Some speed cameras are 'dummies'
THOUSANDS of speeding motorists may be escaping conviction and fines because some of Suffolk's safety cameras are dummies, the EADT can reveal.Road safety bosses have admitted only a proportion of the fixed sites in Suffolk are fitted with 'live' cameras at any one time and these are changed on a rota basis.
By Danielle Nuttall
THOUSANDS of speeding motorists may be escaping conviction and fines because some of Suffolk's safety cameras are dummies, the EADT can reveal.
Road safety bosses have admitted only a proportion of the fixed sites in Suffolk are fitted with 'live' cameras at any one time and these are changed on a rota basis.
The others operate fake flashes to fool motorists they have been caught and to deter them from speeding.
The revelation came after the East Anglian Daily Times submitted a request to Suffolk SafeCam, which manages the county's speed cameras, under the Freedom of Information Act.
We asked the road safety organisation to provide a detailed breakdown of the number of speeding tickets issued at each individual camera site in the county in 2004-05.
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But Michelle Finnerty, SafeCam's communications manager, refused the request saying the information was exempt under the Act because it would enable the public to figure out which cameras contained dummy flashes and did not actually prosecute, enabling people to speed in those areas.
SafeCam admitted out of the 11 fixed cameras sites in Suffolk, only seven were fitted with real cameras at any one time. The rest were fitted with one of 15 dummy flashes the organisation owns.
Between April 1 last year and April this year, 46,896 drivers were issued a £60 speeding fine in Suffolk, amounting to £2,813,760 which goes directly to the Treasury. Safecam only keeps enough money to cover its operating costs.
With the surprise admission that not all sites have real cameras, thousands of motorists appear to have escaped prosecution.
Motoring organisations last night criticised the use of dummy flashes.
A spokesman for the RAC said: "Certainly we are supportive of drivers knowing where speed cameras are and certainly there are very strict guidelines on camera sites.
"Speed cameras have to be put on a dangerous road – that's the official line - so you would expect it to be a real camera with real film.
"These cameras are meant to enforce safety on the roads rather than the motorist getting a surprise when they come round the corner.
"Three quarters of motorists are saying cameras are about raising revenue. There is a huge public distrust about the reasons for cameras themselves."
But Suffolk SafeCam defended its use of dummy flashes.
Ms Finnerty said: "There are not enough cameras for all of the sites so they are rotated.
"Let's say hypothetically there are 10 camera sites, it's possible a camera partnership might only have five actual cameras so they will put five actual cameras into five of the housing units and in the other five they will put a dummy flash in.
"It still acts as a deterrent. You have no idea if it's a real flash or not."
The communications manager said SafeCam's policy of withholding certain information from the public had been overseen by the Information Commissioner and the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO).
"It's not in the public interest to reveal sites with specific information. That's why it is exempt," she said.
The installation of speed cameras across Suffolk has led to an overall reduction in accidents of 40%.
There has also been a 50% reduction in the number of people injured and a 70% reduction in the number of crashes involving fatal or serious injury.
Guy McGregor, county council portfolio holder for roads and transport, called for the revenue raised by speed cameras to be reinvested into Suffolk's road safety funds rather than returning to the Government.
"If these cameras are a road safety measure which is what they are trumpeted to be would it not be appropriate for any residual money to be used by the county highway authority for road safety measures instead of going to the Treasury," he added.