October 23, 2005

The road safety bill and detection devices

I am currently considering purchasing a Snooper S6-R radar detector for a very simple reason – I am tired of spending my entire driving constantly monitoring the speed limit and my speed, watching out for speed cameras and police vans etc. It is getting to the stage now where I am concerned that my ability as a driver is being impaired because of the amount of attention this takes off of the road and onto just monitoring the speedo and what's parked in the next layby. So this is where the detector comes in. By having one of these devices, it will constantly have a display of my current vehicle speed, the current speed limit (often hard to spot in areas of speed camera enforcement due to lack of signs!), I can set audible alarms for when I am over the speed limit so that I know when to slow down without having to concentrate on every single speed limit sign with the constantly chopping and changing speed limits that exist on our road network today, and I won't have to scan behind every bush and tree and on top of every motorway bridge for cameras and enforcement officers.

Aha, I hear you say, you want one of these just to break the speed limit. Well partly I do want one of these so that if conditions allow I can break the speed limit safely by not having to concentrate so hard on cameras etc yes. I'm not going to try and feed you all a rubbish story that it's all about ensuring that I never break the limit. But on the other hand, a lot of the time my concentration problems are related to the fact that there are speed cameras everywhere and I haven't spotted the single speed limit sign that was 4 miles back half covered by overgrowing trees. And if you've driven on British roads recently you'll notice that the speed limit changes rather a lot. Hence by having this system in my car I will not have these troubles anymore, and consequently make me a safer driver.

The government doesn't seem to agree though. The current road safety bill seeks to ban detectors (although GPS-based systems will remain legal). The argument is that detectors are used by drivers to basically exceed the speed limit where they see fit, and as such make our roads more dangerous. Given the number of statistics and numbers thrown about by road safety groups, it's perhaps surprising that in this bill they evidently haven't read the largest survey into radar detector use, conducted by MORI in 2001 and sampled just over 1,000 drivers, about 50% of whom had a detector and 50% hadn't. Read the report and it's findings here if you wish. To summarise, there is a stark contrast between the profile of a driver who has and a driver who has not gone to the effort of purchasing a radar detector. This is perhaps unsurprising, as it takes someone who cares about driving/keeping their licence a lot more than your average motorist to voluntarily go and invest several hundred pounds in a detector in the first place. The average distance driven between accidents however was just over 217,000 miles for a user of a detector compared to a little over 143,000 miles for non-uses. This means that the user of a detector is approximately 50% less likely to have an accident in a given journey than a non-user. This has to be in part down to other factors – for example, the users tend to clock up a far higher annual mileage. However, it does fly strongly in the face of the suggestion that detectors make our roads less safe, because either they are making "bad" speeding drivers safer (in this instance we would expect to see a reduction in accidents) or that the users of detectors (who seem to be those who speed more in the first place according to the poll) are actually pretty safe and competent drivers to start with (rubbishing the idea that drivers who speed are the spawn of satan and cause no end of damage on public roads compared to Mr Joe Public).

Either way, the move to ban radar detectors seems to be based on statements related to road safety that are completely contradictory to the evidence that actually, if anything, detectors make our roads safer to be on in the first place. Furthermore, our sterotype preconceptions of road safety and speed, particularly when related to the issue of cameras and detection, are deeply flawed and long overdue for revision. Most of all, the Road Safety Bill requires amendments and fast.

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  1. I love you – you're great. This is just what I wanted to read today!

    I had a huge debate with parents over the weekend about driving badly vs. quickly, and I just got yelled at.
    I wanna be a bigger petrolhead than I am now – I make it my goal in life!

    Bring on MPH05!



    23 Oct 2005, 14:00

  2. Speed cameras were only allowed through Parliament in the first place on the grounds they'd only be deployed at accident blackspots where excessive speed was proven to be a major cause of serious crashes. If a system exists that can warn you of the location of these obviously very dangerous points, that can't be a bad thing, surely?

    That said, I'm amazed how many straight, open sections of dual carriageway with 40/50 limits, excellent all-round visibility and armco barriers on both sides seem to be "accident blackspots". Hmm…

    23 Oct 2005, 14:36

  3. Hence they haven't attempted to form a legal case against GPS based systems for this very reason Si, although the detectors designed for mobile systems are under threat. Namely, of course, because their revenues would take such a hit…

    And thanks Lorna :-) Do you want to come to MPH '05 then? I sent you the details the other day – get in touch if you want to go.


