanes and speed bumps are not practical. There are plenty of spots where speeds of say, 60mph are safe but much more becomes dangerous. This is particularly the case on roads where forward visibility is compromised. Consider a priority junction after a blind curve or crest where emerging traffic would have time to see a vehicle coming into view at 60mph, but a car coming into view at 80mph would not only leave the emerging driver no time to react but would leave itself with no time to brake. The recent story on satnavs shows that drivers will ignore a road closed sign so warning signs on a hidden junction will have no effect. In this case road realingment to "unhide" the junction may not be financial practical, indeed the people who complain about speed cameras would no doubt be among the first to complain if an LA spent a couple of million quid realigning a road in such a situation.

      If speed cameras do make money (open to debate) it would make most sense if the revenue from every speed camera were banked and saved until there was enough money in the kitty to pay for improvements that would make the camera obsolete. The way I see it cameras are only a stopgap solution.

      There is something very, very wrong with a camera that is still pulling in lots of money years after it was installed.

  7. Christoph

    Problem with the red light cameras

    If you flash someone going through a red light, the person coming the other way and turning right is looking nearly directly towards the flash gun and is now stuck in the middle of the junction with almost no vision at all.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Or more to the point no. The flash is far too fast and low in intensity to dazzle anybody. And that's assuming unfiltered flash which is becoming less common.

  8. max allan

    Looks like I was wrong

    After the last speed camera article I posted along the lines of "the technology isn't up to making a camera that could catch offences / dangerous driving I see regularly". It seems I was wrong and this could be the future.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Down

    "One Third"

    Wasn't it the DfT who gave us the "One Third" quote used by police in their crusade against speeding for the last 20 years, despite the fact that the DfT's own data shows this statement to be untrue?

    I have no doubt that the speeding stats that are published bear no relation to the *actual* stats.

  10. Graham Marsden

    "which was made publicly available at the time"

    On display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying "Beware of the Leopard"?

    (Mine's the one with the Towel and the Electronic Thumb!)

  11. Anonymous Coward

    What's The Figure?

    You say that their figure is wrong (and they accept that it is), but you don't say what the correct figure is.

    Could it be that you don't want to acknowledge that cameras nevertheless do actually have an effect on the accident rate?

    (As Ken says, presumably around 20% reduction.)

    1. Jane Fae

      Straw man argument

      The automatic corrollary to saying that the figure published is not the right figure is not that the "right" figure is the pubished figure less the number just owned up to.

      The actual state of play is that the DfT had evidence that said: at speed cam sites, the reduction in KSI after putting a speed cam in place is x%. The amount of reduction definitely NOT attributable to the speed cam is y%. Therefore the amount of reduction that MAY be attributable to the speed cam is (x-y)%.

      Not IS, but MAY. However, i am also aware of work that challenges any claim that the true reduction in KSI is (x-y)%. So it is fair to say that the oft-quoted figure is wrong: not fair to say that we now know that the real figure is whatever is left.

      As someone with a healthy respect for stats, this bothers me, because it feels very much like the DfT has cut the ground from under its feet. If they had come clean in the first place, then people would be far more likely now to buy into the reduced figure. As it is, they are in the position of saying: sure, we knew our figures were misleading, but we published them anyway...

      Likelihood of people having great confidence in what is out there now? Not great would be my guess.

      The irony is that places like Oxfordshire DO appear to have done some of the regression to the mean studies needed...whereas some other partnerships (Devon and Cornwall spring to mind) haven't. Yet, on the basis of what is quoted by officials, it is next to impossible now to separate out junk stats from decent peer-reviewed and critiqued invetigations.

      That is a breeding ground for junk stats from all sides, making a total nonsense of the debate. But it could have been all different: if the DfT in the first place had taken note of the various critiques made of their work, done a longer-term study using independent academics considering each of the methodological criticisms made - and maybe also published a gold standard methodology for assessing the utility of speed cams...well, not everyone would have bought into that, but a lot more would.

      So if you ask me what the real story is here? A well-intentioned government department getting its comeuppance for being too superior, too economic with the truth - even if that was done at some point for the best possible motives.


  12. Richard Porter

    If the DfT's figures are correct

    we can expect a 72.4% increase in KSI accidents at camera sites in Oxfordshire. Somehow I doubt that this will be the case.

  13. Neil Barnes Silver badge

    ONS: Deaths on Great Britain's roads at all time low

    Not living there, I can't comment on average conditions - but given the predilection of the LAs in Oxfordshire to appoint seemingly random speed limits on trunk roads, it's looking difficult to argue that they're there as anything other than a fine generator.

    That's not an argument I'd normally agree with, but trunk roads with speed limits that can change every couple of miles to anywhere between 40 and 70 (on the DCs) doesn't make for a comfortable driving experience.

