Earlier this year I gave up work at the Independent, a newspaper I enjoyed working at and was proud to be a part of, and the main reason I gave it up was because of the speed cameras on the route. Sure, the wildly unsociable hours were a pretty big reason too – but I'd put up with them for nine months and could easily have put up with them for longer if need be.
No, the main reason was because I felt the cameras on the route were unfairly set up to catch drivers out, and having been caught a couple of times I was one away from a driving ban. Now, I actually strongly support the use of speed cameras to improve road safety, and I don't have any time for whingers who claim they “aren't fair” and they “make criminals out of ordinary drivers”. No they don't – they catch people who speed, which is illegal.
But they have to play fair – and the last time they caught me, I didn't think they had.
It was a 30mph zone which had suddenly and unexpectedly been lowered to 20mph – but I didn't know that, and at 3am on the way home from work one Saturday I went through at my normal speed and triggered a camera. I hadn't seen any signs, and I was the only car on the road so I had no-one else to compare myself with. The next time I went through, it was marked with more signs than a Big Brother eviction night – static signs, flashing electronic ones, the lot, as if someone official had noticed there weren't enough and had overcompensated. There was more traffic that night, and it was moving at a crawl. I was tempted to appeal against my notice, on the grounds of inadequate signage, but decided not to – how would I have proved it? I shut up and paid up, and since then I've been paranoid while driving.
Then yesterday this letter came in the post, and I have to keep picking it up and looking at it again to convince myself it's real.
London Safety Camera Partnership
Camera Enforcement Section
PO Box 36427
26 July, 2005
Dear Mr RANDOM
Ref: Upper Thames Street cameras – withdrawal of alleged offences
I am writing to you as you were one of the drivers whose vehicle has been photographed for an alleged speeding offence by the camera system in the road works along Upper Thames Street.
The London Safety Camera Partnership has been made aware that there is an issue relating to the location of the signs in the 20mph zone.
Consequently, the Partnership has taken the decision to cancel all alleged offences captured since the camera was installed in November 2004. Where applicable the Partnership will return all fines collected and remove all points from driving licences.
Offences are at various stages of being processed and as a matter of urgency the Partnership is investigating the best way forward in which to deal with all cases.
Whilst the Partnership apologises for any inconvenience caused we would like to draw your attention to the achievements of this camera in reducing the number of casualties. In the three year period before the cameras were installed there were 29 crashes involving injury (five of which resulted in death or serious injury). To date, there has been just one slight injury since the installation.
In the meantime, please be assured at whatever stage of the process your alleged offence has reached it will be cancelled forthwith.
A further letter explaining how your case will be handled will be sent to you in due course.
London Safety Camera Partnership
Now, knowing that I have a little leeway again isn't going to turn me into a speed freak – I never was one, which is why I resented the points building up my licence. But I'm mighty relieved to know that I'm not one sloppy moment or genuine mistake away from a ban.
And it sure feels good to be proved right!