Daily Mail: The speed trap cop-out

Monday, 10 December, 2007

POLICE are targeting speeding motorists as 'easy pickings' while ignoring more dangerous drivers who are harder to catch or prosecute, critics claim.

Convictions for speeding have risen sharply, from 700,000 in 1997 to 1.9million in 2005.

Yet during the same period there was a dramatic decline in the numbers punished for ignoring traffic signs or drink-driving.

Home Office figures uncovered by the Tories show that convictions for 'neglecting pedestrian rights' failing to stop at crossings or driving on pavements - fell by 55 per cent, from 6,322 to 2,939.

Convictions for failing to obey traffic directions dropped by 14 per cent, while figures for drink or drugdriving were down 7 per cent.

Safety campaigners point out that the number of roadside speed cameras has trebled in six years to 5,000 - the highest in Europe - yet Britain is sliding down the road safety league. Tory police reform spokesman David Ruffley said: 'It looks like speeding convictions have gone up because they are "easy pickings" compared with more difficult but equally dangerous offences.'

Between 1990 and 2000, the number of speeding prosecutions leapt by two-thirds. Over the same period, prosecutions for dangerous, careless or drunken driving fell by 45 per cent, and 37 per cent fewer were punished for ignoring signs or pedestrian rights.

Driving licence and insurance offences were down 13 per cent, and MoT and vehicle condition offences fell by 16 per cent.

Safe Speed campaign spokesman Paul Smith said: 'We have completely taken our eye off the ball in policing road safety - prosecuting millions for speeding but missing the true causes of danger on our roads.' He blamed speed camera manufacturers for persuading policy-makers to focus more and more on automated speeding tickets.

'The hardware led to a change in philosophy which has left us with a bad road safety policy which is not addressing the real problems.'

Edmund King, of the RAC Foundation, said: 'It is quick and easy to issue a couple of thousand speeding tickets a week using cameras.

'It is much harder to catch a couple of drug-drivers using time-consuming roadside tests.

'The irony is that catching those two drug- drivers may actually make the roads safer than prosecuting hundreds of motorists for driving just over the speed limit.'