Monday 16 November 2009

speed cameras: more media misrepresentation

Speed camera that rakes in £500,000-a-year blamed for doubling of motorway casualties

howls the Mail on Sunday, with a story full of blatant untruths. But this preposterous headline will now become enshrined as scientific fact and be cited as such for years by the kind of people who fill up Comments boxes with anti-speed-camera wailings.

A motorway speed camera responsible for earning the Government £500,000-a-year in fines has been blamed for increasing accidents since it was installed.

Blamed by who precisely? Paul Pearson, a solitary anti-speed-camera nutter. Like the crackpot one-person ‘Safe Speed’ these individuals are given great attention by the media, because their views come in useful in promoting the vested interests of an industry which depends heavily on advertising revenue from motor firms, or has corporate interests which include motoring magazines. Their uninformed opinions also chime nicely with those of that minority of journalists in the national media who earn large salaries, drive fast cars, and themselves have motoring convictions.

The camera, which monitors a busy stretch of the M11 in Essex, results in 9,000 tickets a year, but figures released by police show crashes have risen by a quarter at the site.

That’s a very slippery formulation because it evades defining what ‘the site’ is. In reality the speed camera only covers about 20 metres of motorway. You have to read to the very end of the article to get at the truth:

The Highways Agency said that the accident data for the spot, between junctions four and five on the southbound carriageway, did not show a pattern of accidents which would be consistent with the camera itself being a factor.

Anyone who drives south down the M11 knows that, farcically, this is the only speed camera along the entire length of the motorway, and along its entire length the M11 is crammed with drivers screaming down the fast lane at 90 mph or more. (The middle lane, obviously, is for 80 mph drivers.)

The Mail’s account of the road lay-out at this site is wildly misleading, as no one is more pampered with road signs than the modern motorist. There are a series of warnings of the speed camera, and it is painted bright yellow and very visible ahead on a long straight stretch of road. The fact that so many drivers are still caught by it is simply a symptom of the atrociously bad standards of driving to be found on this motorway (as on all motorways), with drivers travelling at lunatic speeds while not paying attention to the road ahead of them.

It’s funny that people like Paul Pearson never seem to notice realities like that. And such realities are not ones which the car supremacist national media has any interest in acknowledging either.