Norfolk’s speed camera cut the number of crashes, latest figures reveal

Fixed speed cameras have significantly reduced the number of serious crashes on Norfolk's roads, the latest figures reveal.

A report published by the Department of Transport (DfT) yesterday suggests that speed cameras have had mixed results nationally, with increased casualty rates reported at some sites.

But statistics released by the Norfolk Safety Camera Partnership show the number of crashes and injuries has reduced since the introduction of cameras at speeding hot-spots.

Figures published by the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Road Safety Partnership show a reduction in crashes at some sites and an increase at others - mirroring the national trend.

In Norfolk, the speed camera in Norwich's Sweet Briar Road, installed in 2002, has seen the number of serious or fatal collisions fall from seven between 1999 and 2002, to zero in the last three years.

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That site has also seen the number of crashes where people where hurt reduce from 25 to 14 in the same period.

A camera installed on Southtown Road at Great Yarmouth last July has seen similar success.

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Between 2005 and 2008, there were five serious or fatal collisions and 25 collisions where somebody was hurt. Both figures have dropped to zero.

'In Norfolk a lot of thought was put into where the cameras were sited and a lot of research was done to establish where they were most needed,' said Iain Temperton, team manager for casualty reduction at Norfolk County Council. 'They were specifically used in areas where we had a significant casualty problem.

'We are immensely proud of our casualty reduction rates and we are seen nationally as one of the leading authorities. One casualty is a casualty too many so we are not resting on our laurels, but Norfolk is essentially a very safe county to drive in. This is down to all the government bodies and other organisations working to get the right message across.'

Detailed information on specific speed camera sites has been published by the government so residents can 'hold councils to account' if they believe cameras have made the situation worse.

But Clinton Hale, manager of the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Safety Camera Unit, said it was too simplistic to conclude the cameras were not worthwhile if there was an increase in crashes nearby.

'Context needs to be taken into account,' he said. 'You need to do an analysis of the area, look at the individual collisions and the circumstances. The cameras will not stop crashes - all you can do is reduce speed so if something does go wrong people have more time to react and a greater chance of survival.'

An example seized by anti-camera campaigners is a camera installed on the A1134 Newmarket Road in Cambridgeshire in 1997 following five minor casualties.

The figures show there were seven injuries, two of them serious, at the site last year.

Mr Hale said the road had changed greatly since the camera was introduced and was now a lot busier, increasing the potential for collisions.

'What would the collisions have been without the camera?' he added.

So far, 75 English local authorities have published some or all of their information showing accident and casualty rates as well as speeds at camera sites before and after the introduction of speed cameras.

All local authorities were asked to publish information about the effectiveness of their speed cameras as soon as possible and the DfT report includes web links to all the material.

But of these 75, only 46 have published full data, with the other 29 publishing partial data.

The remaining 72 local authorities - including Suffolk - have not published any data, or not enough for the effectiveness of the camera sites to be judged. They all plan to publish their figures in the next few weeks.

Cambridgeshire Police is one of the first forces to publish the number of prosecutions arising from each permanent or long-term temporary fixed cameras, but most will be making the information available later this year.

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: 'Local residents have a right to expect that when their council spends money on speed cameras, they publish information to show whether those cameras are helping to reduce accidents or not.

'However, residents can only hold their council to account if it has made information available so I would urge those councils which have not yet published their data to do so as soon as possible.'

The DfT report has been welcomed by some motoring organisations, including the RAC, but road safety charity Brake has defended the effectiveness of the cameras.

Campaigns director Julie Townsend said: 'Rigorous academic studies have shown fixed speed cameras are exceptionally effective in reducing speeds, crashes and casualties, preventing families going through the unnecessary trauma and pain of a road death or injury.

'The information released today is incomplete and has not been academically analysed to produce an overall picture. Without this work, it's impossible to make general statements on speed camera effectiveness using this data.

'The government's focus should be on persuading drivers of the importance of staying within the law and making roads safer by slowing down.'

Norfolk's 23 speed cameras were set to be scrapped last year after the government pulled the plug on safety camera partnership funding as part of its comprehensive spending review.

But Norfolk Police Authority intervened and an agreement has recently been reached with Norfolk County Council to keep the cameras switched on.

Click on for links to the different authority's figures.

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