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A Speed Camera on every corner !

By Matthew Hickley

Police will issue up to ten million tickets a year in a massive clampdown on speeding motorists.

With the number of speed cameras expected to treble, there will be no escape from the prying electronic eyes. For the police, it will mean a goldmine in fines thanks to the decision to allow forces to keep money raised from fixed penalties. Until now, many of the 4'300 cameras across the country have been ineffective because police cannot afford to stock or process the film.

But the potential to raise revenue has given them a powerful incentive to extend and improve the network. This means any driver "flashed" by a camera will now almost certainly face a fine. The speeding clampdown comes as the latest crime figures show a year-on-year rise of 2.5 per cent in violent offences including murder, rape and muggings. New Home Secretary David Blunkett immediately put himself at odds with police by insisting the new financial rules should not distract police from their core purpose of fighting crime.

A source close to Mr Blunkett said: "Road safety is important but we don't want to see manpower diverted to running speed cameras. The cameras are a valuable tool but we have to strike a balance. Yesterday, motoring groups claimed the blitz would undermine public confidence in police priorities. As well as alienating drivers already burdened by high fuel taxes and rising crime, more cameras would never be as effective as patrol cars in preventing truly dangerous driving, they said. Police, however, are delighted with the prospect of more cameras on the roads. Some areas involved in trial schemes have seen 25-fold increases in the number of tickets issued to drivers. If these results are reflected across the country, the number of penalties issued via roadside cameras could soar from 550'000 in 1999 to more than ten'million.

North Wales chief constable Richard Brunstrom, who leads the Association of Chief Police Officers' traffic technology committee is keen to see more cameras on the roads. "Speed cameras make a major contribution to road safety and this legislation means motorists can expect to see at least a tripling in the numbers on Britain's roads", he said. Under new Home Office rules, money raised by fines will no longer go straight to the Treasury. Instead, police will be allowed to keep fixed penalty revenue above a "baseline" figure. Almost all the 43 forces in England and Wales are submitting business plans to the Government to show how they will use the extra money. The standard penalty increased last year from £40 to £60, and most drivers also receive three penalty points on their licence.

Drivers face a ban if they accumulate 12 points within three years under the "totting up" procedure. With thousands more cameras watching their every move, they face a greater risk of losing their licences. Those who manage to stay on the road will face higher premiums when they declare speeding offences to their insurers. While cameras are credited with helping reduce deaths on Britain's roads, there are fears that police will use them mainly as a source of cash.

Edmund king of the RAC foundation said: "The danger is that speed cameras actually lead to our roads being under-policed. "With an over-reliance on speed cameras, forces have been cutting back on traffic police. "In some areas there is little or no chance of being stopped for dangerous or careless driving, which is often more dangerous than speeding. Only around a third of accidents are blamed on speed. "Cameras don't pick up on drivers tailgating the car in front, or swerving between lanes. "Home office research revealed a 60 per cent chance of dangerous drivers having committed other criminal offences.

"Those stopped may have burgled goods in the car, for example. Cameras won't clear up any of those other crimes. "We are already seeing cameras being extended beyond accident blackspots to straight stretches of rural road in places like Oxfordshire. "If that trend continues there is the danger we will see speed cameras on every bend in every trunk road. We don't believe that is something motorists want to see, and nor do we."

© The Daily Mail

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