    23 Oct 2005, 14:46

  4. Yeah I do! I didn't receive details :(

    Where did you send them?

    Me no receive them :(

    Let me think – a chance to walk round drooling over Hamster and sexy cars, all in one place, and the opportunity to be a woman at such an event, and therefore be a bit controversial? Fuck yeah!


    23 Oct 2005, 21:55

  5. GPS ones are tempting but too expensive. I like the new radars at uni, I've always thought they are a good idea. They nicely make you aware of your speed.

    I think the real challenge, is for a highly-radar-relective human being to get registered, whilst riding on a bicycle. I manage to confuse the radar the other night…

    23 Oct 2005, 21:57

  6. I love making speed cameras flash when I'm going the other way, and then giving them the finger as I go past!

    24 Oct 2005, 00:52

  7. I sent them to your hotmail account that you use for MSN Lorna… The website is www.mphshow.co.uk.

    Nathaniel – the GPS systems have come down in price a lot recently. Without a radar detector the Snooper S6 is now £200, and with a radar detector £285. I agree that we should get some speeding fines for fast cyclists, that would be amusing!

    Edward, can't say I've ever done that. I'm very tempted to get a Fastrac with a chain and tour the country ripping them from their mountings though (not that I would ever condone such destruction of public property of course…)

    24 Oct 2005, 09:30

  8. Edward, we've got a friend who did that (Andy S back in the Corsa days) – he just wanted to see what would happen if you sped towards a camera (in the belief it wouldn't be programmed to go off, to avoid blinding the driver). D'oh. Luckily there was no film in it, or something.

    24 Oct 2005, 09:47

  9. No mention as to how fast the legend that is Mr Smith was going in a 30 at the time ;-) How are his Atoms doing Si?

    24 Oct 2005, 09:55

  10. At home in the little town of Stanmore in North London. We have a main road where there was a campaign between a certain motorist, who

    1. Painted the white lines so the camera couldn't catch him. When the council repainted them he…

    2. Dug up every individual marking on the road. There were lots of mini pits, and mini mole hills!

    24 Oct 2005, 17:23

  11. Wouldn't it have been easier to simply spray paint, or angle-grind, the speed camera?

    25 Oct 2005, 17:14

  12. Peter Cargill

    Edward – I think it's disgraceful that you are encouraging criminal acts here. Encouraging people to go out and commit criminal damage is a terrible thing to be doing, in fact, as the speed cameras are owned by the government I'd say that was an act of terrorism and you should be locked up for 90 days for gloryfying and inciting terrorism.

    27 Oct 2005, 09:18

  13. Sh*t, that's not funny, not even as a joke…

    27 Oct 2005, 10:04

  14. Haha. Seriously, Peter, you've gotta be shitting us.


    27 Oct 2005, 10:12

  15. I can only think of one loony party that could define damage to revenue speed cameras as terrorism while talking about early release for thousands of prisoners because the jails are too full.

    27 Oct 2005, 10:54

  16. Mr Cargill (I hope not some sick-minded individual who is using the name of the Jamaican footballer who died in a car crash 7 years ago, and now has a memorial fund in his name) – while I won't condone the illegal act of defacing public property, if you could explain to me how the destruction of speed cameras can be defined as terrorism (to help you, here's the dictionary definition of terrorism):

    Pronunciation: 'ter-&r-"i-z&m
    Function: noun
    1 : the unlawful use or threat of violence esp. against the state or the public as a politically motivated means of attack or coercion
    2 : violent and intimidating gang activity"

    then perhaps you could educate us. Personally I think that there are much worse criminal acts that go completely unpunished in modern society but there we go.

    27 Oct 2005, 11:11

  17. David Brookes

    after passing a spped camera, I sped up and got flashed by a camera on the other side of the road. Do the gatso prsecute oncoming traffic on the other side of the road?

    01 Nov 2005, 14:14

  18. I don't believe so – the lines on the road are there to act as a double-check for eventualities like this. The twin flashes happen a set amount of time apart, so by working out the distance the car has travelled between the two time intervals on the lines, they can tell if it was your car that was speeding or not.

