Speed cameras “do a good job” in reducing road deaths and injuriesBMJ 2010; 341 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.c5489 (Published 06 October 2010) Cite this as: BMJ 2010;341:c5489
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It is pleasing that the effectiveness of speed cameras has been
substantiated (1). Their importance lies in counteracting well-documented
limitations of human perceptual and cognitive processing (2,3), coupled
with the bizarre tendency among drivers to discount the evidence of their
speedometers (4). Not surprizingly, this example of paring back public
expenses is generally understood as no more than a sop to well-documented
negative attitudes regarding speed cameras (5).
(a) The expense of cameras must be weighed against the expense of
dealing with the increased incidence of trauma incidents, long-term
aftercare and so on that must follow reduced controls on speed.
(b) The extra dangers imposed on pedestrians and cyclists - and
public-transport users, because public transport is most efficiently
accessed by walking and cycling - must be assessed. Incentives to
healthier life-styles may lose their already weak appeal, entailing
increased load on NHS resources in dealing with illnesses associated with
(c) the effects of both the above impinge negatively on the "carbon
footprint": faster driving generates more carbon dioxide, while
disincentives to healthier travel-modes generate more use of motor-
The development of an adequate road-safety culture has always been
lukewarm, no matter how strong the evidence for its necessity. The history
of drink-driving is another example; it still persists over forty years
after the introduction of the breathalyser (6).
However, all such speculation might be overtaken if a 1970s-style
fuel crisis emerges - not beyond the bounds of possibility following the
disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. The 1970s crises had untoward positive
side-effects in reducing speed and casualties as drivers eked out their
fuel. Unfortunately, the lessons for road safety were afterwards submerged
in the race to restore "normal" driving standards (7).
(1) Mooney H. Speed cameras "do a good job" in reducing road deaths
and injuries. BMJ 2010;341:c5489
(2) Howard I. Human visual orientation. 1982; New York: Wiley
(3) Denton G G. The influence of visual pattern on perceived speed.
(4) Denton G G. The use made of the speedometer as an aid to driving.
(5) Reinhardt-Rutland T H. Roadside speed-cameras: arguments for
covert siting. Police J 2001;74:312-315
(6) Gunay B, Haran I. Face-to-face interviews with motorists who
admit to drink driving in rural Northern Ireland. Traffic Eng and Control
(7) Reinhardt-Rutland T H. Jolted into action: untoward crises as
catalysts for sustained improvement of public health. Inj Prev 2010;16;214
Competing interests: No competing interests