x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

The need for speed

The capacity of humans to find new ways to evade speed cameras is always amazing

Human ingenuity is an unbalanced thing. The same cleverness that allows us to develop cars and build them to drive great distances at high speeds is also put to use when it comes to evading the speed cameras that measure how fast we are driving.

This is the dilemma that Abu Dhabi traffic police face. Despite the prevalence of speed cameras, drivers have learnt to evade the spirit of the law by slowing down ahead of cameras and speeding up directly after. In some ways, this stop-start speeding is more dangerous because it can be hard for cars behind to judge accurately. Which is why the emirate is planning to bring in point-to-point cameras, which will calculate the average speed of a vehicle between two fixed points.

When it arrives, the system will change the way people drive. And yet, technology alone is not the answer. The letter of the law is all very well, but it is the spirit of the law – of the need to avoid speeding, to inculcate a sense of safety and to recognise the immense damage a one-ton moving block of steel can cause to human bodies – that needs to be understood and internalised. Otherwise point-to-point cameras will work only until the human ingenuity of those who love speeding finds a way around them.