Covering a period when the speed cameras increased dramatically as police forces also cut back on their dedicated traffic patrols, the figures gave further weight to those who argued that the reliance on automated traffic enforcement was missing some of the most dangerous motorists.
Detailed analysis of motoring prosecutions, in a study commissioned by the Department for Transport, showed that there was an 88 per cent rise in motorists who were hit with penalty points on their licence for speeding, while over the same period – 1997-2007 – there was a 53 per cent fall in prosecutions for careless driving.
In 1997 there were 2.6 million motorists were penalised for speeding, this rose to 4.9 million who received points on their licence in 2007. Over the same period prosecutions for careless driving dropped from 192,000 to 90,000.
The figures rekindled the controversy over the entire speed camera programme, especially with the latest road casualty statistics, which were released yesterday, that failure to look properly was the key cause of 38 per cent of accidents last year.
Exceeding the speed limit was a factor in five per cent of accidents – but 17 per cent of fatal crashes.
Since taking office the Coalition has moved to reverse the march of speed cameras by refusing to fund new devices.
Spending cuts have also seen a number of partnerships being forced to switch the cameras off because they do not have the money to maintain them or process the prosecutions they generate.