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UK: Survey Shows Drivers Distracted by Speed Cameras
Driver distraction from presence of speed cameras may have caused thousands of UK accidents since 2001.

Gatso photo by Jon Dunning/Flickr
According to a poll released last week by the Liverpool Victoria Insurance Company, UK motorists drive more erratically in the presence of speed cameras. The firm, which insures 3.8 million in England and Wales, commissioned ICM Research to survey how the driving public responds when automated ticketing machines are present. The firm concluded that, since 2001, photo enforcement may have contributed to thousands of accidents that would not have otherwise occurred.

The survey showed that 81 percent of drivers take their eyes off the road to watch the speedometer as soon as a camera comes into view. Another five percent admitted to slamming on the brakes when approaching a camera. Nearly a third, 31 percent, said they have witnessed an accident or near accident first-hand as a result of a driver's reaction to the presence of a camera.

"Rear-end shunts are the third most common type of car crash and blame is nearly always attributed to the driver who hits the rear of the car behind," a Liverpool Victoria release explained, citing internal claims data.

One percent of drivers reported speed cameras as a contributory factor in an accident. With 2.7 million accidents on record since the introduction of cameras, Liverpool Victoria estimated that speed cameras contributed to 27,900 collisions. Road safety experts expressed no surprise at the findings.

"People fail to recognize or judge a potential danger, as their attention is distracted by the over emphasis of the need to be precise with their speed, at specific locations," Safe Speed co-founder Claire Armstrong said. "Disproportionate automatic enforcement that penalizes the majority of safe motorists is not about safety, but about targets and legal compliance."

The legal compliance achieved is brief. Only nine percent of drivers claimed that they never exceed the posted speed limit while 91 percent drive over the limit. On highways where the limit is 70 MPH, 69 percent said their average speed was 81 MPH.

"Speed cameras have been a feature on UK roads for almost 20 years, yet the feedback from drivers is that while they may reduce speed they also appear to impair driving ability or at the least concentration on the road," LV Car Insurance Managing Director John O'Roarke said.

UK photo enforcement programs are beginning to fold now that the government of Prime Minister David Cameron has kept its pledge to "end the war on the motorist" by cutting funding for speed cameras. Oxfordshire last month decided to pull the plug on its seventy-two fixed cameras. Wiltshire county council will drop sixteen camera sites in October. Buckinghamshire will drop ten of its fifty sites.

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