by Ben Webster, Transport Correspondent
SPEED cameras are catching a record number of
drivers, but road deaths are at the highest
level for seven years.
Almost 1.8 million speeding offences were
detected by cameras in 2003, up 44 per cent on
2002. Road deaths rose slightly to 3,508.
The RAC Foundation called for a review of the
Government's road safety strategy.
Motoring offences of all kinds rose in 2003 by
15 per cent to 13.2 million, the highest number
on record. More than half the offences involved
breaches of parking restrictions. The Home
Office figures show that police are increasingly
more likely to issue penalties instead of
written warnings for less serious offences. Only
6,000 written warnings for speeding were issued
in 2003, compared with 35,000 in 1997.
This tends to support the view of motoring
groups that cameras offer no opportunity for
police to exercise discretion by issuing a
warning to those drivers who drift over the
The doubling in speeding offences between 2001
and 2003 was directly linked to the creation of
speed camera partnerships in almost every police
force area over that period. The partnerships
are allowed to keep a proportion of the income
from speeding fines to pay the costs of greater
camera enforcement. There are now more than
6,000 speed camera sites and the yellow boxes
are far more likely to contain live cameras.
The number of breath tests fell in 2003 to its
lowest for a decade, but the number of people
killed in drink-drive crashes was the highest
for seven years. Only 534,000 breath tests were
carried out, compared with 800,000 in 1997.
There were 560 drink-drive deaths.
Edmund King, director of the RAC Foundation,
said that fewer traffic police meant that the
most dangerous drivers, including those on drink
or drugs, were less likely to be caught: "If
cameras are working, why are overall deaths
rising? We need a review of road safety policy
to challenge the false assumption that speed is
always the most important factor."
The AA Motoring Trust said that the low number
of people disqualified under the "totting up
rule" Indicated that speed cameras were working.