Thursday's Letters: Claims that speed cameras save lives are unfounded

I MUST take issue with your editorial (Yorkshire Post, December 30) entitled "Camera candour". It opened with the statement "Speed cameras work", followed by the assertion that their presence has saved countless lives.

This claim is wildly irresponsible, when all that a camera does is to photograph a vehicle which has, usually mildly, exceeded a speed figure shown on a roadside post, and then require the driver to pay a fine.

The editorial then goes on to undermine its own assertion by referring to South Yorkshire's decision to switch off the cameras that generate the least money, saying: "Presumably, this would not happen if there was a tangible link between the use of such technology and the safety of road users." Precisely!

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Many emotive claims are made and statistics quoted to show that speed cameras "save lives". In many cases cameras were first installed where there had been a cluster of accidents.

Subsequently, claims would be made that the level of accidents had dropped due to the presence of cameras, when in fact all that had happened was a "regression to the mean". In other words, a cluster of accidents in a short time-frame is an unusual event and unlikely to be repeated on a regular basis, regardless of measures taken.

The perception that camera technology is used as a money-making device is reinforced by the practice of some councils of first reducing an established speed limit below the 85th percentile speed (the speed at which 85 per cent of drivers would normally travel and the original criterion for setting limits) and then putting up cameras to catch all those still travelling at a suitable speed for the road and conditions.

We remain unconvinced that cameras have any useful purpose until such time as they can detect and apprehend stolen, uninsured and unroadworthy vehicles, drunk and dangerous drivers. Only professional police patrols can achieve these ends to truly make our roads safer.

From: Peter Horton, The Association of British Drivers, Sandy Lane, Ripon.

From: Brian Macdowall, Campaign Director, Association of British Drivers, Croydon.

THE new year sees more pain at the pumps for drivers, with rises in fuel duty and VAT adding around 4p to the cost of a litre of petrol or diesel.

But these increases don't just hurt the driver and our hard-pressed haulage industry, they produce price rises at the shops for everyone.

Before the General Election, David Cameron complained about how the previous government had hammered drivers with various taxes. He added that he had to do things very differently and make life easier for families facing sky-high motoring bills. He even indicated that he could help families by cutting fuel taxes when global fuel prices rise.

It is time to take Mr Cameron at his word. The Association of British Drivers calls on the government to scrap above-inflation fuel duty rises set for the next three years, and also plans for road pricing for lorries.

Begging the question on charity

From: Michael Strother, Green Lane, Cookridge, Leeds.

I READ Jayne Dowle's columns regularly and find I often agree with her points of view. Not so this week – on the cashpoint begging (Yorkshire Post, January 3).

Almost all charity contributions are begged from us in one way or another, and the fact that one could select the "No" button on a cash machine, when withdrawing is of little consequence.

I could perhaps agree with her comments about Francis Maude's detachment from reality, and I would probably object to the selected cronies dishing out the proceeds.

I don't like being hounded at the supermarket check-out by Scouts, Brownies and every local excuse for a football team, and the Lottery proceeds distribution troubles me. I'm choosey who gets my few quid – only cancer charities and the blind.

Turn your attention to VAT, fuel duty and inflation. Yes George Osborne isn't to implement the jobs tax (one per cent NI increase), but his VAT hike will be unpopular and divisive. Like others, I'm not sure the increase will be fully collected.

A black economy will emerge – a cheaper price for a cash deal without traceable paper or a credit card trail may become common.

The fuel duty increase impacted silently on the last day of the old year with only motoring and transport groups making muffled protestations. Every little bit will help inflation to creep ever higher and eventually property prices will rise to convert the toxic to tonic assets.

Failure of bins management

From: DS Boyes, Rodley Lane, Leeds.

IS the catastrophic failure of Leeds's once almost 100 per cent perfect dustbin service any surprise now that Labour is back in control at the Civic Hall, albeit only by a sordid compromise with the Green Party?

However, the change in political control is only a symptom, with management failure the obvious cause.

In any other walk of life but the local authority one, those clearly responsible for such a debacle would by now already have been sacked or forced to resign.

With public health and hygiene clearly at risk, also the safety of the elderly citizens repeatedly dragging bins out and back again in the snow and ice when collections are changed without notice and then missed anyway, the new chief executive of Leeds City Council, his director of environmental services, plus the executive board member and even the council leader, must answer to the people of Leeds. Who after all, pays their wages or allowances?

If this does not happen on a voluntary basis, then Communities Secretary Eric Pickles MP must intervene before things get any worse.

Strict defender of justice

From: Roger M Dobson, Ash Street, Cross Hills, Keighley.

THERE have been many comments upon the sad passing of His Honour Judge James Pickles, who was one of the most controversial judges in recent history.

