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New high-tech speed cameras in Hampshire

PUBLISHED: 11:36 04 January 2016 | UPDATED: 11:39 04 January 2016

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Getty Images/iStockphoto

Archant

With the recent news that high-tech cameras are to be installed across the county, are we being over-policed in order to raise a few bucks for the council, or is this a necessary evil if our roads are to remain safe? asks Alice Cooke

Christmas is coming, and statistics show that this means more drink driving and more accidents. This in itself is frankly ridiculous – do you really need telling that driving under the influence is a bad idea? But according to Hampshire Police one of the most common causes of accidents year-round is speeding. Two of the main Southampton blackspots are identified as the A33 at Kingsway and the A3204 at Maybray King Way. At Kingsway there were 23 collisions and 26 casualties (which includes fatalities) in the last five years, and at Maybray King Way there were 32 collisions and 39 casualties in the same period (figures according to Hampshire Constabulary). As a result there will now be new high tech speed cameras at both locations, as well as many others across the county. Fitted with the latest technology they will take crystal clear pictures of culprits, meaning there will be no wriggling out of any fines for drivers.

The older traditional cameras (many of which are over ten years old and rely on 35mm film) mean long hours travelling for the police in order to replace reels and carry out maintenance, whereas the new equipment uploads images to police servers in real time, without the need for any additional police hours.

The move has triggered debate with Simon Letts, leader of Southampton City Council, who says that he is pleased “to see that the police are joining the 21st century”.

But Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith thinks that the cameras should be aiming to keep children safe, rather than focusing on maximising revenue. Hampshire Police Federation chairman John Apter is similarly critical, and insists that properly-trained officers are more effective than cameras in tackling bad driving.

Police say the cameras will be replaced at priority sites where there is the greatest need to reduce the number of crashes and bring vehicle speed down, but are not keen to identify the locations – analysts will look at detailed incident and crash figures for the county’s roads and pinpoint the sites where new cameras are most urgently needed.

But Mr Smith says that he believes “speed cameras have a place in keeping drivers, cyclists and pedestrians safer. However, I have frequently challenged the citing of speed cameras and so have many of my constituents. Why would a dual carriageway in a less populated area have priority over a school, for example? I would rather see our children prioritised when it comes to upgrading cameras, rather than areas where it is perceived that the cameras are generating revenue.”

Mr Apter tends to agree, saying that “we have seen that a police presence on the road influences driving behaviour, and not just in the 100 metres that a speed camera might influence behaviour. There are some devastating results from unsociable and dangerous driving and lives have been lost, but police officers are more effective in reducing road collisions.”

Mr Letts says that he is in favour of the new technology being introduced, saying “if they are seen as being just for the police then they don’t work - but they are there for a reason. I support the camers but not just for the sake of getting a few quid.”

What are your thoughts? Are the police trying to keep us safe, or just out to raise some extra funds?

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