So fixed speed cameras are suffering death by a thousand cuts as the budget to run them is sharply reduced.
Oxfordshire County Council is reported to be scrapping the £600,000 it gives annually to the Thames Valley Road Safety Partnership, and the removal of that funding will see the partnership ceasing to maintain the 72 cameras currently to be found on the county’s roads. They could be mothballed within days.
The council’s decision is not entirely unexpected given the coalition government’s promise to end the ”war on motorists”, as part of which it pledged to stop providing local authorities with the money to operate its cameras – something it has already done.
But while there will be drivers all too pleased to see the back of the so-called yellow peril, there is a much broader problem associated with the slashing of the road safety budget which concerns the RAC Foundation. The roads minister Mike Penning says he hopes councils will now focus on other ways of reducing road casualties, but how can they do anything if the cash to do it with is not available? For example, if the government believes enforcing speed limits is a good thing, then who is going to do it? Certainly not the police who also face a large reduction in resources and manpower.
There is of course the question of whether the current speed limits are actually appropriate, and often a case can be made - based on local circumstances – for reducing them in some instances, and indeed for increasing them in others, as happened recently on a stretch of the A13 in London.
But the fundamental fact remains. Road safety measures, which go far beyond speed cameras, deliver huge benefits in terms of value for taxpayers’ money, so in this time of financial crisis road safety is not an area where budgets should be cut. Let us debate how the money is spent, but with 2222 people still dying in road accidents there is clearly work still to be done.