New figures suggest that up to twelve million driving licence holders receive a penalty notice each year – the equivalent of one every 2.5 seconds.
The report for the RAC says this means as many as 30% of Britain’s 40 million drivers now receive a penalty notice annually and that nine out of ten speeding offences were captured on camera.
The 12 million total is made up of around eight million local authority parking penalties (not including parking tickets on private land), two and a half million local authority bus lane and box junction penalties, half a million late licensing and insurance penalties a million speeding and red light enforcement encroachments. These figures do not include 1,200,000 people who chose to undertake a speed awareness course.
Cameras are routinely used not only to catch speeding motorists but also those who enter bus lanes or make illegal turns at junctions.
The trends are highlighted in a report – Automated Road Traffic Enforcement: Regulation, Governance and Use for the RAC Foundation by Dr Adam Snow, a lecturer in criminology at Liverpool Hope University.
In the report Dr Snow says that, “perhaps the main driver for the increase in the importance of automation has been the real-terms reductions in police budgets.”
Between 2010 and 2014 the number of dedicated police traffic officers fell by 24%.
This reduction has coincided with a period which has seen a dramatic fall in the cost of automatic enforcement technology. In 2000, it cost £1.5 million for a set of average speed cameras to cover a mile of road. Today it is around £100,000 per mile.
Dr Snow notes that while cameras are immune to matters of “colour, religion, race, gender and so on” they cannot provide either discretion or common sense.
He says that, in general, road traffic enforcement has two aims: preserving public safety and the effective management of the road network.
He argues that when activities that vary in the risk or the harm they cause are punished in the same way then it offends the public’s sense of proportionality, and hence fairness, and can lead to mistrust.
Steve Gooding, director of the RAC Foundation, said, “To maintain its legitimacy, automatic enforcement must be viewed by the public as proportionate.
“While wrongdoing should be punished and not excused, a decline in frontline policing risks an imbalanced approach to enforcement. Millions of motorists are being caught by camera, often for arguably minor misdemeanours, whilst more serious and harmful behaviour goes undetected.
“When it comes to civil enforcement of bus lane and parking infringements authorities should constantly be asking themselves whether the number of notices issued suggest a different method is needed: some bus lanes and box junctions have become renowned as money spinners. If thousands of drivers a day are getting tickets this is a clear indication of a system that is failing.”
Dr Adam Snow, author of the report, added, “Automated enforcement promises much in terms of speed and cost efficiency for financially-squeezed police forces and councils. However, the driving public are entitled to ask for more weighty principles such as fairness and justice to be taken into consideration when confronted with potential wrong doing.
“Quite how those who ensure the safety of our roads through enforcement can provide both cost effectiveness and justice is a challenge that requires debate and engaged minds.
“I hope this report provides the start of that debate about the acceptability and appropriate place for automation in road traffic enforcement.”