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Of speed cameras

What motorist would appreciate a device whose main purpose is to convert additional speed into hefty monetary penalties! I am no exception, certainly. A policeman hiding in the bushes with his radar never fails to trigger a Tourette-like urge for me to utter some unflattering epithet in his address. A speed control camera always grates on my nerves…

Objectively speaking, though, I have to admit that unlike those abominable police enforcers, the speed cameras so prevalent in England are a rather effective way to keep the speed with which the traffic moves under control.

Yes, English drivers tend to speed up once they find themselves beyond the camera range, just as Americans step on the accelerator as soon as they perceive to be far enough by the last cop. But the indiscriminate way with which you may get caught by the camera (compared to – in many cases, thankfully – choosy policemen) forces pretty much everyone to slow down to at least exactly the speed limit when near the device.

When cameras are positioned sufficiently close to one another – and especially when the majority of the people know their locations quite well – the traffic tends to move right at the prescribed speed. Sad for those who want to go fast, but a joy to whomever sets the speed limits.

It gets right down to subconscious. Around the corner from our house, on a major road, there used to be a camera that was perpetually burned out. A couple of months ago, it was summarily taken down. I know that it is not there anymore, but I still automatically slow down near where it used to be. It takes an articulated thought to ignore the impulse and ease off the brakes.

The unpredictability of police checks should in theory be a bigger deterrent from speeding than well-known and well-signposted cameras. I now feel that it is the dehumanisation of the enforcement that is the true deterrent. You expect the camera to be in working condition and to snap your picture (and you instinctively would be less inclined to contest technological evidence), while a cop with a radar is likely not to deem you worthy of his attention unless you are way over the limit (and occasionally, when the violation is not very egregious, the less heartless of them may let you go upon hearing a good excuse).

Now, in some places, they plan to employ mobile cameras in unpredictable patterns. Now, that would make everyone move below the limit at all times…

Just to set the record straight: I am against speed limits as a concept! They infringe on personal liberties, without any definitive proof of being instrumental in reducing accidents or saving lives. And any radar or camera enforcement is nothing but a money-grabbing exercise for local municipalities and police departments, with insurance companies all too happy to line their pockets as well.

These have been simply my idle musings on the effectiveness of said enforcement.

Posted in Expat Archive