Blah blah speed cameras blah moan blah blah

Yes, it's becoming boring. But how's this for an idea?

4y ago

As you may know by now, I was recently busted by a speed camera for doing 37mph in a 30mph limit. To be honest, that stretch of 30mph seems absurd (it used to be 40mph) and I know that camera catches a lot of people. I could go on to say that it looks like a cynical money-grabbing exercise.

But I’m pretty bored with motoring journalists banging on about speed cameras. It’s been going on for at least 20 years. The fact is that there was a sign, the camera was yellow, and there were those photogrammetry lines on the road. I wasn’t really paying attention. I cocked up.

Annoying, really, because I try my best to stick to urban speed limits. Most of them are fair enough. But I’m only human, and I make mistakes.

So do you. So does everyone who drives, including the righteous members of road-safety groups and anti-speed campaigns. ‘Well, you were caught,’ comes the cry. But the offence is not being caught, the offence is speeding.

So; morally, everyone who drives must immediately go down the cop shop and hand themselves in. But that isn’t going to happen, and we can’t have a society that makes everyone a criminal, because it would become meaningless.

And in any case, a lot of people will simply have made a mistake. We arrive here at a complicated philosophical conundrum – making mistakes is the lot of humanity, and legislating against that is nonsense.

'But it's actually perfectly fair…'

James comes quietly May

Here’s a suggestion. We can have speed cameras, we continue to paint them yellow and all the rest of it. But you can speed, say, six times in a year before you get a fine. But you don’t know how many times you’ve been caught until you’ve done it six times and you get the letter.

Sounds tyrannical, doesn’t it? But it’s actually perfectly fair, because it goes some way to distinguishing between people who have merely erred occasionally and those for whom it’s a genuine bad habit. And let’s say you get a written warning after the first three.

The point of speed cameras, we’re told, is to stop people speeding. This system still does, but avoids the moral effrontery of punishing them merely for being human.

Tell me why I’m wrong, please.

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Comments (444)

  • James is correct (again), most of us find ourselves speeding without intention (don't we all tend to drive faster when that certain song comes on, and before you know it.....).

    On another issue, I have been gob smacked by how many people here in the states know James, JC, and Hammond. Love

    The classic TG we get on BBC America and now The Grand Tour. And sites like these are just great!

      4 years ago
  • Excellent suggestion, James.

    Here's my take on the speed cameras (like anyone cares).

    In the USA, our cameras have a wider field of view than the radar and if the camera catches more than one vehicle (even if you're right in the center), they give you the benefit of the doubt and do not issue a ticket. Good! As it should be! However, that means you only get a ticket when you're the only one around. So, you are not likely endangering anyone by speeding (other than yourself, maybe), so how is it a safety device?

    I guess we've all resigned ourselves to the fact that they are revenue devices and we've given up the fight as though that's okay.

      4 years ago
  • James May for Prime Minister

      4 years ago
  • As a Forensic Collision Reconstruction Specialist with at-scene analytical experience at thousands of scenes in one of the worst road statistic countries in the world - South Africa - I totally disagree.

    Why MUST road offences be monetised? Why did an INCREASE in speed limit result in a DECREASE in road fatalities and the LOWERING of speed limits again INCREASE it on the Great North Highway in Australia?

    Why not force someone to watch road safety videos or serve a community function (on roads) for traffic offences?

    How is a 100-buck fine to a millionaire simply enjoying his Ferrari the same as one for a single mom trying to get her kids to school on time?

    I disagree because I believe speed enforcement has NOTHING to do with road safety. Not, from the perspective of the government anyway. If road safety campaigns were to work as legislators always promise it will, why do their budgets - based on traffic fine income - predictably INCREASE annually?

    Sorry, James. You're wrong. You didn't Cock up. The "system" is cooked up. You were merely another target!

    Lastly - what are the BENEFITS of being a law abiding citizen? NOTHING. No reduced licensing fees, no "lotto" win out of the speeding fine money, no reduced parking fees, tolls or access to autobahns. Nothing.

    You can't educate a child or train an animal by punishment alone. Hell - you're not even ALLOWED to punish your children. Every education model that works is based on REWARD.

    Why not road safety?

      4 years ago
  • I've always found the notion that 'speeding is dangerous', to be flawed. It is generally accepted that our motorways are statisically the safest roads in the country; the fastest but safest. More accidents happen in towns. But driving inappropriately for the conditions is more dangerous - I can drive at 70mph and be safe (on a motorway), or drive at 20mph and be dangerous (through a town centre shopping area.)

    Speed cameras were introduced some 20 years ago to slow everyone down. Has it worked? Clearly not since people are still getting caught. Maybe we need a new way of thinking.

    I agree with the idea that a little misdemeanor can be overlooked, just send a warning letter, yet a persistent offender should be dealt with.

      4 years ago
    • The thing you hit the nail on the head with is the 'innapropriate' use of speed. You can be driving under the speed limit but but still driving too fast for the conditions..

        4 years ago