Speed cameras save lives, right?

They slow down traffic and reduce accidents in areas identified as high risk, right?

It’s got nothing at all to do with the millillions of dollars that speed cameras contribute to consolidated Government revenue, right?

But then why doesn’t the Government plough all of the money raised through speeding fines back into road improvements, to make the roads safer to start with?

All very good questions, especially in the context of Brazil where they’ve just tried turning off their cameras.

And guess what? There was no increase in accidents. In fact, the number of accidents actually fell, according to a report by The Newspaper.com — an online publication dedicated to road safety matters.

The number of accidents fell after speed cameras were removed from Brazil’s federal highways last month, the publication reports.

speed cameras - Jair Bolsonaro - What happened when they turned off the speed cameras?
Brazil president Jair Bolsonaro

President Jair Bolsonaro cited the statistics as he defended his decision to pull the plug on the cameras in the face of criticism that he had put public safety in jeopardy.

“A month after we decided to suspend the use of mobile radars on federal highways until approval of inspection standards by the Ministry of Infrastructure, data from the PRF [federal police] indicate that in August, the number of fines fell 64 percent from the half-year average and the number of deaths fell as well,” Bolsonaro said.

Comparing road fatalities in August 2018, when speed cameras were active, to August 2019 with the devices turned off — the number of road fatalities dropped from 454 to 283.

The number of accidents and injuries likewise fell to the lowest level recorded in the past 20 months.

In May, Bolsonaro described the use of the “automated ticketing machines” as a primarily revenue driven exercise.

He asked officials to find a better way of achieving road safety goals.

The Ministry of Justice and Public Safety issued a formal order last month to implement the change in public policy “to avoid distorting the educational purpose and to avoid merely collecting speeding fines.”

The order halting use of speed cameras applies to all fixed, mobile and car-based photo radar units operated by police on federal roads.

Bolsonaro ordered the Ministry to use the time to re-evaluate all of the regulations that apply to automated ticketing machines.

“I determine that all PRF [federal police] managers and staff should take the necessary steps to immediately comply with the presidential decision, and the use of static, mobile and portable speed measuring equipment shall by suspended until the Ministry of Infrastructure has concluded the re-evaluation of the electronic speed measurement regulations on public roads.”

The photo radar suspension does not however apply to local governments, which continue to use speed cameras within their jurisdiction.

It also does not apply to privately run cameras that are operating under a contract.

Bolsonaro said those privately operated devices would be shut down when the contract expires.

Who would have thought?

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Riley

Chris Riley has been a journalist for almost 40 years. He has spent half of his career as a writer, editor and production editor in newspapers, the rest of the time driving and writing about cars both in print and online. His love affair with cars began as a teenager with the purchase of an old VW Beetle, followed by another Beetle and a string of other cars on which he has wasted too much time and money. A self-confessed geek, he’s not afraid to ask the hard questions - at the risk of sounding silly.