By Kirsty Walker 27th June 2011
The speed cameras raking in the most money are to be identified for the first time.
Motorists will be able to see previously unavailable figures showing the number of speeding prosecutions and the accident rate at camera sites.
In a victory for drivers, the move could spell the end for those cameras that do not save lives.
Although ministers do not have the power to make local authorities switch the cameras off, they expect public pressure will force them to dismantle any shown to be merely money-spinners.
Until now, councils have been reluctant to reveal which cameras brought in the most revenue from fines, with details having to be prised out of them using Freedom of Information laws.
Critics say the cameras are used to raise money rather than save lives. The income from fines goes to the Treasury, not the councils responsible for installing and managing them in partnership with the police.
Now local authorities have until July 20 to start publishing the numbers of accidents and casualties at camera sites, both before and after they were installed.
The information will create a league table of Britain’s busiest speed cameras and show their effectiveness in saving lives.
Road safety minister Mike Penning said: ‘We want to stop motorists being used as cash cows. For too long information about speed cameras has been hidden in the shadows. This data will end that by clearly showing whether a camera is saving lives or just making money.’
There are now about 6,000 of the cameras in Britain, estimated to be generating £100million a year in fines. Information on collisions and casualties dating back to 1990 will have to be made public.
Research suggests speed cameras have triggered at least 28,000 crashes since 2001. Motorists who spot one ahead often drive erratically, lose concentration and brake suddenly, causing problems for other drivers. More than 80 per cent of drivers say they look at their speedometers rather than the car in front when they approach one.
Launching the transparency drive yesterday, Mr Penning said: ‘This will expose where cameras are and are not doing their job.
‘We can only do what we do with road safety if people believe it isn’t just about raising money but is about saving lives. What this will show is where there weren’t any accidents before, and accidents afterwards are minimal, or may even have gone up because people have reacted differently.
‘But it will also expose where accidents have dropped.’
Peter Roberts, of the Drivers’ Alliance group, said: ‘Speed cameras don’t improve safety. They’re often placed to generate the maximum revenue. Speed is to blame for only 4.7 per cent of accidents.’