We are often told that speed cameras are a tool to improve road safety. However, the method of implementation does not fit that requirement.
To do speed cameras correctly and use them as a tool to improve road safety, there are a few prerequisites.
- The locations that are high-risk need to be correctly identified, ideally to within a 50m stretch of road. This would allow camera monitoring to happen at very specific areas that are known to be accident blackspots. This does not refer to 20km lengths of road – as currently used for criteria of camera location selection.
- The locations of cameras must be publicly and freely available, and kept up to date. The location database must be unrestricted in use so that satnav companies can use that data in their products – allowing advance warning of known dangerous areas. Mobile camera locations must be advertised either in the database or on a specific website a number of days in advance. The camera locations must also have their local speed limit associated with the camera being visible in the database.
- Permanently installed cameras and mobile camera vehicles must be highly visible, with fluorescent and retroreflective paint, visible to drivers before entering the monitored area. Cameras must *not* be hidden or camouflaged, either deliberately or accidentally
- Camera locations must be clearly signposted at the roadside in advance of the installed location, and the area of camera visibility should be easily visible on the road.
- Camera location warning signs must have the local speed limit listed on the sign.
Following these would mean that the brief of improving road safety via speed-sensitive camera monitoring would be clearly met.
For example, let’s take a hypothetical place. Let’s say there’s a 1km straight road (100km/h limit) with a road junction in the middle (80km/h limit for the 50m either side of the junction), that has seen a number of fatal collisions over the previous decade. The correct way to put a camera on this is to put a signpost 300m either side of the camera location saying “warning Camera Ahead – 80 km/h limit. The camera should be a bright rescue orange colour with retroreflective strips on the camera housing.
This would ensure that the posted speed limit at the junction would be advertised and observed by drivers, and drivers that are over the posted limit would be caught.
There’s absolutely no value in stating that speed cameras are to protect, when they are used mostly with ambush tactics. The cameras currently in use do not look onto the areas with the accidents, they appear to concentrate on the areas that are actually accident-free. The zones used to determine the dangerous areas cover such a long distance that they are meaningless for specific area protection.
Let’s call the current situation in Ireland as it is. The current implementation of speed cameras, with the private operator using non-reflectively-marked vans, parking on the edges of straight stretches of safe roads, not advertising the locations – this can only be described as a money-making measure as it *cannot* fulfill the brief of improving road safety.
As an aside, it’s a great indication of the sneaky ethos behind the current operator’s operation of the cameras, where the vans have a hatched decal applied to the van surface. This decal, while appearing similar to the reflective hatching applied to truck trailers, is muted in colour and utterly non-reflective. It appears to provide only lip-service to safety, and acts to better camouflage the vans when parked up. This can only undermine any public confidence in this implementation of the system.