A British Broadcasting Corporation News broadcast that showing speed camera traps causing crashes has now been made public. The April 21 BBC report was meant to highlight government efforts as part of a European "crackdown on speeding" using video excerpts from the Norfolk Speed Camera Partnership. The excerpts unintentionally showcased the panic reaction some motorists have when surprised by police operating from a freeway overpass.
"He jams on his brakes when he sees the speed truck," BBC News reporter Mike Cartwright said in describing an October 3, 2005 incident. "He smacks into the barrier and amazingly slides in between those two cars there and nobody was hurt -- a very lucky escape indeed for all the drivers involved in that."
A second video taken June 18, 2007 showed a vehicle surprised by a speed camera on a wet road.
"And the same thing here," Cartwright said. "The guy jams on his brakes and he goes up the embankment."
Shortly after the news program aired, the BBC removed all copies of the footage from its website. Motorist Keith Jones had seen the video and enlisted the help of the Association of British Drivers to urge the BBC, the Norfolk Speed Camera Partnership and the UK Information Commissioner to release the publicly funded tapes under open records laws. The government authorities refused to do so, citing "technical difficulties."
In frustration, Jones created a humorous cartoon mocking the BBC for hiding its own news broadcast (view cartoon). The animation succeeded in raising awareness of the incident and an individual who had taped the news program came forward with a copy of the censored video.
A UK Department for Transport-funded report suggests that the panic braking seen in the Norfolk footage may not be an uncommon response. A study of speed camera usage in 29 highway construction zone projects over 450 miles of road from November 2001 to July 2003 showed that accidents increased by 55 percent in the locations where speed camera vans were used. The DfT unsuccessfully attempted to prevent publication of the report (read report).