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50 per cent rise in deaths on Oxfordshire roads after speed camera switch off

Oxfordshire's speed cameras to be switched back on next week...

Ahead of the switching back on of Oxfordshire's speed cameras on 1 April Thames Valley Police force has revealed that road deaths in the county rose by 50 per cent in the first six months in which speed cameras were switched off compared to a similar period the year before.

Between August 2010 and January 2011, there were 18 fatalities, 179 people seriously inujured and 982 people slightly injured on Oxfordshire’s roads. That compares with a figure of 12 killed and 160 seriously injured in the same period the year before.
Oxfordshire was the first local authority to switch off its speed cameras, there are currently 72 fixed sites and 89 mobile sites in Oxfordshire. They were switched off as a result of a withdrawal of funding by Oxfordshire County Council for the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership after drastic cuts to the road safety grant allocated to local authorities by the new coalition government.

That move lead to other councils across the country following suit. Last week it was announced that the Safecam partnership which was responsible for speed cameras across the West Country would cease to exist on 31 March, the day before Oxfordshire's cameras go back on, leading to the switching off of speed cameras in South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset and the likely switching off of fixed cameras in Bristol and Bath & North East Somerset, speed cameras in Somerset have already been switched off.

Councils have continued to switch off speed cameras despite warnings from road safety groups and the police that such a course of action would cost lives. In Oxfordshire's case six people it could be argued have needlessly died so that the county council could save £600,000. In November 2010 as the speed camera switch off gathered pace across the UK a report by Professor Richard Allsop of University College London for the RAC Foundation concluded that a national switch off would cost 800 lives a year.

In Oxfordshire following the switch of Thames Valley Police noticed an almost instant rise in speeds a pattern of behaviour that has been replicated in other areas in which the cameras have been turned off.

In a statement announcing the switch on, Supt Rob Povey of Thames Valley Police said:

“We have shown in Oxfordshire that speed has increased through monitoring limits and we have noticed an increase in fatalities the number of people seriously injured in 2010.

“We know that speed enforcement does work as a deterrent to motorists.”

Thames Valley Police has been able to switch the cameras back on again by cutting it's back office costs by 25 per cent for administering the cameras and it would seem by altering the speed criteria at which a motorist qualifies for a speed awareness course instead of a fine. Revenue from the former can be kept by while revenue from fines is passed back to the Treasury - as we reported earlier this year the Association of Chief Police Officers has been lobbying for such a change.

Speaking ahead of the county's mobile and fixed speed cameras being switched on Oxfordshire County Councillor Cabinet Member for Transport, Rodney Rose said:
"The county council did not delight in withdrawing funding for speed cameras last year, but took this decision to protect other service areas following a huge reduction in road safety grant from the Government. Other councils across the country took the same view.

"This local solution will ensure funding is properly aligned to support the service delivery and not subject to an external grant funding process. The new process will have a higher level of active engagement with drivers who speed and will be more successful in changing driver behaviour rather than simply trying to penalise offenders in the wallet."

However, the county council were not willing to take any responsibility for the increase in accidents and deaths on the county's roads, the first since 2004 - the year before Oxfordshire switched on its camera network. Speaking to the Oxford Mail Oxfordshire County Council spokesman Owen Morton said:

“Any rise in the number of deaths or serious injuries on our roads is something no-one ever wants to see.

“However, there are many factors which have a bearing on road safety and the accident statistics, which makes it difficult to make definitive statements about cause and effect.

“Accident frequencies can also be expected to vary significantly when measured over relatively short periods, and should ideally be analysed over several years to identify meaningful trends.”

Interestingly there was a very slight decrease in the number of accidents at Oxforshires deactivated camera sites at which 13 people were seriously injured and 70 slightly injured. Proponents of cameras will though point to the wider message they send to the motoring public about the acceptability of speeding - according to the Thames Valley Force with the number of people killed or seriously injured being reduced by 43% aceoaa its entire operational area compared to the three years before sites were installed. All casualties have also reduced at sites by 23% compared with the periods before installation and that's despite a recent Which report that found that only 11 per cent of Thames Valley's cameras were operational at any one time.'s founder and first editor, nowadays to be found riding a spreadsheet. Tony's journey in cycling media started in 1997 as production editor and then deputy editor of Total Bike, acting editor of Total Mountain Bike and then seven years as editor of Cycling Plus. He launched his first cycling website - the Cycling Plus Forum at the turn of the century. In 2006 he left C+ to head up the launch team for Bike Radar which he edited until 2008, when he co-launched the multi-award winning - finally handing on the reins in 2021 to Jack Sexty. His favourite ride is his ‘commute’ - which he does most days inc weekends and he’s been cycle-commuting since 1994. His favourite bikes are titanium and have disc brakes, though he'd like to own a carbon bike one day.

