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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

Public support for speed enforcement

Public support for speed enforcement


Public support for speed enforcement

According to the SARTRE survey [55] the public support for traffic enforcement in general and for speed enforcement in particular is high. The survey interviewed over 23,000 car drivers in 23 European countries to determine opinions and behaviours in traffic. It showed that:

  • Three quarters (76%) of all interviewed EU drivers are in favour of increased enforcement of traffic rules
  • Two-thirds (66%) of EU drivers are very or fairly much in favour of the use of automated speed cameras
  • Three out of five (60%) EU drivers support higher penalties for speeding offences.

Since the SARTRE survey clearly concentrates on traffic safety issues, the respondents may have been tempted to give socially desirable answers. How would the public evaluate the speeding problem when it is compared with other social problems like crime? In that case, would there be less enthusiasm for speed management and speed enforcement? To answer this question Poulter and McKenna [53] examined the public perceptions of antisocial behaviours including speeding in traffic. The data was collected as part of the British Crime Survey, a face-to-face interview with UK residents on issues relating to crime. The section on antisocial behaviour required participants to state the degree to which they perceived 16 antisocial behaviours to be a problem in their area. Results revealed that speeding traffic was considered as the largest problem in local communities, regardless of whether respondents were male or female, young, middle aged, or old. The rating of speeding traffic as the largest problem in the community was replicated in a second, smaller postal survey, in which respondents also provided strong support for enforcement on residential roads, and indicated that travelling just above the speed limit on residential roads was unacceptable.

Even though these results suggest that speed enforcement is widely supported by the public, it is also a topic that evokes strong public and even political debate, in particular about the use of automatic speed cameras. Common complaints are that mostly minor offenders are caught, that it is not impartial, and that it is just used to fill the regional or national treasury. In other words, the credibility of traffic enforcement requires special attention and is one of the quality aspects of enforcement. Experience shows that speed camera enforcement programmes require clear and transparent rules to ensure public acceptability. The credibility of speed enforcement may be increased by setting credible speed limits, by policy guarantees that exclude profit considerations as a motive for enforcement actions, and by communication about the reasons for enforcement and positive behaviour and safety outcomes.

Rule 4:

The credibility of traffic enforcement should be part of enforcement policy and is to be considered as an important quality aspect of enforcement.