Tag Archive | "speed camera"

Motoring Issues That Affect Us All

With the excellent news that car insurance premiums are starting to come down, the time has come to keep up the pressure of complaint. Naturally, we peace-loving folk at Motor Blogger do not advocate revolution but surely motorists must keep speaking up against those things which blight their lives. This is why (astonishing as it may seem) we have Members of Parliament – to speak on our behalf so maybe it is time to contact yours.

Drivers remain beset by unfair practices, sky-high costs and potentially dangerous roads. For years the average motorist has held his tongue but, and this is now apparent, increasingly we are beginning to speak up aided by sensible voices from the motoring organisations.

We already contribute a very large amount of money to the government’s coffers through taxation and duty. We contribute even more through over-zealously applied fines for very minor infractions. We have to fund repairs to our cars, often through expensive insurance companies, thanks to dangerous potholes and road surfaces that are increasingly becoming the norm.

Because of ‘cuts’ we now have so few traffic policemen that those who truly transgress on our roads often go unpunished yet unwary drivers are still – despite all the talk – subjected to unfair penalties and actions by unscrupulous parking companies or greedy councils.

What’s worse is the fact that the goalposts keep moving as if they’ve been erected on quicksand. A driver might buy a new car based on a zero road tax decision only to find the following year that his car has slipped into a tax paying status. Penalties are rising across the board. A motorist who fractionally over-steps the speed limit and is caught by a speed camera which has no decision making capabilities will pay the same fine as the speed merchant who drives badly at an accident black spot. Cameras should be about road safety.

Fuel costs too much and that is down to allegedly fiddled pricing and to successive governments increasing duty as an easy way to bolster their previously profligate spending. We didn‘t make the mess we‘re in. Car insurance remains too expensive, still partly due to fraudulent activities. Thankfully, we are now seeing some movement on this front.

Drivers are penalised for being drivers, it’s as simple as that. We are treated as a cash cow by authorities who seem to be bereft of fresh economic ideas. The groundswell is growing. Motoring organisations and magazines are lobbying the government about all these issues. Time to speak your mind – repeatedly if necessary.

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Swift Justice For Motoring Offenders

The announcement has been made today that dedicated traffic courts are to be set up to mete out swift punishment for minor traffic offences. It seems that the half million or so offences that occur each year are clogging up our courts. The government thinks that by setting up these summary centres of justice it will free up the magistrates for more important issues.

Apparently this has been trialled at nine areas around England and is about to be rolled out across both England and Wales. Scotland has its own system. The pilot schemes have simplified the legal process according to the police. By April 2014 every police area will have one of these traffic courts.

They will be overseen by so-called ‘specialist prosecutors’ who will deal with up to one hundred and sixty cases a day. This is where the idea gets a bit more concerning. Magistrates are appointed from the populace. They don’t need specialist legal qualifications but that do have to meet long established standards of fairness and community spirit, amongst other things. They receive training and have a legal adviser on hand.

In what way then are these traffic courts any different? Who appoints these ‘specialist prosecutors’ and where do they come from? If they are members of the public who volunteer to serve and who receive training for the job, doesn’t that make them magistrates? Get the idea?

We sincerely hope that these court officers are not members of the police force for example. Neither should they be legal professionals. Mind you, they only have jurisdiction in the ninety percent of cases where the miscreant motorist pleads guilty to the said minor offence. Thankfully, if the driver wants to contest the case it has to be heard in a proper magistrates court. So maybe that nagging concern isn’t justified, although it is still hanging in the air like a bad smell from the boot of the car.

Perhaps it is because motorists have been a cash-cow for local and national governments for years that it smacks a bit of being a money-making exercise. We’ll see. In the meantime the law obviously has to be enforced and if it speeds things up for all concerned and saves tax payers money in the long term it may not be a bad thing. Let us just hope that the rule of fairness and impartiality still applies.

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Is It Time To Sort Out Speed Once And For All?

The Police and Crime Commissioner for Norfolk, one Stephen Bett, recently said in an interview that experienced drivers should be allowed to travel as fast as they want to. He went on to say he would, “abolish speed limits on motorways and other major roads” and, “take down all the signs and say all villages are 30mph and you drive on roads like they do in Germany and Italy, as road conditions say (sic). We ought to drive to road conditions rather than set limits.” Why, thanks, Stephen.

Later, when his world inevitably came crashing down around him, he back-peddled faster than Sir Bradley Wiggins on maximum re-wind and said his comments were ‘tongue-in-cheek’ and a tad flippant. Later he fully retracted – thus saving his career – and said, “I fully acknowledge that speed is regarded as a contributory factor in determining the outcome of collisions.”

Therein lies the whole problem. On the one hand we have the school of thought that we should increase the speed limits on motorways, and on the other we are told that speed is largely responsible for accidents. This is not always so: it is inappropriate speed that may cause accidents coupled with people’s inability to drive properly for the prevailing conditions.

