Average-speed camera deployments on the rise in the UK

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A new report reveals that the number of average-speed cameras is escalating in the UK, with point-to-point systems now covering more than 250 miles (400km) of the country’s roads.

Research conducted for the RAC Foundation by Road Safety Analysis has identified at least 50 stretches of road that are permanently managed by the cameras, with a total length of 256 miles (412km) under observation. Average-speed cameras are also often used on a temporary basis to manage traffic through roadworks, but these are not included in this study.

The stretches range in length from just 1,320ft (402m) over Tower Bridge in London, to 99 miles (160km) on the A9 between Dunblane and Inverness in Scotland. Many of these stretches of road are broken down into subsections, 79 in total, and will be monitored by several sets of cameras. The first road section to become permanently managed by average-speed cameras was on the A6514 Ring Road in Nottingham back in 2000. By the end of 2015, there were 50 in total, with 12 systems installed last year; a 24% increase on 2014.

Road Safety Analysis said there might be other sites where average-speed cameras are permanently installed, but these have not been revealed to its researchers. Although not part of the study, there is also a 6.25 mile (10km) stretch of the A2 between Bangor and Holywood in Northern Ireland that is monitored by average-speed cameras. The next phase of work that the consultancy is doing for the RAC Foundation will include an assessment of the cameras’ effectiveness in terms of reducing casualties, by comparing pre- and post-installation data.

“Average-speed cameras are becoming a more common fixture on Britain’s roads,” noted Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation. “Unsurprisingly, the indications are that compliance with the speed limit through stretches of road managed by average-speed cameras is high, but the acid test is whether accident and casualty rates have also fallen. That is what the next part of this research project should tell us. Rightly or wrongly, many motorists perceive the current ‘spot’ speed cameras to be more about raising revenue for the Treasury than saving lives, but average-speed cameras have greater potential to bring drivers ‘on side’. Clearly a high compliance rate means a very low penalty rate, and hence both road safety and drivers’ wallets could benefit from greater use of these systems in appropriate places.”

Richard Owen, operations director at Road Safety Analysis, said, “One reason for the increase in usage has been the reduction in how much it costs to install permanent cameras; it’s now typically around £100,000 (US$146,500) per mile, compared with around £1.5m (US$2.2m) per mile in the early 2000s. Some of the old fixed speed cameras have been around for 25 years and they are based on 35mm film. They are coming to the end of their life and are starting to be replaced, in some cases with average-speed camera systems.”

By comparison, the cost of installing an ‘spot’ speed camerea is £20,000 (US$28,866).  

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International magazine and the Traffic Technology Today website since he joined the company in May 2014. Prior to this he worked on some of the UK's leading consumer magazine titles including Men's Health and Glamour, beginning his career in journalism in 1997 after graduating with a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).

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