Since the first speed camera was installed in the UK in 1991, they have become a staple on British roads. Many road safety experts regard them as key to driving down the number of traffic accidents — a belief that saw the new generation of "stealth" speed cameras deployed on Britain's motorways at the beginning of the year. However, it seems the tide is turning on value of speed cameras, with suggestions they do as much harm as they do good, as illustrated by this week's motoring news.
Drivers are often guilty of not leaving enough space between them and the vehicle in front. Problems come when that vehicle in front has to slam on the brakes, which then means that avoiding an accident is dependent on the tailgating driver's reaction times.
Inevitably, there are times when hard braking is necessary, but approaching a speed camera shouldn't be one such occasion. However, research shows that 80% of UK speed cameras lead to 'hard braking activity'.
Of course, drivers shouldn't put themselves in a situation where they need to quickly decrease their speed to avoid facing a fine, but you'd be pushed to find a motorist who hasn't been guilty of hitting the brake pedal hard having failed to spot a speed camera until late in the day.
The telematics company who carried out the research, Wunelli, say the findings raise the debate of whether cameras are, in fact, a helpful road safety tool or if they simply encourage poor driving behaviour.
Few would argue that speed cameras still have a role to play on British roads. However, support for the devices appears to be waning in some parts of the country, according to a new survey by the Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM).
Four years ago, 85% of London drivers accepted the need for speed cameras, with 84% in the North East feeling the same way. However, IAM's latest study shows that support has dwindled to 69% and 70% respectively.
IAM's chief executive officer, Sarah Sillars, said that with 79% of all respondents agreeing that speed cameras are necessary, it shows that he majority of drivers can see the value of them beyond just a means of revenue raising for the government.
However, overwhelming public support is very important when it comes to effective speed camera operation, Sillars added.
"They will respect them if they see their effectiveness and worthiness, and these regional variations highlight where extra work is needed to convince drivers of the benefits and to counter media perceptions and urban myths around cameras," she explained.
Speed cameras are set up to give drivers a bit of leeway; this is widely regarded to be 10% over the speed limit plus 2 mph. The downfall of this is that it breeds the opinion that there is some flexibility around speed limits, even at lower speed limits, says the AA's president Edmund King.
King was speaking to the Daily Mail after the AA revealed that nearly half of cars, motorbikes and vans were found to have broken the UK motorway speed limit, effectively making the default speed limit on Britain's motorways 80mph.
The motoring organisation said that motorists are driving without fear of getting prosecuted for breaking the law.
Speed camera advocates would likely argue that findings such as these highlight why they are still an essential means of traffic enforcement. King, meanwhile, says that the research inflames the ongoing argument over whether or not the motorway speed limit should officially be increased.
However, there are too many variables to consider to make a strong case 'for' at the moment, he claims.
"In decent weather in a modern car at a good distance from the car in front, 80mph is probably a safe speed," he explained.
"But 50mph in an old car, on a pot-holed motorway, too close to the car in front is probably too fast."
We wrap-up this week by peering into the future — as we often like to do — at the cars of tomorrow. With it now seemingly just a matter of time before autonomous cars are dominating British roads, this week Nissan has revealed its latest prototype.
Not just content with creating a car capable of hands-free lane changes and traffic jam assistance, Nissan has built a vehicle with a brain that can adapt to the owner's driving habits.
"When it comes to basic abilities such as cognition, judgment and action, the latest devices have capabilities that are 100 times better than human beings," says Takao Asami, Nissan's senior vice president.
On top of being able to use artificial intelligence to store data on the driver's tastes, Nissan's concept car has an interior which, when switched to autonomous driving mode, sees its steering wheel replaced by a large flat screen and seats that rotate inward so passengers can talk to each other as if "in a living room".
Take a look at the video below to get a feeling of what we could be driving in the future …
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