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skippy | 13 years ago

Tony_Farrelly has made the only point worth considering , "pennywise, pound foolish" approach to safety by the Authorities !
How many of those Severely injured in the "turnoff period" are residing in the Oxford area hospitals and even worse drawing down resources that the budget can ill afford to meet ? Some of these people may be Paralympians of the future but the others will cause their families constant anguish and having to share a changed "lifestyle " .
Corporate Manslaughter charges should be levied against the individuals involved in making this pathetic error that has caused several families grief and the public purse additional expense !

Councillers of the Oxfordshire County Council deserve to be vilified and stand in the dock at the Crown Court since the court of public opinion does not condemn their actions or cause them sleepless nights . Tried and convicted by public opinion is not the same as Weekend detention or a Custodial Sentence !

Tony Farrelly | 13 years ago

What I find quite shocking is that so little has been made of the fact there seems to be a correlation between a £600,000 budget cut and six extra people losing their lives on Oxfordshire's roads, that isn't even big money by local authority standards. Nor was much said about that RAC Foundation report that calculated that a national switch off will mean an extra 800 lives lost on the nation's roads – again for a fairly trivial cut by government budget standards. The figures may be abstract but they relate to real people dying and the media have hardly made a peep about it.

That's six more deaths than have occurred at the Fukashima nuclear reactor, and 800 is way more than any terrorist has managed to kill in the UK. The government will seemingly spend any amount of money protecting us from that threat… while at the same time being prepared to let us die needlessly on the roads in the name of budgetary responsibility. Pretty poor. And it's not even good economics because according to the DfT's figures the average cost to the nation of a road fatality is £1.8m so Oxfordshire's budget cut has saved the council £600,000 but cost the nation £10.8m.

KirinChris | 13 years ago

I agree with STATO. Here in the UAE they have speed cameras but everybody knows they are set 40km/h above the limit on the highways and they are few and far between.

People just slow down for that bit and then go hell-for-leather. And I mean it - driving at 140km/h barely gets you into the fast lane before someone is on your tail flashing you to get out of their way. Even the actual speed limit is just used to to calculate how much you can exceed it by. You have to be over 180km/h to get points off your licence.

I constantly thank heavens this is a Muslim country - imagine adding alcohol into the mix.

But when I go back to the UK I notice that I am often driving much faster than everyone else and that people generally maintain a fairly constant speed at or around the speed limit. Yes there is some slowing down for cameras but it does seem to have caused a general reduction in speed. Partly because there are so many of them it is hard to keep track of where they are, and in London there will always be a large number of people who don't know the section of road they are driving on and therefore can't try to beat the cameras, and they slow the traffic down too.

It's a great shame that they have been cutting back on them. Basically anything that annoys Edmund King must be worth supporting.

joules1975 | 13 years ago

As a cyclist and motorist I have mixed feelings on this.

No, people should not speed and yes they should be punished in some way if they are, but are fixed speed cameras the answer?

Surely it's better to properly educate people and also ensure they have a feeling of 'I must not speed because it's dangerous and I could get caught at any time', instead of the current 'I don't care if I speed cause I'm not harming anyone and those fixed cameras are a pain in the ****'

A fixed camera only helps to solve the issue where the camera is located - people just slow down for the camera and speed up after it.

Maybe with fixed cameras its a case of better than nothing, but surely there is a better way?

Here's one idea, maybe riding a bike should be made to be part of the driving test and driving lessons?

STATO replied to joules1975 | 13 years ago
joules1975 wrote:

A fixed camera only helps to solve the issue where the camera is located - people just slow down for the camera and speed up after it.

Maybe with fixed cameras its a case of better than nothing, but surely there is a better way?

People may speed up but the majority will tend to drive slower than they would without as the the camera serves as a reminder or 'resets' their perception of speed. So the lack of cameras will find the average speed slowly increasing.

The better way would be to have hidden cameras/police cars and an increase in unmarked cars. That way anyone wishing to speed would do so at their own risk. But thats not addressing the issue either, you can still drive dangerously fast on some roads even within the speed limit. What we need society to drive responsibly and safely, there is no reason you cant drive fast a safe, just too often people drive fast and unsafe.

therevokid | 13 years ago

well said ...

lokikontroll | 13 years ago

Politicians in the UK simply do not care about human life. The safety of human beings and the value of human life is not that important.

To all of these horrible people who vote to switch off speed cameras; I wonder how you will feel as you try to fall asleep at night when it turns out that it is your beloved wife or 10 year old daughter who is killed on the road by a speeding motorist.

Will it have been worth it?

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