Speed camera fines fall 20% 'as drivers get wise to traps'

FINES from speed cameras fell by as much as one fifth in some areas of Scotland last year, The Scotsman can reveal.

Camera officials attributed the reduction to more drivers keeping to speed limits, but some motoring groups said they were simply becoming more aware of camera sites.

The figures show the number of drivers being caught by cameras has fallen for the third year in a row in some parts of the country, despite there having been no reduction in enforcement efforts.

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Lothian and Borders has overtaken Strathclyde – Scotland's largest population area – in producing the most fines, but this is because of an increase in camera sites and enforcement activity.

A total of 114,107 fines were issued from speed and red-light cameras in 2006-7 – generating some 6.8 million for the Treasury. Operation of the cameras is funded by government grants.

The figure was up slightly from 113,566 the previous year, but this was because fines from cameras in central Scotland, which started in 2006, were included for the first time.

Elsewhere, fine levels fell in all other areas except the North-east, because of an increase in mobile camera patrols.

The reductions were greatest in the Highlands, where fines were cut by 20 per cent to 4,695, while they were down by 17 per cent in Strathclyde to 26,288, and down by 15 per cent in Fife to 5,323.

The cameras are operated by safety camera partnerships which comprise the police and other emergency services, local authorities, health boards and the Scottish Government's Transport Scotland agency.

Half of the eight partnerships – in the Central, Fife, Dumfries and Galloway and Northern police areas – operate only mobile camera vans, on designated stretches of road.

The others also have fixed cameras, with Lothian and Borders and Strathclyde operating red traffic light cameras too.

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Jim Dale, the director of the Scottish Safety Camera Programme, which oversees the partnerships, said cameras had proved to cut crashes.

He said: "There has been a fall in speeding fines detected by cameras because of better adherence to the speed limits by drivers.

"This is to be welcomed as cameras established under the programme are sited at locations where there is a history of fatal and serious accidents and there is also an identified problem with speeding."

Mr Dale said the number of people killed or seriously injured at camera sites in Strathclyde had fallen by 60 per cent between 2000 and 2005.

He said in the Northern partnership area, there had been just one fatal crash at its camera sites in the three and a half years since they were introduced, compared with 37 deaths or serious injuries in the previous four years.

However, anti-camera groups have challenged such figures, claiming that crash rates reduce naturally after a spate – a phenomenon known as "regression to mean".

Bruce Young, the Lothian and Borders co-ordinator of the Association of British Drivers, said: "Drivers are increasingly aware of both fixed and mobile camera locations."

However, Neil Greig, director for Scotland of the Institute of Advanced Motorists' Motoring Trust, welcomed the drop in fines. He said: "In our view the best safety cameras slow 100 per cent of the traffic down and catch 0 per cent of drivers.

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"There are many reasons why ticket numbers are falling – drivers are getting the safety message in towns, camera sites are now well known, and drivers with some points on their licence are being extra careful.

"Camera partnerships now receive their funding from a central pot of money, so the incentive to generate more tickets has also been removed."