EADT inquiry into speed camera site
EXCLUSIVEBy Ted JeoryAN EADT investigation has revealed that none of the serious accidents used to justify deploying new speed cameras on A12 was caused by motorists driving too fast.
By Ted Jeory
AN EADT investigation has revealed that none of the serious accidents used to justify deploying new speed cameras on A12 was caused by motorists driving too fast.
The East Anglian Daily Times has obtained, under the Freedom of Information Act, reports compiled by Essex Police into the five accidents used by Essex Safety Camera Partnership to justify its decision to select the A12 near Kelvedon for a mobile speed camera site.
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The documents show that in none of the five accidents did the original investigating officers consider "excessive speed for conditions" a likely cause of the collisions.
Instead, the initial reports into the accidents on the northbound stretch of the A12 near Kelvedon revealed other factors, ranging from impaired vision and being under the influence of drugs to the involvement of a foreign driver and reversing without due care and attention.
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The revelation has fuelled suspicions among motorists that speed cameras are little more than money-making devices, but the organisation that runs them insisted it had acted according to Home Office guidelines and its main aim was to reduce casualties.
As the EADT revealed last month, the use of speed cameras has been sanctioned on the northbound A12 just after the Kelvedon interchange.
The second of two warning signs has just been installed and the use of mobile speed cameras from the Maldon Road bridge is believed to be imminent.
Although Essex Safety Camera Partnership has previously used speed cameras during temporary roadworks, it will be the first time they will have been deployed on a 70mph road anywhere in Essex.
The controversial move comes after concerns about speeding on the A12 were raised more than a year ago.
In order to satisfy Home Office guidelines to deploy the cameras, bosses at the Essex Safety Camera Partnership - a joint venture between Essex Police, Essex County Council and the Highways Agency - had to meet two conditions.
Firstly, more than one in five vehicles using the stretch of road had to exceed the 70mph limit, with a significant minority going faster than 79mph, and this was satisfied by a speed survey carried out in January 2004.
Secondly, there must had to have been at least two collisions involving death or serious injury along the proposed stretch over a three-year period. Five serious/fatal accidents out of a total of 19 between July 1, 1999, and June 30, 2002, were selected to meet the second condition.
These were accidents on November 18, 1999, March 25, 2000, August 26, 2000, May 8, 2001 and
October 23, 2001 - but the EADT has discovered that none of these was apparently caused by speeding.
Edmund King, executive director of the RAC Foundation, said the EADT's findings had raised "major concerns".
He added: "This really does call into question how these partnerships operate. We are now seeing cameras being put on motorways and dual carriageways, which are our safest roads by a long way.
"Even when there are accidents on them, there are other factors like fog or tailgating, which have nothing to do with excess speed.
"Yet these partnerships and the police are putting all their eggs in one basket by concentrating on speed cameras and that does nothing to stop dangerous driving.
"Traffic police, particularly in Essex, are on the decline and the Government needs to review the way these partnerships work."
A spokeswoman for the Essex Safety Camera Partnership said: "The factors stated on the reports reflect the reporting officer's opinion at the time of the reporting and may not be the result of extensive investigation.
"We can only work within the guidelines that are handed to us. When we're alerted to a speeding problem, we carry out all the checks and that has happened in this case.
"Our aim is not to raise money - we want to see a reduction in speeding and the number of serious and fatal accidents."
An Essex Police officer was operating a mobile speed camera from a lay-by alongside the Hatfield Peverel stretch of the northbound A12 yesterday morning.
A police spokesman said: "Our officers carry out daily patrols on the A12 and they see speeding every day. A significant number of the crashes they deal with have excess speed for the conditions as a contributory factor."