Mobile speed squads will give warnings

by ROSS SLATER, Mail on Sunday

Motorists are to get advance warning of imminent campaigns by new squads of mobile speed camera operators.

Local newspapers, radio and the Internet will be used to reveal the location of the roving speed traps and give details of the times they will be in action.

The move is being seen as a minor victory for drivers already wary after the number of fixed cameras across the country doubled.

The mobile traps - tripod-mounted cameras which can be set up on the roadside or aimed through the windows of police vehicles - will be used to stop so-called 'surfing', where drivers brake to avoid being caught by a roadside camera then speed up. It is thought the traps will double the numbers caught breaking limits.

In line with publicity about the cameras, all officers using the new mobile devices will wear fluorescent jackets.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: 'The purpose of the safety cameras is to curtail speed, not to catch out drivers. That is why we insist that police forces setting up cameras do it only in areas where there is a proven link between speeding and accidents. Where they employ mobile cameras, the police car must be highly visible and the officers must wear fluorescent jackets. The locations of cameras will be publicised on the Inter-net, in the local Press and on the radio.'

Motoring organisations said the move was an attempt to placate drivers angry at the mushrooming of speed traps across the country but maintained that the Government was still missing the point on road safety.

Mark McArthur-Christie, of the British Drivers' Association, said: 'There is still an obsession with cameras as the only means of tackling road safety. We would like to see incentives for drivers to take advanced training, such as money off road tax or car insurance.'

The Government insists that the increased use of speed cameras and an expected tripling of prosecutions from one million to 3.5 million a year will help cut the number of speed-related deaths on the road. It will also bring in more than £200 million a year in fines - money that police forces can add to road safety budgets.

Meanwhile, some police forces may have to re-paint cameras following the Government edict saying the battleship-grey boxes should be more visible. Devon and Cornwall chose red and yellow; South Yorkshire bright orange, but Norfolk was criticised for choosing dark blue.

The Department of Transport spokesman added: 'If we decide that dark blue is inappropriate then they will have to be re-painted.'

A spokesman for the Association of Chief Police Officers said: 'Sometimes technical experts have a different view as to what is the best colour for speed cameras.'