Club Lotus Avon

Flash the Cash an article by Rob Ford

Eric Blair wrote books under the name of George Orwell, his most famous book being '1984'. The main thrust of the book being, "Big Brother Is Watching You". Well, dear old George almost got it right.

Now in the new millennium, the phrase should be "Big Brother Is Fleecing You". The main method of fleecing you is via the 'Flash the Cash' machines installed along your friendly roadside kerb. Certain people like to call these machines "safety cameras", however, a more suitable name is speed camera. The very purpose of these machines is to generate revenue. Otherwise, a more appropriate system of penalty points and no monetary penalties might ring true as a genuine reason for the installation of these roadside cash registers.

The speed camera partnerships have to generate revenue, and the vicious circle seems to be: speed camera, fines, revenue, install more cameras, more fines, and thus more revenue. Surely the installation of even more cameras means more drivers constantly looking out for cameras and having less time to concentrate on the matter in hand, which is driving safely.

Obviously, no driver should be breaking the law and exceeding the speed limit, but how many drivers on the road today know if the speedometer on their car is anywhere near accurate. Perhaps the speedometer is reading high which means your indicated speed is higher than your actual speed, or worse; your speedometer is reading low which means you are indeed going faster than the indicated speed.

Recent tests on an independent basis have revealed that some cameras as used by the police actually show a parked car as travelling at 6MPH. A vehicle fitted with a G.P.S. receiver and travelling at an accurate 33MPH was clocked by a speed camera at 53MPH; a 20MPH difference, which would generate a penalty.

A common myth is that speed cameras are installed only at accident backspots. However, I know of many cameras installed where there have never been accidents.

We are all being sold a crock with regards to the genuine reasons for speed cameras. Perhaps the authorities ought to come clean and just issue speeding tickets to collect the cash and forget about issuing penalty points to drivers who inadvertently exceed the speed limit by a small amount. We should not condone drivers who do 115MPH in a 30MPH limit, or 170MPH on a motorway, but pensioners have been vilified by some police forces for slightly exceeding a 30MPH limit. Indeed, these drivers have been put into the same category as knife wielding maniacs. This type of claim only adds to the belief that the whole purpose of the speed camera scheme is purely to generate cash.

The statistics look good for the authorities too, with thousands, if not millions, of fines being issued to swell the coffers. The honest motorist is being criminalized by the authorities, categorising minor speeding offences together with more serious crimes. How long perhaps before motorists get a criminal record for a speeding offence?

What will the future hold? Recent proposals suggest all vehicles should be fitted with G.P.S. Global Positioning by Satellite, to enable automated 'pay as you drive' charges to be levied on motorists. This system also enables automatic speeding fines to be issued, as such systems will be able to calculate your speed over the given distance from point A to point B, and issue the speeding fine accordingly.

Who would pay for the installation of the G.P.S. system into each road vehicle? Why, the owner-driver of course. This would be a typical double-whammy where motorists have to pay up front for the privilege of installing equipment to enable them to be charged more money for using the roads. Once again, the powers that be talk about the 'pay per mile' system being cheaper or equal to the current charges motorists pay to cover the same amount of miles.

Ministers talk about removing the tax from fuel and also removing the road tax, and only charging via G.P.S. Do not believe them, as you will suddenly find the road tax disc becoming the annual vehicle registration disc to register the vehicle on the D.V.L.A. database. The perhaps minimal initial registration fee will then continue to increase year on year and will not be cheap. There will also still be hidden charges on fuel that will creep up progressively. The overall motoring costs will simply rise and cost drivers more.

Ministers claim that drivers must be weaned away from their cars, but offer no solutions as to how this should be achieved. One solution in this new millennium would be to start to decentralize, which should lessen the need for the general public to all converge on the same location, thus causing congestion.

With phones, faxes, e-mail, video conferencing and computers available, are many of our journeys really necessary? Where is the viable public transport system which would enable drivers to leave their cars at home? It is far too easy to highlight the problem, but only if a viable solution is then put forward by the critic, can we take the critic seriously.

What we must remember is that the motorist is a sitting target, and it is by far the easier option for police to broadcast details of the vast numbers of motorists who have been fined for speeding rather than get on with solving real crimes and catching burglars, for example.

The preceding comments stem from a common sense approach to things, rather than the knee-jerk reaction of the authorities. After all, if 'safety' cameras were effective and really worked, then no fines would be issued, and the speed camera partnerships would be bankrupt.

One solution would be using G.P.S. to control a car's speed by constantly picking up the maximum road speed from roadside relay beacons; in this manner, no car would ever be able to exceed the speed limit and there would be no need for any form of speed camera.

I hope that these words will provide food for thought. The powers that be are only making themselves a laughing stock by their ludicrous approach, and over exaggerating the seriousness of the issues. Food for thought indeed.

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