Consistent Evidence: Speed Cameras Do Reduce Injuries and Deaths, Australian Study Finds Placing speed cameras on roads reduces the number of road traffic injuries and deaths, concludes a team of researchers from The University of Queensland, in Brisbane, Australia. Their findings are published this month in The Cochrane Library. Preventing road traffic injuries is of global public health importance. The World Health Organization predicts that by 2020 road traffic crashes will have moved from ninth to third in the rank of causes of poor health. Speed cameras are one of the measures that authorities can use to reduce traffic speed in the hope of preventing road injuries. Their use has supporters and detractors, so the research team set out to investigate whether they are effective. They looked for studies that had assessed the impact of speed cameras on speeding, road crashes, crashes causing injury and fatalities. After searching available literature, they identified 35 relevant studies. " While there is variation in the results, the overall finding is clear -- speed cameras do reduce injuries and deaths," says lead researcher Cecilia Wilson. Compared with controls, the average speed fell as did the percentage of vehicles that exceeded local speed limits. The numbers of crashes in the areas of the cameras also fell, as did the numbers of people killed or injured. Speed is a critical issue. Driving faster than the posted limit, or too fast for the prevailing conditions, increases the risk of crashes, and also the chance of those crashes causing more serious injury. "Even though some of the studies were not conducted as carefully as others, the consistency in the way that vehicle speeds, crashes, road traffic injuries and deaths all reduced in places where speed cameras were operating shows that these cameras do a good job," says Wilson. She points out that none of these studies were carried out in low-income countries, where most road traffic crashes occur, and calls for further research in these settings. “One of the associated problems with automated speed enforcement is the tendency for some drivers to brake when passing a speed camera and then to speed in excess of the speed limit when out of range of the camera,” the report says. “A relatively new method which has the potential to ameliorate this, is road section control or average speed check.” Unlike traditional speed cameras, the report says the technology can measure a vehicle’s speed over a distance of at least 500 metres to several kilometres. “Such a measure can reasonably be expected to have a more sustained positive behavioural effect and perhaps change the culture of speeding over a longer time.” NSW currently operates Safe-T-Cam, which monitors trucks between two points to determine if they are speeding. The report says point-to-point technology is used in the United Kingdom and the Netherlands, but more research is needed to determine its effectiveness. Despite the shortfalls with fixed speed cameras, lead researcher Cecilia Wilson from the University of Queensland says they are effective. “While there is variation in the results, the overall finding is clear – speed cameras do reduce injuries and deaths,” she says. The report comes as the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority begins work on significantly increasing the number of speed cameras. Dr Soames Job from the RTA’s Centre for Road Safety says mobile speed cameras will be operating for 12,200 hours a month by July next year to improve road safety. There are currently six mobile units being used, but Job says it is unclear how much this figure will rise by. “One company may supply us a very good quote by using fewer cameras and operating for 20 hours a day. Another may consider it more efficient to have twice as many cameras operating 12 hours a day,” he says. According to Job, mobile speed cameras in Victoria and Queensland reduced injuries and fatalities by more than 25 percent. Link: The Cochrane Collaboration 2010 Justus.