The male 18 to 25 age group are, and always have been, on the receiving end of the big statistic numbers when it comes to accidents and fatalities. This is the gung-ho nature of youth. Clearly there is a need for greater driving education because the driving test is just that. Only experience improves driving standards.

In a sense, Mr Bett was not entirely wrong. He may have been trying to suggest an idea and it simply came out the wrong way. Most people, if left to their own devices, can drive perfectly safely and do not need to be perpetually nannied or bossed about. What complicates the issue is that young drivers lack experience and older drivers become lazy. The modern cars we all drive are safer than the automobile has ever been but they can’t protect us against our own complacency.

The faster a car is going the less time the driver has to react. The dangers of speed are directly related to the prevailing conditions. If it is raining then stopping distances increase, for example. Knowledge of how a vehicle works, coupled with an awareness of surroundings and an ability not to be distracted by all the features of the car are key. Speed cannot be blamed because some idiot is texting.

The solution can never be simple but it needs to be found. We must control speed in built up areas and villages – that’s a given – but there is nothing wrong with an 80mph speed on, say, a dry lightly used motorway but when conditions change so should the driver’s response.

This is probably what Mr Bett was getting at. Greater emphasis needs to be put on education. Young drivers should have a probationary period in low-powered cars and so on. Older drivers need to buck their ideas up and pay attention. What we don’t need is more signs and increased regulation. Views are conflicting and as confused as ever. Time to sort it out.

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New Year, New War On Motorists

The French have an expression for it. No, not that one; this one – plus ça change. Effectively, the more things change the more they stay the same. Just because the Chancellor has bowed to pressure and not enforced the January 3p rise in petrol prices doesn’t mean that the heat is off motorists. Well, you didn’t seriously think that they wouldn’t find another way to rake in the cash, did you?

The Department For Transport will shortly consult ministers on the proposals to give English councils powers to fine drivers for an additional – wait for it – twenty six offences, previously the reserve of the boys in blue. 26! Right now they are limited to parking fines and bus lane encroachments but councils want so much more.

They want the millions that would come from many new fines to the order of roughly seventy quid a pop. If anybody thinks that this may not come to pass then remember that London councils have had these powers for years. The Shires want their piece of the action.

Inevitably, the usual specious arguments are put forward. The police have ‘insufficient resources’ to effectively govern the roads. It will ‘ease congestion’ and ‘keep traffic moving’, and so on. Of course, to introduce a bit of balance here, these aren’t new laws. It pertains to existing signage and regulation which would be much more rigorously enforced. As one council apparatchik points out – presumably in an holier-than-thou tone of voice – ‘…if nobody broke the law, the income would be zero’. The irritating thing is that he is right.

However, when the police stop and punish an errant driver they are upholding the law, which is what we pay them for. What is planned is the notion that civilian will police civilian and that’s a whole new ballgame. Neighbour versus neighbour.  The slightest transgression for which most ordinary coppers will let go with a stern warning will be zealously jumped on by council employees. There will be no excuses. Cameras will rule. Disobey any road sign – whether by accident or design – and that will be your lot. Accidentally shunt forward and end up stopped in a box junction – that’s £70 to you, chief: and so on. The big unanswerable question is where will it all end?

We all know the rules of the road and that’s already a done deal; but what new offences will be created? How about if a child in the back seat flicks something disgusting from his nose out of the window? Will you still be able to argue with your partner whilst in control of a motor vehicle? No doubt you could all come up with suggestions of your own. Just be careful who you suggest them to. Walls have ears. That’s all we’re saying.

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Resolve To Be A Better Driver

As the end of the year approaches we take stock of the past twelve months and think about how we can improve as people and citizens. Yes folks, it’s time to make those New Year Resolutions. Here at Motor Blogger we have picked up a rumour that the Chancellor of the Exchequer has resolved to be a better person and will reduce the cost of petrol to 1980’s prices! What a gent! Actually, if we’re honest we might have made that up but hey, there’s nothing wrong with inspiring a bit of optimism for 2013 is there?

So what will your resolutions be? For a start you could probably afford to lose a few kilos. Now don’t be like that, you know it’s true and if you want to get into those Speedos next Summer without looking like a walrus in a thong then the 1st January is the time to start. You might also want to consider what it means to be a motorist on Britain’s roads today.

With roads becoming increasingly crowded and with the looming prospect of toll roads and a new generation of speed cameras, there is simply no point in going fast. Certainly, owning a powerful car is great but pretty soon there’ll be nowhere left to use it. Instead, especially if you’re in the market for a new car, why not consider one of the new breed of technically advanced cars that are pleasing to the eye – but not fast – and just chill out? Accept the fact that whatever the 0-60 time of your chosen vehicle is, when you’re eventually doing seventy then you’re doing seventy so you are going just as fast as everybody else can anyway.

Instead of speeding on the roads why not consider dishing out your assertiveness  at one of the popular motor racing circuits around the country. They all offer driving packages and, especially the way things are now, they are offering some very good deals indeed. It’s safe – there are instructors – and you get to use their high performance cars. It’s fun and it could be funded by the lower insurance premiums and road tax that a much less powerful and more efficient car will attract.

