Tag Archive | "Gatso"

Twenty Years Of Guilt

That’s how we were made to feel. It is as if by the very act of driving we were committing a crime and it’s almost as if, on that fateful day on the A316 in Surrey when the first Gatso speed camera was switched on, it signalled the start of what many see as the surveillance society.

That’s right: it’s been twenty years since the introduction of the yellow peril and its associated brethren. They are, of course, properly called safety cameras or similar pious names but in the mind of motorists everywhere they will always be speed cameras and be seen as being nothing short of automated revenue collectors.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. That first camera was in a 40mph zone and was, in fact, set to record offenders doing more than 60. In short, it gave drivers a sporting chance. The general attitude was that most drivers had a bit of common sense and understood that speed limits were there I’m in my driver’s seat at local track events competing or attending performance adult school keeping up to date on the advancements of car handling techniques. for a reason; the camera served as a reminder. The purpose of the device was to capture the worst offenders at a notorious traffic black spot. Now of course you can be prosecuted at will and the authorities will apply the strict letter of the law. There is no longer any give or take.

It all stems from authorities knowing an angle when they see it – the proverbial gift horse. Home Office figures show that in the year 2000 something like six hundred thousand drivers were nabbed in England and Wales. In 2007 the numbers had risen stratospherically to 1.8 million poor souls roughly coughing up £100 million large. The so-called ‘Safety Camera Partnerships’ started in this period, presumably on the basis that if you spot a winner then you might as well get on it. During this time the number of cameras tripled.

This is not a diatribe against speed cameras and other devices. In their place, at accident black spots, they are a good thing – if only to remind driver’s of their responsibilities. But the following piece of information is enough to show that the system became tainted. The more cameras were installed, the more people slowed down with the net result that income per camera actually dropped. The answer was to lower the trigger speed. For example, if a limit was set at 30mph, the camera was set to trigger at 40 to catch the worst offenders. As income dropped so trigger speeds were reduced to snare more people into the net. This is underhand and seems to show that income became more important than road safety.

So, happy birthday Gatso. It wasn’t your fault. Sadly you are being replaced with more sinister methods of watching our every move. The guilt lies with your human masters.

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The Spy On The Village Green

Somewhere in deepest, darkest Bedfordshire, a minor local dignitary announced with messianic glee: “ We have done the education and we have done the warnings. It is time to play hardball”. Gosh. So, what is he talking about? Is it crime or vandalism? No – it’s all about drivers speeding through a village and the installation of a new breed of average speed camera technology.

It is absolutely true that even the best of drivers can become complacent. There is no doubt that most of us, including minor local dignitaries, have been guilty of some slight transgression of the law. It is also true that there is a section of the motoring public who couldn’t give a fig for the lives and wellbeing of others. On the village green in question volunteers have tried being friendly and requesting speeders to slow down only in some cases to get the finger. This is why we have to have laws.

Nevertheless, you have to ask why it is that these single interest people presume to get all moral and high and mighty with the rest of us. Let he who is without sin cast the first stone and so on. It is the responsibility of the police to ensure we obey the rules, not local councillors or other private individuals. Certainly they are entitled to their opinion but they are also entitled to demand that the police do their job instead of sitting in the nick worrying about their budgets.

As the dreaded Gatso’s come to the end of their useful, hateful lives we are likely to see a new and invidious form of speed monitoring taking the place of the yellow peril. We’ve already become used to giant average speed cameras peering at us on the motorways and A roads. Now, coming soon to your neighbourhood are the Sicores. These devices are much smaller and harder to spot – although they will still have to be painted yellow – and are linked to a network to cover an area rather than a single stretch of carriageway. They will be even more dedicated to the task of issuing tickets than ever before. The 10% + 2mph rule will still apply but, basically, in areas where these things are sited you are seriously going to have to watch it. No matter how much you twist and turn within the area covered your average speed can be calculated in as little as 75 yards.

The village in Bedfordshire is buying four of them. They cost £25000 each. That means local tax payers will be stumping up as more and more councils, residents’ associations and safety camera partnerships get on board. Income generated, however, will be distributed as usual with the Treasury getting the lion’s share.

Speed limits are there for a reason and no reasonable person can object to that. We all have a vested interest in road safety. What’s of more concern is this Big Brother attitude that turns neighbour against neighbour. That’s what leaves a nasty taste.

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