Bus driver proves speed camera wrong
MOTORISTS were today urged to query speeding tickets after a Suffolk bus driver was falsely accused of thundering through a 30mph limit at 81mph.Trevor Martin, of Preston Drive, Ipswich, was actually travelling at 29mph when the fixed camera flashed his vehicle, on the A140 at Earl Stonham.
MOTORISTS were today urged to query speeding tickets after a Suffolk bus driver was falsely accused of thundering through a 30mph limit at 81mph.
Trevor Martin, of Preston Drive, Ipswich, was actually travelling at 29mph when the fixed camera flashed his vehicle, on the A140 at Earl Stonham.
The 43-year-old was able to prove his innocence, as the bus he was driving was fitted with a tachograph, which recorded his speed, and a device preventing it going above 62mph.
Today, Suffolk SafeCam, the group responsible for speed enforcement in the county, admitted the blunder and assured road users it was the first case of its kind in the county.
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But Motorists Against Detection, a national lobby against the inappropriate use of speed cameras, said it knew of at least ten other examples from elsewhere in the UK.
A spokesman said: "There are discrepancies and inaccuracies due to technical breakdowns within the system.
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"The cameras are not foolproof and this is the reason why people should fight every case. People should check every detail about it before accepting fines and points."
Tony Fowler, Mid Suffolk councillor for Earl Stonham, said this particular camera had proved controversial ever since it was installed, in August 2003, with its position the subject of local debate.
He said: "Generally, people in the village would like to see it moved closer to the cross-roads (where the A140 meets A1120).
"Although it has made that particular area a lot safer, it's a worry to think they aren't as accurate as we'd like to think."
It was at about 8am on January 18 that Mr Martin was said to have hurtled along the Norwich-bound stretch of the road.
A week later he received a letter warning him he was to be prosecuted for the offence.
After proving the error, he received a further letter, dated January 31, saying no further action would be taken.
But for Mr Martin, who has always had a clean driving license, it offered scant consolation.
He said: "The only response I had was a short and sharp letter, which was not satisfactory in my opinion.
"I was completely shocked when I received the notice, when you consider driving is my livelihood. I knew going 81mph in a 30mph limit would lead to a loss of license or suspension from work.
"It created quite a lot of stress and worry. My wife doesn't work and I bring the money in."
Although annoyed at the episode, the father-of-two said he was happy to be in the clear.
"You're guilty until proved innocent, which isn't right," he said.
"In a way I'm relieved I was in a bus. It made it easier because there was no way I could've been doing that speed. It would've been harder to prove if I was in a car."
Mr Martin wanted to highlight his case to show the system is not infallible.
He said: "This has certainly put doubt in my mind about other speed cameras. Every time I go past them now I'm doubly making sure I check my speed. I don't trust them."
And yesterday doubt was also cast on speed camera convictions after a hand-held speed gun which clocked a driver doing 132mph was found to be inaccurate
John MacGregor, 34, of Inverness, had been clocked on the A9 by police carrying a ProLaser III gun, which is used extensively across the UK.
However, his car was a "grey import" from Japan which was equipped with a speed limiter which meant it could not go above 112mph, rendering the gun's reading unreliable.
The case at Inverness Sheriff Court yesterday was found not proven and has now thrown doubt over the effectiveness of the device and the legality of prosecutions.
SUFFOLK SafeCam today said procedures have been reviewed to ensure similar mistakes do not happen again.
It was a combination of technical and human error that led to Mr Martin being sent a speeding ticket.
It is believed the camera may have recorded vibrations being made by a panel on the back of the bus, instead of the speed of the vehicle.
This would have caused the camera to flash, sending an image of the bus back to partnership's central ticket office.
It was at this point that a further check should have been made, measuring the speed of the vehicle using the white lines painted on the road. But this did not take place.
Michelle Finnerty, communications manager for the partnership, said: "This was a case of operator error. The secondary check, using the white markers on the road, showed the vehicle was not exceeding the speed limit, and the matter should have been cancelled.
"Unfortunately, the operator did not complete the process fully and the matter was then automatically passed through the system. This was corrected immediately when a telephone query was received into the office.
"Viewing procedures have been reviewed with the intention of ensuring that such a mistake can never happen again."
Have you had an incorrect speeding ticket? What do you think of speed cameras? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail email@example.com