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No point in trying to cheat camera.

Byline: By Lisa Hutchinson

Speeding North East drivers who pass over their penalty points by claiming someone else was at the wheel could soon be snared.

Northumbria Safety Camera Partnership is looking at the latest cameras on the market that take a sharp picture of the driver's face.

There is a growing problem of drivers "passing off" penalty points to relatives and friends in order to avoid an automatic six-month ban for accumulating 12 points within three years.

A study last year estimated more than 700,000 drivers countrywide had passed off points in the past decade.

But digital photographs taken by a new camera will allow police to study pictures in any case that arouses suspicion, including when the registered keeper of a vehicle claims that a partner was driving or tries to blame someone who was visiting from overseas.

The new forward-facing camera has been developed by Gatso, the biggest speed camera supplier, to work in conjunction with traditional rear-facing cameras.

The flash of the first camera triggers the second, which takes a digital image of the front of the vehicle, using an infra-red filter to prevent the driver from being dazzled and to ensure clarity in darkness.

The Essex Speed Camera Partnership has already had trials with 10 of the cameras and used them to identify the driver in more than 1,000 cases in which the culprits were either trying to pass off points or claiming they did not know who the driver was.

Other camera partnerships have also expressed an interest.

And Northumbria is also looking at the state-of-the-art cameras as it prepares to update its equipment.

Jeremy Forsberg, a spokesman for the Northumbria Safety Camera Partnership, said: "The new Gatso camera is only one of the options we are looking at but we are weighing up the financial side of things before making any decisions.

"We have one of the highest conviction rates in the country and feel our cameras are working efficiently.

"We are looking at changing the cameras from wet film to digital. That will save man-hours and make the system even more efficient and effective.

"We like to put as much money as we can into reducing deaths on the roads and carrying out awareness campaigns to make the roads safer."

Mr Forsberg added: "We support devices that ensures those who are breaking the law are caught.

"We are looking at a range of new technology which is out there and the new Gatso camera is one of them."

Northumbria already use the standard Gatso which is static and photographs the vehicle from the rear.

Also used is the Truvelo, which is a front-facing camera but does not produce as clear images at the new Gatso front-facing camera, and the manually operated Lastec, which can be used front and back-facing.

Dianne Ferreira, of the North-based safe-speed charity Brake, said: "Any new technology that helps to catch people speeding is welcomed by Brake."

The region's Safety Camera Partnership is also getting ready to launch a new website on which drivers caught on camera will be able to examine the photographic evidence.

Motorists will be able to see the moment they broke the law. The photos, which can be used as evidence in court, will reveal the direction the vehicle was travelling, the time, the date and the speed the driver was going.
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Publication:Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)
Date:May 29, 2006
Words:560
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