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The five years from 1997 to 2002 saw an incredible expansion of the numbers of speed cameras in the UK. Scarcely a day passed without some report about speed cameras in the news. They were, apparently, ushering in a new era of road safety, and all reputable commentators were agreed that, like them or not, they were “here to stay”. The late Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed campaign, recognised them from the start as a counter-productive quack remedy, but was widely dismissed as something of a crank.

But what is happening now? They’re dropping like ninepins. Swindon led the way, and other authorities such as Oxfordshire and Wiltshire are following. Obviously this is in response to government budget cuts, but if local councils genuinely believed they were effective, surely they would be fighting to keep them and cutting other areas of expenditure instead. In reality, cuts are being used as a cover to beat a retreat from a discredited and unpopular policy. And, despite the shroud-waving anguish from pressure groups such as BRAKE and RoadPeace, I would confidently forecast that we’ll see a further fall in road fatalities in 2010, following the very encouraging figures in 2009. I’m sure Paul Smith will be looking down from above and feeling thoroughly vindicated.

And this underlines the point that, however permanent and entrenched something seems to be, it is not a law of nature that anything endures forever. You don’t have to “accept it” and “move on”. Nobody can predict whether the wheel may turn full circle. No doubt in the early 1920s US Prohibition was widely seen as “here to stay”. But it wasn’t.