Flash, bang, wallop. Again.

So it would seem that Oxfordshire County Council are about to turn on the speed cameras again, just a few months after they were turned off.  I wonder why?

I suspect yesterday evening’s BBC news story explains a lot.  The bulletin featured a 9 year old girl from Nuneham Courtney explaining that she wanted drivers to be safe as they drove through her village.  For her, this meant them slowing down – and she thought a camera was the best way to make sure they did.  She was eloquent, clear and clearly cared about safety and her village.  Some shots of roadside “speed kills” posters drawn by local school children, then I was on.  Middle aged, grey-haired fat bloke with an argument that explained how driving is a complex thing and suggesting speed cameras were too blunt in the way they work.

See what I mean?

Curbridge camera

I think that BBC bulletin explains more clearly than anything else why the Council has flip-flopped.

We know it’s not about road safety.  Speed is a factor in less than 7% of crashes.  It’s about politics.  I suspect local councillors have been deluged with letters, e-mails and probably a petition or two from residents (aka voters) asking for cameras back.  What are they going to do when faced with the local primary school class on their doorstep, closely followed by a reporter from the local paper?  What are they going to do when the locals in the pub give them a hard time for their council pulling the plug on the local camera?

Speed gets a reaction from people.  Plenty of people want a camera outside their house who are happy to exceed a limit down the next street – let alone the next village.  And they’re vocal about it – because it’s an emotional, not a rational, reaction.

That’s why my rational argument looked lame compared with the opinion of a 9 year old girl.  She was right too – people SHOULD be driving safely through her village, but a camera won’t make them.  Instead, it and the policy behind it, will distract drivers – and councillors too – from what really makes drivers and riders safe.

All I wonder now is whether funding for that girl’s school – or for the old people’s home where perhaps her grandparents are cared for – will be cut to find the £600k to turn the power back on?

7 thoughts on “Flash, bang, wallop. Again.

Add yours

  1. A very rational and well considered explanation for the councils ill considered about turn.

    It is such a pity the children are being used as political pawns. Their education seems to be skewed towards a political ideology rather than really investigating the facts and making independent, logical conclusions.


    1. Actually, Peter, I think she’d evaluated the evidence very well as she saw it. I’d be stunned if anyone of her age had delved into the various research papers, looked at psychomotor models of driver behaviour and understood the way hazard management, perception and anticipation worked. She simply saw cars going too fast past her house and wanted to do something – and I admire her for it. But until we depoliticise road safety, councils will be forced to choose between being pressured – privately and through the media – into making road safety decisions or being elected.


  2. One question. Has the accident rate in Oxfordshire increased in the last few months, in a way that the rate in neighbouring counties has not?

    That’s the only relevant question. Anything else is pure conjecture.

    The fact the SCPs have not been in the media every day shouting that “yes, yes, Oxonians are dying like flies on the roads” but that instead we are treated to an emotional appeal from a shcoolchild suggests* to me that it has not.

    (*but does not prove)


  3. I think there’s something else as well.

    I too live in a village. Fortunately not on the main road that runs through it. Because when I walk through my village I see speeding drivers rushing down the main road and I really wish they wouldn’t. It’s not that they’re not safe. I’m sure they could stop if they needed to, and I’m not aware of even a minor accident in many years (though one did get too close to the kerb a while back and knock my wife’s arm with his wing mirror, but that’s another story).

    But they disturb the air, disturb the peace, and add an air of fear to the simple pleasures of walking along the path. It’s not what happens, but what might happen that is fear-inducing. Inappropriate speed is a nuisance even when it’s safe.

    I wish people would just stick to the 30 limit in towns and villages. And I wish this simple request was not made infinitely more difficult by the proliferation of ridiculously low “political” limits imposed for no good reason on miles of perfectly safe road. If the only limits which existed were valid on safety or nuisance grounds then I feel there’d be a whole lot more compliance.

    And in place of the political speed limits we need far better (fewer, but more informative) signs that indicate hazards and explain why they are. So not “slow” but “tight left bend” or “accident black spot” (remember them?). Give drivers information to make good decisions instead of assuming we’re incapable and therefore have to be reined in by artificially low limits.


  4. Just as children cannot vote, it should be illegal to manipulate children for political purposes. Somebody put her up to it, whether directly or indirectly.


    1. You know, Chris, I’m not sure about that. I thought she was absolutely sincere in her views and made some good points. I’m not surprised that people get angry about people going too fast through villages – it’s bloody annoying. But a camera won’t help (although it does give the warm feeling of ‘punishing those nasty drivers’), and nor will a lower limit. We need to change the whole way road safety works so it becomes about ethos and not compliance.


  5. It is called lets in brainwash the kids into thinking that micro managing the speed will make drivers “better”.

    It has always been going too fast for conditions that kill, not a number sign on the side of the road.

    This is more akin to NIMBY mentality. Except in using speed bumps and cul de sacs, they wan to use speed scameras to keep traffic off of “their” road.

    It is time to ban the speed scameras.

    From your American Friends:



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