Meet the latest weapon in the war on motorists – this police speed camera van equipped with FOUR cameras which catches drivers on film in every direction simultaneously.
Bedfordshire Police are now operating the new ‘Command Vans’ with cameras at the front, both sides and back rather than just the rear as with traditional speed vans.
The four vans, which were converted from traditonal rear camera only vans at a cost of £28,000 each, allow a single operator to monitor traffic from all angles at once.
Tradtional vans could capture speeding cars but struggle to identify drivers who contested tickets and motorbikes which do not have front number plates.
But the new vehicles will can register a speeding vehicle as it approaches up to a kilometre away and then record front, rear and side images as it passes to ensure identification.
An officer sits in the back mannning a laser gun and monitors feeds from the three extra cameras high on each side panel and on the dashboard.
Bedfordshire Police are believed to be the first force in the UK to use the new Commander Vans.
But motoring organisations slammed the force for wasting public money on creating even more lucrative speed camera ”cash cows”.
Roger Lawson, a spokesman for the Association of British Drivers (ABD), said the four-way Comman Vans were a unwelcome development.
He said: ”This is the first time I have come across such vans but as an organisation we would like to see these kinds of camera prosecutions done away with altogether.
”All these civil liberty infringements should be much reduced and the cash spent on speed cameras is not an effective expenditure of public money.
”Statistically the idea that speed cameras stop speeding is a load of cobblers, they are just a way of raising revenue.
”This kind of investment is a wate of money. They should be scrapping vans rather than improving them.
”In the current economic climate when cuts are likely to be made police and politicians should be concentrating on major crime issues, not motorists.”
Out of a fleet of five mobile enforcement vans, the Bedfordshire Police have four Command Vans which were first introduced in last year as old vans were replaced.
It cost around £28,000 per van to upgrade the camera technology from analogue recording equipment to digital with LTI UltraLyte 1000 laser guns – a total of more than £110,000.
They are made out of aluminium and steel and have a speed range of plus or minus 200mph (320kph) and a distance range of up to one kilometre.
A spokeswoman for Bedfordshire Police said the main benefits were being able to monitor traffic in both directions at once and capture images from the rear,
side and front.
With the multiple cameras speeding motorcyclists can be detected as they approach the van, and their single rear licence plate detected as they pass.
Better-quality images from the side and front cameras will also help police identify who was driving, scuppering the excuse of not being able to remember who was driving.
John Franklin, a spokesman for the RAC, said it was all very well to have additional high images from extra cameras as long as motorists were also able to use them in defence.
He said: ”It has to work both ways. If you have a concern that you were not the driver you should be able to prove that using the images.
”They have to be available to drivers as well as the police.
”Our general view is that there should a regular audit to make sure all cameras are being used for the right reasons.
”But it’s difficult to audit vans because they appear here there and everywhere.
”If vans are appearing in placing where there is concern for safety, fine, but as soon as they are being used to get money into public coffers that is a
Bedfordshire Police said they hoped to deter motorists from speeding in the first place and insisted prevention was better than a fine.
A spokeswoman said: ”It’s all about keeping our roads safe and deterring hazardous behaviour that puts lives at risk.
”We don’t measure our success in terms of an increase in the number of people detected speeding. We don’t want to catch people, we want people to slow down.
”Enforcement is most effective when we use high visibility vans to deter speeding.
”Using this digital technology we are able to capture high quality images of vehicles from the front, side and rear.
”This means that we can identify speeding motorcycles, which only have a number plate on the back, and we can enforce the speed limit in both directions at once.
”Also, when cars are recorded speeding, the picture of the front of the vehicle can help the owner to identify the driver.”