Speed camera phobia hits Suffolk man

THEY have been dubbed the yellow peril and provoked outcry among many motorists - but few could claim a genuine debilitating fear of speed cameras.

THEY have been dubbed the yellow peril and provoked outcry among many motorists - but few could claim a genuine debilitating fear of speed cameras.

But over a period of four years Colin Gant developed a deep-seated phobia of the roadside boxes which led to panic attacks.

At its peak the condition meant the management worker, who often drives 500-plus miles a week, had to take huge detours simply to avoid speed traps.

All this despite the fact the 41-year-old is a qualified advanced driver who has never had a speeding ticket in his life.

Now Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership has stepped in to help. After hearing of Mr Gant's condition, bosses invited him behind the scenes in an attempt to remove the mystery and apparent threat posed by the yellow boxes.

And Anxiety UK, which deals with phobias and other disorders, said that though such conditions often remain hidden from the public eye, Mr Gant is far from unique. The charity's own chief executive has the very same phobia.

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Mr Gant, a married father-of-two from Lowestoft, said: “I don't think there was any one moment when I suddenly realised it was becoming a problem. There was a growing realisation something was wrong. It started playing on my mind all the time.

“It was difficult to explain. If you're scared of spiders, people can understand that, but nobody understands this.”

Mr Gant described his phobia as “completely irrational”, saying he found it difficult to pinpoint the precise cause of his anxiety. Only his closest family know about it - he is yet to tell friends and colleagues.

Part of the condition was a fear of the unknown and concerns that the cameras could be accidentally triggered, exposing him to an unjust prosecution.

He found himself constantly anticipating the next box and often driving several miles on back streets to avoid camera sites.

He said: “Every time I drove past one I started worrying about what would happen if I was caught speeding: would I lose my job? How would it affect my family?

“The irony is I've never been caught speeding and actually hate it when people drive too fast. I fully support the principle behind speed cameras. My wife would say that I drive very cautiously.

“I realised I could allow it to control me and had to do something about it. I can't thank the camera partnership enough. I can only imagine what they thought when I got in touch. I was worried they might just think I was a crank.

“I wouldn't say I'm cured but I can control it a lot better.”

Insp Marcus Rowe, from the camera partnership, said when he heard about Mr Gant's condition his first reaction was “is this a wind up”.

But it soon became clear the problem was genuine.

He said: “We basically just explained how we work and tried to remove the mystery. One of his concerns was that he could be unfairly prosecuted, so we explained we work to threshholds designed to eliminate room for error. Prosecution is not our only focus.

“Mr Gant also made us realise we could put more information out there to help people like him.”

Statistics from Anxiety UK show one in six adults has experienced some form of “neurotic health problem”. An estimated 13pc of the adult population will develop a phobia (a specific form of anxiety) at some point in their life.

Mr Gant suggested one method to help ease conditions like his own would be placing speed limit signs on the rear of cameras to reassure motorists they were driving at the correct speed.

Mr Rowe said this seemed like a “sensible idea” which could be investigated.