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News Comment
a personal view from Erithacus

1st November 2003 

Stock markets edged upwards this week, but although the FTSE100 index broke through 4300 once again on Thursday in a burst of enthusiasm from traders, it fell back on Friday to finish at 4287.6, 48.6 points higher than last Fridayís close.

Positive economic data from the U.S. mixed with fears that market sentiment will be badly hit if and when the Bank of Englandís Monetary Policy Committee raises interest rates at its next meeting as is now widely expected. Analysts anticipate an over-reaction as soon as the probable quarter of one percent rise is announced, with the UK indexes falling heavily.

However, Octoberís rises for UK stock markets have produced the best gain in the FTSE100 since April with the index finishing 5% higher than it started the month. Traders are uncomfortably aware that the markets are inclined to react faster and more violently to bad news than to any good news, yet the last few months have seen an underlying desire for a return to steady rises. "The bears have started to hibernate, " said one, "And it could be a long winter for them."

Next week will see results from Carphone Warehouse, Shire Pharmaceuticals, McCarthy & Stone, and Marks & Spencer. Many had hoped that Marks & Spencerís figures would manage to boost its flagging share price which has been falling since mid-September and is over 30% lower than before the middle of last year, but the timing of their announcement last Thursday of a new range of "raunchy menís underwear including sexy thongs and glittery pants" is seen by some as an attempt to distract the market from what will inevitably be more bad news.

 



Speed cameras do a good job.

No, really. They do.

At accident blackspots speed cameras are undoubtedly very effective at reducing death and injury.

What about the others? What about the thousands of speed cameras that continue to appear on roads all across the country? Are they really doing any good at all?

Maybe. But indications are that they may possibly be doing more harm than good.

The RAC have commented that they have seen an inverse correlation between the number of traffic police on the roads and the number of speed cameras installed. In other words, they seem to think that the police are reducing the number of men (and women!) on traffic duty as the cameras increase.

Surely that is a good move? Police can be released for other work, and traffic police have never been the most popular branch of the police with the average motorist.

Perhaps. But in many areas it is now claimed that it takes the police considerably longer to attend a traffic incident, and the trend is continuing.

More importantly, the number of motorists now being "caught" by speed cameras is leading to a change of attitude by the drivers themselves. With more than two million expected to face speeding fines this year, eight times the number fined just seven years ago, an occasional speeding fine is no longer seen by many as a major problem. As such, despite the risk of licence endorsements adding up to a level where a driver is banned, speeding may actually be on the increase.

Even more worrying, driversí attitudes are changing. In a recent survey by the RAC and Autocar magazine, less than one in four drivers said they would report anyone they saw vandalising a speed camera. Militant motorist groups say that many speed cameras are being "strategically placed to maximise income" and have little or nothing to do with road safety. A group from Norfolk calling themselves "Motorists Against Detection" has vowed to put every speed camera out of action which is not specifically placed to effectively reduce speed-related accidents, and has claimed responsibility for a series of arson attacks costing more than £150,000 on cameras in Norwich, Framingham Earl, Loddon and Thurton.

Meanwhile, other motorists have been questioning the accuracy of some cameras, and challenging the validity of fines. In an exceptional case, Joanna James from Port Talbot, Wales, received a speeding notice alleging a camera had measured her speed as 480mph. "My 14-year-old Austin Maestro will hardly do 48mph let alone 480," said Joanna.

Joanna is not unique. Also reported yesterday, a similar type of speed camera used in Melbourne, Australia recently claimed a motorist was travelling at 158 km/h although tests on the 30-year-old car proved it could reach a top speed of only 117 km/h. The two cases are clearly different in that Joannaís almost certainly resulted from a clerical error while in Australia it seems likely the camera itself was faulty. It remains, however, quite clear that mistakes can happen, and an allegation of speeding on the evidence of a speed camera alone can and should be challenged if the driver honestly believes an offence did not occur.




"Weapons of mass distraction"
image copyright © 2003 www.safespeed.org.uk 
and reproduced here with their kind permission


1st November 2003                        



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