Opinion: we need more motorway cameras

Opinion: we need more motorway cameras

This morning we revealed that there are 27% fewer dedicated traffic police on our roads compared to just five years ago. That’s a worrying stat. Especially if you drive around the M25 regularly.

You see, while there are cameras everywhere along the M25, ready for sniping that person who strays up to 60mph when the 50mph signs are displaying on the gantries, there is so much poor driving that the police aren’t there to see.

It’s interesting to look at the police areas in which the M25 passes, and how traffic officer numbers have fluctuated over the years.

As of 31 March 2015, Kent has 94 traffic officers (a drop of 44 compared to 2010), Surrey has 94 (down by 6), Thames Valley 204 (down by 24), Hertfordshire 91 (down by 48) and Essex 148 (down by 109 compared to 2010, but up by 72 compared to 2014).

The general theme is that you’re considerably less likely to see a liveried 3 Series patrolling London’s orbital motorway than just five years ago.

So what’s the solution? More traffic cops, obviously. But as cuts mean that’s unlikely to happen in the near future, I have another idea. Why not turn all those average speed cameras into lane-hogging cameras?

Lane-hogging is a huge issue on the M25. It probably accounts for something like 154% of congestion (figure might not be entirely accurate). Traffic officers are now able to dish out on-the-spot fines for those showing poor lane discipline, but they’re not there to do so.

So, how difficult could it be to use those cameras to catch lane-hoggers? As I was sat in traffic on the M25, I was giving this thought. Simply, they could read number plates of cars passing through in each lane, and any vehicle that repeatedly passes under cameras in the same lane could be flagged up.

Obviously it can’t be that simple. What about if there’s heavy traffic, where it just isn’t possible or practical to move between lanes? This is 2016… it can’t be that difficult for cameras to cleverly work out whether the inside lanes are clear enough for cars to move over.

Alternatively, they could just be used to snipe motorists continually passing under middle lane cameras at speeds above 60mph – in which case the motorway should be clear enough to move over occasionally.

Sure, some people won’t support the idea of more cameras. But anything that stops middle-lane morons clogging up the M25 is fine with me. What do you think?

Web editor at MotoringResearch.com. Drives a 1983 Austin Metro. Tweet me @MR_AndrewBrady.

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  • Rob

    I disagree and here’s why:

    (1) Binary
    (2) Grace

    Computers are binary – things are either ON or OFF. That’s why speed cameras are a terrible idea; they don’t take into account weather conditions, driver skill, time of day, or anything else. It’s a binary thing – you’re over the set limit or you’re not, and you get fines and points accordingly. In a 60mph limit do 59mph in fog so thick you can’t see your own headlights during the rush hour and you’re OK. Do 68mph at 3am on a dry clear night with no other traffic around and you’re out of pocket and endorsed.

    And that’s where grace comes in. When I was a lad back in the 1980s, often the traffic coppers would give a bit of latitude to a young driver keen to impress his mates. You’d get pulled over, a bit of education would be passed on (generally along with some good-natured sarcasm) and you’d depart a little bit wiser and relieved not to get a fine.

    If you were driving like a genuine idiot then you deserved to get a ticket, but there was an element of discretion given to the officer to treat you in a way commensurate with safety, conditions, time of day, proximity to shift change, how pleasant/honest you were and, just occasionally, how cool your car was.

    Cameras don’t educate; they don’t banter, or pass on wisdom or experience. They just penalise based on a set of fixed, pre-programmed rules.

    I intensely dislike lane-hogging – it’s selfish and inconsiderate – but for the reasons above I don’t think cameras will solve the problem.

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