As we’ve mentioned before a little bit of courtesy wouldn’t go amiss. It is unquestionably true that drivers are becoming more aggressive; no doubt because of the many frustrations of modern life. Still, we could all resolve to be a better driver. Enjoy your car by all means but by accepting the inevitable and increasing restrictions on our roads, no matter how irritating, we might all be a bit happier.

This coming year there is a huge amount of auto excellence to look forward to. You’ll begin to see what’s new from January’s Chicago Show onwards and there’s plenty of new innovations and models in the pipeline. So this year let’s all make a really determined effort to change our ways, lose some weight, give up smoking (again) and be nice to the Chancellor if you happen to come across him in the supermarket (throwing buns at politicians may be fun but is quite wasteful).

In any case, whatever you decide to do it’ll all probably go to hell in a hand basket within a short space of time anyway; but you will feel better for a few days at least and that’s the important thing. Happy New Year.

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The Good News And The Bad

You know those nasty and invidious speed cameras dotted around the countryside? Well, fear them no longer – help is at hand. You may use radar detectors with impunity, for now. Remember, don’t take our word for it, we’re not lawyers – check the facts for yourself; but it seems that following a change of law in 2006 ministers were allowed to ban radar detectors without recourse to Parliament. Nobody has actually done it and, according to the present government, they don’t intend to.

This means that the devices may be sold openly in shops. Gatso’s and mobile cameras apparently emit radar or laser signals which can be scanned for and picked up by these gadgets, unlike sat-nav’s that work from a database of recorded sites, making them accurate at all times. The latest incumbent minister – they change so often – at the Department for Transport has formally declared that these legal powers will not be used as they want to be seen to be open and fair about speed enforcement.

This is likely to see the devices back in the retailers ASAP, although some commentators believe that it might make drivers more confident when speeding through accident black spots. A fair point. The fact remains though that most drivers feel persecuted by the present rules and will appreciate the heads-up when approaching a speed trap and will still, in any case, slow down. That’s the good news.

Were you aware of the fact that if you break down and request the police to arrange recovery, they’ll charge you a fee? You’d think, wouldn’t you, that they would want to see to it as a priority to make the road safe and not to use it as a cash enterprise.

Well, it appears that a fee is being charged to cover – don‘t laugh -‘administration costs’. This is not a set figure, curiously, but will depend on the force in question, presumably based on how much they think they can get away with. This fee is payable to the recovery firm who pass it on to the police, possibly in a plain, brown envelope. The cost may or may not be picked up by your insurer, depending upon how lucky you are.

The Association of Chief Police Officers have stated that the recovery fee has been agreed by the insurance industry. Why is it then that the insurance companies are wondering why the fee is so high? Something’s not right. Anyway, the outcome is that, last year, the boys in blue trousered a not insignificant £3.7 million! How naïve we must all be to think that we have already paid through taxation for a police service. It seems that, in Britain today, just about everybody is at it.

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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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80mph Trials in the Pipeline

Well, it has been talked about for long enough and, at last, we get the chance to weigh up the evidence for and against a speed limit increase on motorways. All sensible drivers know that their cars are more than capable of accommodating this extra speed in safety. Equally, they know that there will be a penalty to pay in fuel economy but understand you can’t have it both ways. Allegedly, 49% of drivers admit to flouting the speed limit now anyway and the true figure is probably a bit higher!

Trials of the new speed limit will take place on up to seven sections of the motorway network that are deemed suitable, so only three and four lane sections will be considered. It is unlikely that dual carriageways will ever be included, should this new limit be introduced. Details of the scheme will be published in the early Summer. Over a total distance of around seventy miles, large signs will be erected on overhead gantries to control the flow of vehicles. When the traffic flow is light, the limit will be increased to 80mph, but adjusted downward at busier periods.

Motorists should not be complacent, however. At present, so we are told, police ‘guidelines’ allow drivers a bit of leeway under the “10% plus 2mph” formula. If this was applied to an 80mph limit, drivers would be doing 90mph and the boys in blue aren’t having that, are they? So, 80 will mean 80 and speed cameras will enforce this as Mike Penning, the roads minister, has made clear:

“I hope the public are listening to me, because average speed cameras, especially on managed motorways, are ridiculously accurate. The argument, which will be in the public consultation, is what we enforce over 80mph. The answer will be that 80mph will be the speed limit, and not, as we interpret it today, 90mph.”

The AA have welcomed the move on the wider motorways. Edmund King, the President of the AA said:

“If you have got a five star motorway in terms of safety then 80mph is fine.”

Rather predictably however, the road safety campaigners Brake have accused the government of ‘gambling with people’s lives’. Ellen Booth said:

We know from basic physics that the faster people travel, the longer the stopping distances, the less time you have to react to emergencies and the harder you hit.”

The truth is likely to be somewhere in the middle. There will always be accidents and there will always be stupid people. Most drivers act responsibly and that is unlikely to change.

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