Safety officials in Warwickshire have defended the use of speed cameras amid accusations they are being used as a “cash cow” by authorities.
The criticism from the Conservative Party came as it was revealed that Warwickshire saw a 16-fold increase in fines issued in the county between 1997 and 2006.
They went up from 1,857 to 30,316, while cash raised over that period shot up from £74,820 to £1.8 million.
The massive increase came as official figures show a million more speeding tickets were issued in 2006 compared with 1997 and Conservatives claiming speed cameras were being used to raise revenue for the Government.
A spokeswoman for Warwickshire Police maintained the increase in the county was because they had started off with a relatively low number of cameras.
“We had so few cameras to start with. All cameras are ethically sited,” she said.
Warwickshire County Council’s road safety reduction officer Stephen Rumble added: “We were slightly behind other authorities to start with so the percentage increase looks dramatic.
“There is also the nature of the roads going through the county. Although we are a rural county, we do have some major trunk roads running through like the A45, A5 and the A435 that carry big volumes of traffic.”
Warwickshire currently operates 29 fixed speed cameras, seven red light cameras and 60 mobile cameras.
Mr Rumble said the authority was convinced their use had a significant impact on reducing road casualties. “In 2006 we had 31 people killed or seriously injured at our camera sites compared with an annual average of 84 between 1994 and 1998.
“That is nearly a reduction of two thirds. As far as we are concerned the evidence is clear.
There are some out there who disagree, but from the Warwickshire County Council and Warwickshire Police perspective speed cameras make cars go slower and reduce the number and severity of collisions.”
Nationally, there were 1,773,412 fixed penalty notices given to drivers in 2006 – up from 712,753 in 1997.
Fines now raise £100 million a year towards Treasury coffers.
The amount of revenue raised from cameras within the West Midlands Police force area rose from £375,000 in 1997 to £2.6 million in 2006. In West Mercia it went up from £615,680 to £2.7 million and in Staffordshire from £902,000 to £3 million.
Shadow Police Reform Minister David Ruffley said: “Ministers need to tell us what they are doing with this £100 million a year taken from motorists. How much is actually put back into practical road safety that does not involve speed cameras?
“Is Labour using speeding tickets just to raise revenue rather than making our roads safer? Using speed cameras as a cash cow undermines public confidence.
“The Government needs to rethink ways of improving road safety, including cracking down on uninsured drivers.”
A spokesman for the Department for Transport said: “Safety cameras are there to save lives, not make money.
Independent research has shown there are 1,745 fewer deaths and serious injuries at camera sites each year.
“The Government is clear that the best safety camera is the one which takes no fines at all, but succeeds in deterring drivers from speeding.”
However, celebrity lawyer Nick Freeman, known as “Mr Loophole” after successfully defending a number of stars, claimed speed cameras targeted “the respectable hard-working, law-abiding citizen who marginally exceed the speed limit”.