    Why, you'd almost think they were trying to discourage driving!

    If the aim of speed cameras is to save lives, would it perhaps not be more efficient to go for the easy targets first?

    Vehicle related deaths (2006) 5.4/100k population, 2,946 total in 2007

    Alcohol related deaths (2008) 13.6/100k population.

    Smoking related deaths - not listed by the ONS, but estimated by the NHS as ~80,000 per year

    Ban smoking and enforce it, and save twenty times the lives that are lost in vehicle accidents... but that might make people live longer, and cost more, and pay less tax... hmm.

    1. lpopman

      titular thingy

      hehe, nice try.

      Those figures are from different time periods, thus can't really be used to get any meaningful statistic.

      It would be interesting to see the union of the sets of figures from the same time period, and see which of the vehicle related deaths also fall under alcohol related deaths.

      Oh, and as for smoking, smokers only kill themselves. The "passive smoking" effect has been minimized with the ban in work places, so is a non issue.

      Where's the ODFO icon when you need it?

  14. JeffyPooh

    Paying attention is the key to road safety...

    Therefore, these system should present, for example, math quiz problems on an electronic sign. Something like "SQRT(16)=? FLASH HIGH BEAM LIGHTS". The unblinking eye would watch for the correct answer, and send a ticket to anyone that fails the test.

  15. Mark 110

    The only thing wrong . .

    The only thing wrong with speed cameras is that they aren't covert. No point to them as long as everyone knows where they are.

    What I would really like to see though is a camera that catches people not using their indicators. That annoys me the most. Its almost impossible to cross the road these days as some numpty who isn't sinalling will suddenly turn towards you at 30 miles an hour.

  16. John Smith 19 Gold badge
    Thumb Up

    TVSRP still saying it saves > 40% of read deaths.

    Lost £600k of their funding.

    BTW Neil Barnes point is right. Smoking is roughly 121/100K of the population per year. At least 8.9x that of Alcohol and 22x that of cars. However it has taken the UK a *long* time to get here in terms of road deaths.

  17. Cheshire Cat

    I should have patented...

    I invented a design for a anti-tailgating camera system (based on speed sensors and inter-vehicle time delay) several years ago as a curiosity, and never did anything more about it. Probably should have patented it...

    Shame noone can invent a 'stupid idiot camera' though, it would be constantly busy on the roads out here

    1. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: I should have patented...

      "Shame noone can invent a 'stupid idiot camera'......"

      Oh, I dunno, an ordinary digital camera and a bit of OCR to pick out the letters "B", "M" and "W" on the back of the car should do that for you.

      Off to the patent office now.....

      1. ChrisC Silver badge

        Bit out of date... my experience, your OCR setup would be better off looking for the letters "A", "U", "D" and "I". If you could also tweak it to recognise estate agent names/logos (particularly if located anywhere on the bodywork of a BMW Mini, and *especially* if the name in question sounded like a unit of measurement for the mass of a small wild animal), that'd be pretty useful too.

  18. Gritzwally Philbin

    Cameras are *lazy*..

    What's wrong with having real honest to goodness *humans* watching out for traffic lunacy near schools? It was a common enough sight in the town I grew up in through the 70's. They weren't even real police - just traffic minders that *volunteered* (that means FREE) to keep an eye on the roads near the school. Some even got the crossing guard jobs, though those ladies were a bit psycho and lived to make the lives of every 10 year old miserable..

  19. Chris Donald

    Great for the UK

    Get shot of Autonanny the tax collector. About time too.

    Lazy policing with little to commend it.

    The Swiss must be incredibly blase or foolish to allow themselves to be policed in such a horrible, automatic fashion. Big thumbs down from me.

    You could be banned in seconds with crap like that. I sincerely hope they all vote out the entire thing.

  20. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

    Assumption about the future

    I note comments assuming that future traffic control will consist of spy cameras and bugged cars monitoring the behaviour of miserable oppressed drivers.

    I think that in the future, the cars will drive themselves, and you can read a book, watch TV, work on a laptop - well, these things will probably be replaced as well - and ride facing backwards, for safety. Any video display, including a monitor view of where you're going, will probably also be adjusted to avoid motion sickness.

    If you didn't have to spend many hours and hundreds of pounds on learning to drive, would you do it?

    However, I also expect a long gap between robot cars becoming standard, and not requiring a trained driver.

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Speed camera driving

    In my experience speed cameras have actually had a detrimental effect on driver behaviour. At one time most drivers observed the speed limit. Now, it seems, most do not unless there is a speed camera there. I doubt that the bad driving habit will be reversed by the removing of cameras.

  22. andy gibson

    Cut out the "preventing accidents" tag line

    and just say that speed cameras are there to catch dicks who can't or won't drive at the speed limit.

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