Camera hysteria

Russia is in the grip of its hottest summer for a thousand years, according to an over-hyped presenter on The World at One. Whatever happened to objectivity? The obsession the BBC has with global warming has led to near panic, and the same will follow the timely decline in speed cameras. Chief police officers, notably Lord Blair former head of the Metropolitan Police, are already predicting casualties. They will be followed by smug assertions that the gloomsters were right and we are all doomed.

The BBC, full of itself as ever, was quick to follow up the camera switch-off in Oxfordshire. “Figures seen by the BBC,” it trilled, “show that motorists are speeding,” the wicked things. The Association of British Drivers, a calm voice in the midst of the approaching frenzy, urges caution on Speed Camera ‘Switch-Off’ Hysteria: “Journalists and the public should be wary of being misled by claims of ‘success’ by the road safety industry.” Their figures routinely and deliberately ignore the huge strides made in vehicle safety design, better roads and improved emergency care, which could be responsible for the majority if not all casualty reductions. This is demonstrated by similar success in countries where the obsession with speed does not exist. They also ignore other factors such as ‘Regression to the Mean’ - a well established statistical trend that accounts for most of the ‘benefit illusion’ wrongly attributed to speed cameras. The ABD points out, “There is simply no hard evidence of any positive results from speed cameras.”

By way of support it quotes EuroNCAP, which shows that a car with 5 star safety is 60 per cent less likely to cause injury. The Department for Transport knows the facts of the matter perfectly well. In Appendix H of its Four-Year Speed Camera Evaluation Report is a calculation that attributes three-fifths of casualty reduction at camera sites to ‘Regression to the Mean’ and only one-fifth to cameras. The headline claim of a 42% casualty reduction at camera sites is therefore completely misleading and has been withdrawn but don’t imagine that some campaigner won’t repeat it.

Another DfT report showed that 384 of the 1793 camera sites studied showed an increase in casualties after cameras were set up and dozens more showed no decrease at all. The ABD carefully publishes its sources to back up its information. The witless World at One woman keeps asking interviewees “Aren’t you worried … “ about a) b) or c) to which the hapless people can’t reply no I am not worried about road casualties or whatever. But there you are, they’ll go on trying to push their anti-speed agenda because they belong to the dirigiste bullying Roundhead Left, the Guardianista that believes, like Nanny, that it knows what is good for us.

The AA was set up a hundred years ago to counter anti-speeding hubris. It developed nicely with breakdown services and pillboxes but now plays little part in countering the persecution of drivers by out-of-control police.