County's record number of speeding fines

By James HoreMOTORISTS in Essex are being hit with more speeding tickets than anywhere else in the country, according to latest figures. Essex Police issued almost 200,000 fixed penalty notices in 2002, compared with just over 60,000 fines written out by the Metropolitan Police.

By James Hore

MOTORISTS in Essex are being hit with more speeding tickets than anywhere else in the country, according to latest figures.

Essex Police issued almost 200,000 fixed penalty notices in 2002, compared with just over 60,000 fines written out by the Metropolitan Police.

As well as the 199,201 fixed penalty notices handed to speeding drivers, a further 14,660 motorists were convicted by the courts of breaking the speed limit.

However, despite handing out the most fines to drivers, the introduction of speed cameras in Essex has failed to reduce the number of road deaths – a figure which has been on the increase.

Essex Chief Constable David Stevens has insisted all speed cameras in the county should be placed solely to prevent accidents so there can be no question they are sited to make money.

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In a report to Essex Police Authority, he said the criteria for a permanent speed camera site included evidence of at least four collisions resulting in death or serious injury per kilometre of road in three years.

There should also have been at least eight collisions per kilometre that resulted in injury during the same period.

However, Simon Burns, the Conservative MP for West Chelmsford, has called the speeding fines a "stealth tax" after the Treasury revealed extra money raised from fines, after costs, was poured into the national pot.

Essex has 94 fixed speed camera sites and 384 mobile camera sites. There are currently plans for another nine permanent locations and a further 54 mobile sites.

A spokesman for the AA said the public's perception was the cameras were used as a way of making money rather than improving road safety.

"The difficulty is the public does not believe a word of it, whatever the authorities say. The whole matter is shrouded in secrecy," he added.

Meanwhile, drivers who have had enough of speed cameras will have to be alert to an increasing number of bus lane cameras.

It is understood at least 24 councils – including seven authorities in Essex – are planning to introduce the cameras.

Designed to improve the flow of traffic, not to raise revenue, motorists could be hit with fines of up to £100 if they use bus lanes.

Councils are allowed to keep the money raised by fines, although the revenue will have to be invested into transport and maintaining the lanes.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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