Only about half of fixed speed cameras in the UK are actually switched on and catching offenders, data published today shows.
Figures from 36 of the nation’s 45 police forces reveal that four, including North Yorkshire, have no fixed speed cameras at all.
Meanwhile, West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire were among 13 forces to have fewer than half of their speed cameras actively catching speeding drivers.
The forces which responded to a Freedom of Information request had a total 2,838 cameras, of which 52 per cent were active.
Road safety charity Brake called for all cameras to be switched on, while AA president Edmund King said the high number of inactive cameras was down to pressure on budgets.
All forces and speed camera partnerships that responded said they regularly review which fixed cameras are turned on as well as deploying mobile speed cameras not included in the figures.
Paul Jeffrey, of West Yorkshire Police’s Protective Services Operations, said: “It is part of our operational strategy in West Yorkshire to rotate active cameras around a number of fixed sites, which act as housing for our devices.
“During the periods when the housing is empty, they still act as a significant deterrent, given that any site in the county has the potential to be live.”
He said the approach allowed the force to react to emerging road safety threats and place cameras where they were most effective, while also making the most of resources at a time of ongoing austerity measures.
West Yorkshire, the region’s largest force, has 98 of its 396 cameras at any one time – the equivalent of one in four. Neighbouring South Yorkshire Police has 11 of its 45 cameras active (24 per cent), while Humberside Police has five of its six cameras active (83 per cent).
Mr King said: “Many of the empty yellow cases are due to cuts in road safety grants and the fact that digital cameras, although more effective, are very expensive. It is also reflective of the fact that proceeds from cameras are no longer allowed to be ring-fenced to be reinvested into yet more cameras as now all the money goes to the Treasury.”
Brake’s director of campaigns, Jason Wakefield, highlighted the 1,800 lives which were lost on British roads last year.
“Speed cameras are a proven, cost-effective way of reducing deadly collisions and so it’s critical they are operational,” he said.
“We are concerned to see figures which suggest so many are switched off and would urge they are urgently put back into action.”
But Claire Armstrong, co-founder of lobby group Safe Speed, which campaigns for more traffic police officers rather than speed cameras, said the investigation “proves police forces don’t believe in cameras”.
“Forces are conning the public into thinking cameras are there for road safety because, if they really thought that, every single one of them would be on,”
She added: “I am glad there are only 52 per cent working – and we’d actually like to see less.”
The Department for Transport was contacted for comment.