15:03 26 July 2010
Thousands of speed cameras across the country are to be shut off in a bid to save money.
Following its pledge to "end the war on the motorist", the Coalition government has slashed the road safety budgets for dozens of local councils.
Fixed cameras have been patrolling Britain's roads since their mass introduction 20 years ago, but now the government is cutting the £98m year road safety budget it awards to councils for them by £38m.
The dramatic drop in funding means that many councils will no longer be able to afford to run the devices.
Speaking of the decision, Peter Roberts of the Drivers' Alliance told the Daily Express: "This is a welcome move. The vast majority of speed cameras are more for raising revenue than road safety. There needs to be a review of every speed camera in the country. Those that are raising money rather than saving lives need to be removed as quickly as possible."
For those against, speed cameras are hugely unpopular, representing the watchful eye of the nanny state. For those in support of them, they represent a vital tool for ensuring safer roads.
And amid the budget constraints, Oxfordshire County Council look set to be the first to pull out of the road safety scheme after it suffered a £600k cut, leading to off the first of its 72 cameras being turned off as early as August 1.
However, road safety campaigners have warned that switching off the yellow boxes could be disastrous for road users and pedestrians.
Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership representative Dan Campsall, who operates in the area, said he understands the budget pressures faced by local authorities, but fears the decision will lead to a rise in casualties.
He said: "The cameras have been proven to provide casualty reductions and without funding they can't continue to be supported and we may see casualties rise again."
According to statistics from the partnership, three people are killed every week and more than 150 are injured on roads in the Thames Valley.
But safety campaigners are worried that other councils could follow suit as they struggle to break even amid the cutbacks.
Campsall said: "It's not only a problem that Oxfordshire is facing. There are local authorities up and down this country who are going to have to be making some very tough decisions on the vital area of road safety."
A representative for road safety group Brake, Ellen Booth, said: "It would be a disaster if these cuts were passed on in full by county councils to road safety partnerships.
"It would be especially hard to justify the idea that all speed cameras should be turned off. Speed cameras are a really cost effective way of managing speed, which is one of the biggest issues on our roads.
"To get rid of them would be a backward step and we would really be risking people's lives."
Each year approximately 6,000 cameras in the UK cost motorists an estimates £100m.
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