The UK is the most camera ridden country in the world and more than 6,000 of them are fixed speed traps. Factor in a welter of mobile sites and average speed SPECS areas and you can see why the authorities rake in more than £120m a year. With over two million tickets being issued every year, Dave Pollard says it’s time to defend yourselves…
Statistics are like a double-sided jacket that can be worn inside out, proving that not only is black, black but that, obviously, black is white. No-one uses statistics more effectively than politicians, especially when there’s money involved. According to our current car-hating, stealth tax-loving government, speed is responsible for 33 per cent of accidents. However, figures produced by the police show that the actual figure is nearer 7 per cent. Since the first fixed trap appeared in London in 1992, the annual drop in accidents slowed to a trickle and has remained almost constant ever since; in the same period, police traffic patrols have been reduced massively resulting in a concordant drop in convictions for drunk and dangerous driving. Nobody liked being stopped by a copper when exceeding a limit, but at least they could usually differentiate between being a bit enthusiastic and downright dangerous and respond accordingly. A camera has no such qualms and churns out the same ticket whether it’s 4am with the world asleep or 3pm with school just out. As such, you can now drive through a town with impunity whilst absolutely paralytic, but trip a trap at 34mph in a 30mph zone and you are the worst sort of criminal – despite there not actually being a crime.
Recently, many insurers have jumped on the bandwagon and penalise anyone with any ‘speeding’ conviction, which results in an extra ‘fine’ in terms of increased premiums, part of which of course, goes once more to the government in the form of Insurance Premium Tax. Not surprisingly, many drivers object to paying ever more tax into a system which is patently unfair, and seek to defend themselves by fitting an electronic speed trap warning device.
The Road Safety Bill includes a section which specifically bans radar and laser detectors and although it’s not yet been made law, it will be at some point. However, trap locators will remain legal. (Some locators have built-in or add-on laser sensors so these will have to be deleted in software or simply unplugged to remain legal – doubtless there will be a special police division created for checking up on this heinous crime). A locator is basically a small computer on which the locations of fixed traps (and sometimes, mobile sites) are logged. A built-in GPS receiver compares this with the vehicle position to produce advance warnings when necessary. Locators are actually better because many modern traps (Truvelo, SPECS etc.) emit nothing to detect anyway.
Because traps are being added and limits changed on a regular basis, it’s important to keep your database up-to-date. This usually means plugging into an Internet-enabled computer and, in most cases, paying an annual fee, though usually with six months free updates. A back-handed benefit of driving with a locator is that you always know your exact speed, speedometers being anything up to 10 per cent optimistic. And because it tends to sit at dashtop level, it’s almost like a heads-up display and much safer than having to refocus to the instrument binnacle for speed checks. For those still unsure, statistics suggest that locator users are always much more aware of their speed at any given time and actually have considerably fewer accidents.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
Spoken rather than beeped warnings are more useful, especially if they also speak the speed limit (not always obvious) as you don’t need to take your eyes off the road. Most have the ability to adjust the warning distance (too 4 early will just annoy) and auto mute means that you won’t be deafened by constant warnings in a traffic jam. All locators are now directional, i.e. they only warn of cameras that affect your carriageway. There are quite a few SatNavs which boast of trap warnings but which beep at every camera, regardless of direction; this is extremely irritating and after a while, you’ll have to turn it off. If you drive abroad, then check the legal situation. In France for example, detectors are strictly forbidden with penalties stopping just short of the guillotine, but locators are OK. In Holland, the spiritual home of the Gatso, everything sensible is banned (but you can get all the drugs you want!).
ROADPILOT Road Pilot’s MicroGo model is well-priced at £79.99 (or less direct from Halfords) with updates at £49.95 per year after the first six months. It’s got a pleasant screen and claims to be the smallest on the market, and thus easier to remove for security purposes.
SNOOPER Snooper also has a wide line-up, probably the best being the Sapphire. Its built-in battery means no wires on the dash and because it also has an ear phone socket, it’s ideal for motorcycle use. Price is £99.99 plus £59.40 per annum for updates, with six months free.
NOVUS Novus used to be Talex and now has several models available. Well worth checking out is the GPS Rider which is also 12v/battery and costs £99.99. Though it speaks warnings and limits, its display is a bit small and limited compared to some, but its updates are free.
ROAD ANGEL Road Angel has plenty of options, but the latest addition is the Professional Connected which is as smart as a brain sandwich. It has a GPRS link enabling it to update automatically every time it’s switched on and the ability to receive text messages. It’s got a great display and gives spoken warnings, the main downside being the price; it costs £299.99 plus £54.99 per annum for updates and no free time.
POGO The oddly-name Pogo Alert is produced by the old Origin company and so experience is guaranteed. Looking like a small TV, it has a stylish, brushed-steel finish, great colour display, a plug-in laser sensor and all the right warnings, though it’s not cheap at £249.95 plus £50 per annum for updates.
Halfords (Micro Go, Sapphire) (www.halfords.com)
Novus GPS (www.novusgps.com)
Road Angel (www.roadangel.co.uk)
Road Pilot (www.roadpilot.com)