Those who have been disparaging in their comments obviously had something to fear if put up before Judge Pickles or any other magistrate or judge.

People who have been kinder in their thoughts and memories must understand the need for strict sentencing and justice which is more than can be said of our present Minister for Justice Kenneth Clarke, who is a complete waste of space.

James Pickles was wholly right in his statement that criminals only understand "loss of liberty" and it is sad that his lead has not been followed by the judiciary in recent years.

Crime and opportunity

From: Trev Bromby, Sculcoates Lane, Hull.

WITH regard to Government plans to close crime scene laboratories, it's a pity the UK's leading forensic scientists cannot see the broader picture. Selfish lot!

Apart from the money saved by these closures, no forensic evidence means fewer arrests and this in turn reduces the number of costly court cases.

The knock-on effect is a reduction in prison overcrowding, leading, eventually, to less prisons.

The savings in paperwork alone will be astronomical. The knock-on savings? Endless.

The gang of 33, including Professor Sir Alec Jeffreys, must yield to this groundbreaking initiative and think of the benefits. If the worst case scenario occurred (ie losing their jobs) they could always turn to crime, with very little chance of getting caught by PCSOs and, as Ken Clarke advocates, no jailing of lesser offenders.

It would seem crime is the future industry of Britain.

Shelling out for imports

From: Julian Hargreaves, Station Road, Thornton Curtis, Ulceby, North Lincolnshire.

YOU stated (Yorkshire Post, January 1) that the majority of peas sold in Britain are from abroad. This is incorrect.The UK produced 115,000 tons of frozen peas in 2010,of these approximately 30,000 tons will be exported.

What is true is that over the last 15 years there has been a remorseless change from the UK being a net exporter of peas to the position last year when we were net importers to the tune of 10,000 tons.

This is symptomatic of a wider problem. Over the last 20 years, this country's self-sufficiency in food has declined by almost one per cent per annum, an outrage made possible by the last administration who took the view that, as a wealthy nation, we can import food from anywhere in the world.

This is a policy that is both patronising to Third World producers and short-sighted in terms of our national security.

As a small island with a population of 60 million plus,there are few issues of more importance than ensuring a plentiful and wholesome supply of food.

Policy makers take note!

We should all do our bit to tackle littering

From: John S Culpan, Bailiff Bridge, Brighouse.

I FOUND Jayne Dowle's item on littering (Yorkshire Post, December 20) very interesting and congratulate her for raising the subject of this ghastly behaviour.

It is well-known that littering is everywhere, both in towns and the countryside.

Being involved with the Civic Voice movement (the former Civic Trust) the subject of littering is raised regularly at our meetings and action taken.

I maintain that the best way to deal with it is to have a plastic bag when out and about and picking a token amount up – glass bottles being the most dangerous. You also get a feeling of doing your bit and it has a calming effect.

It does make some people notice, but in no way would I "shout up" as Jayne Dowle mentions, as this is likely to antagonise litter louts and may cause verbal abuse or personal injury. Roger Crossley's opening remarks in his letter (Yorkshire Post, December 23) mentions Jayne's "little rant" which is a bit harsh, but I do thank him for his encouragement to pick litter up.

This is how some of us tackle the litter problem – pick some up and long let us continue to do it.

Early curlews driven inland

From: Neil Spedding, Moor Lane, Sawley, Ripon.

Recently, I was working outside on my smallholding when I heard what I thought was the cry of a curlew. Then sure enough, a pair of these birds, usually the harbinger of spring, flew over.

This was a sight that I have never before seen at this time of year. Could it be that their winter habitat is so frozen over that they have flown inland to search for food?

I wonder if any other of your readers have seen any similar happenings in nature during this severe winter?

You're not alone, Adrian

From: Philip Clay, Brownhill Lane, Uppermill. Saddleworth.

REGARDING your story "Daybreak host finds watching himself on television repellent" (Yorkshire Post, January 4), don't worry too much about it Adrian, you are not alone.

By the size of the audiences, there must be watchers who fully agree with Adrian Chiles.

High and dry

From: Denise Rawson, Watsons Lane, Norwood.

HUSBAND, 75, very recent hip replacement; me, 62, broken ankle, unable to drive. Top of the moor, no neighbours, no water at all. No help from Yorkshire Water for over 48 hours, even though listed as priority, except six bottles of mineral water. Please make them ashamed.


From: John Gordon, Whitcliffe Lane, Ripon.

AS the epicentre of the recent earthquake was very near Ripon (Yorkshire Post, January 4), isn't it time the BBC showed the city on its TV weather map?

Green light

From: Ruthven Urquhart, High Hunsley, Cottingham.

ISN'T it so good to see green grass again, and especially the lawns that don't need mowing – yet?