    01 Nov 2005, 17:08

  19. I've been sites where a Gatso rotate slightly to cover both sides of a road (i.e. facing oncoming traffic on one side). So yes, possibly. Remember it may not have been a Gatso – there are other types specifically designed to take photos of the front of the car.

    01 Nov 2005, 19:37

  20. Mel

    Hi Guys,

    Female, non-driver here, thinking of buying her other half a speed camera detector for his birthday and need a little advice if anyone can oblige?

    I’ve read about future legislation banning the use of radar/laser detectors – does anyone know when this may come into force? Not sure whether it is worth investing in one if it will be pretty soon.

    Also – can anyone recommend a particular brand? – My budget is not imense – about £150.



    04 Mar 2007, 15:50

  21. I would recommend you go with a GPS system Mel. The TomTom navigation system comes with the option to add on GPS-based speed camera detection for most of their models – the One retails at £180, and the subscription to the speed camera database can be added at a later date. If you want just a camera detection system, I’d suggest the Road Angel Compact, which can be had for about £150. I wouldn’t bother with a laser detector as these are generally pretty ineffective. All the GPS systems are only as good as their databases, I’ve had experience with the Snooper one and found it to be very good; reports from other suggest that the Road Angel and Tomtom databases are similarly up to date. I can’t comment on others.

    I don’t know anything more about the impending legislation – the bill hasn’t progressed further and I understand it’s stalling/died somewhat. Watch this space for further updates. Once/if the legislation comes in though, it will be illegal to own radar and laser based detection equipment, so if you own a GPS detector (which will remain legal), the manufacturer will have to modify it accordingly to make it compliant with the law. Hope this helps.

    05 Mar 2007, 13:46

  22. ben

    i got flashed going TOWARDS a gatso, which i was on the other side of the road to. there were those white lines on the floor on the other side of the road, but not mine. am i safe?! i dont even understand why it flashed, i thought it only caught drivers going away from it. anybody know if i’m gonna get a letter in the post from this?

    15 Mar 2007, 01:41

  23. Chris "will the WGA database ever return?" Sigournay

    The short answer Ben is yes, you should be safe. Gatsos (unlike their infra-red truvelo counterparts) work on radar and are designed specifically to only take a shot of you driving away from the camera, as the flash is potentially blinding. The white lines are generally painted on both sides of the road so that someone cannot escape conviction if they are overtaking, or if they deliberately move into the oncoming lane in an attempt to avoid being flashed. Chances are the camera was either faulty or nicking someone coming the other way. You should be safe in this instance. If you haven’t received a NIP within 14 days (plus 3 days allowance for postage) they cannot legally prosecute you anyway.

    15 Mar 2007, 13:05

  24. ben

    cheers ‘Chris…’ that puts my mind at rest somewhat, however it was late at night and im positive it didnt catch anyone going the other way because i would of seen, i was the only one on the road. i suppose il just have to pray its faulty.

    15 Mar 2007, 15:36

  25. Ron

    Please help, I received a court summons today for speeding according to the letter on
    the 7th of december.
    It says in there that 2 notices of intended prosecution had been sent to me on
    15th of december and 12 of january

    The wording is…
    Between 15.12.2006 and 12.01.2007 the defendant, who was the keaper of FORD xxxxxx
    failed, when requested by the chief officer of police for Norfolk Constabulary to give information as to the identity of the driver of the vehicle who was alleged to have been guilty of an offence in relation to the use of the vehicle.

    I had not received anything asking me to provide information!! Last I was caught speeding I received a letter through the post. I have spoken to friends and they have all said the same, they received a leter. I have had many problems with the post her, and as i understand it the letters were not sent recorded.

    What can I do please. I am really worried, it seems unfair, as I have not received either of the letters they say they sent.

    Please help asap. any advice would be really appreciated.

    17 Mar 2007, 16:09

  26. Chris Sigournay

    I’m no legal expert I’m afraid. The first thing I would suggest you doing is getting in contact with the office who sent the NIP and inform them that although they may have sent previous letters you haven’t received them, at least then you have acknowledged receipt of this one and also stated that this is the first communication you have received from them which is somewhat later than the 14 days they are legally required to. Ask them what is the usual course of events in this situation – you may find they are helpful, although I have my doubts. Other than that, I would suggest you seek some proper legal advice – as I said I’m no expert. I’m sorry I can’t be more helpful.

    18 Mar 2007, 20:49

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