SYDNEY (Reuters Life!) - Speed cameras may be seen as an annoyance by many drivers, but a study of international research showed on Wednesday that this kind of monitoring of roads does cut the number of traffic injuries and deaths.
Preventing traffic injuries is a global health issue, with the World Health Organization predicting that by 2020, road crashes will move to third from ninth in the world ranking of burden of disease. Each year about 1.2 million people are killed in traffic accidents and between 20 and 50 million injured or disabled.
Researchers from Australia's University of Queensland set out to check the impact of using speed cameras by analyzing 35 studies from Australia, the United States, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Britain, Hong Kong, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway.
They found speed cameras cut the average speed by 1-15 percent and the percentage of vehicles that exceeded local speed limits between 14 percent and 65 percent.
The numbers of crashes in the areas of the cameras also fell by between 8 percent and 49 percent, while fatal or serious injury crashes reduced by between 11 percent and 44 percent.
"While there is variation in the results, the overall finding is clear - speed cameras do reduce injuries and deaths," said researcher Cecilia Wilson in a statement.
"Even though some of the studies were not conducted as carefully as others, the consistency in the way that vehicle speeds, crashes, road traffic injuries and deaths all reduced in places where speed cameras were operating shows that these cameras do a good job."
Wilson did point out that none of the 35 studies were carried out in low-income countries where most road traffic crashes occur, and called for further research in these locations.
But the researchers said these findings showed that speed cameras were a worthwhile intervention for reducing road traffic injuries and death in both rural and urban settings.
"Speed cameras used for road section control, which measure average speed over distance, together with related emerging technologies arguably have the potential to favorably influence speeding behavior and thus enhance road safety," the researchers said.
Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Elaine Lies