Camera car snares 1,800 drivers in first year

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MORE than 1,800 drivers have been caught out by Hartlepool’s camera car and given £80,000 of fines in its first year on the roads.

The £40,000 car, equipped with the latest Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology, was introduced by council chiefs to make the roads safer.

Since its launch last May and the start of April this year, the camera car caught 1,846 illegal drivers.

It has seen £50,000 in fines paid to the council. Another £30,000 remains to be collected through debt recovery or because it is still subject to court challanges.

Parking bosses say the car has been a success in tackling the issue of problem parking around schools, one of the main reasons it was brought to town.

But the vehicle has proved controversial with many drivers who felt they had been fined unfairly.

Phil Hepburn, Hartlepool Borough Council’s parking services manager, said: “The use of this type of enforcement has resulted in a noticeable difference and the steady decline in parking charge notices issued is reflective of the better compliance by motorists.

“We have been pleased with the impact and success of the camera car, particularly in relation to the compliance outside schools.

“School enforcement was always the main reason for purchasing the vehicle as several previous initiatives to tackle road safety had either failed or had only a short-term impact.

“The use of the CCTV camera has both raised awareness and increased the chances of motorists who regularly abused the regulations of being caught.

“It is true that not all motorists have found the use of the car popular but a significant number have been supportive and teachers and parents in particular are appreciative of the effectiveness and the impact the vehicle has had on school enforcement.”

Helen O’Brien, headteacher at Clavering Primary School, said the camera car has helped to reduce inconsiderate parking by parents on the school run.

She added: “We had problems with parking on yellow lines when dropping off and collecting children from school.

“The entrance was also used as a drop -off and turning point which had implications for children crossing and their safety.

“But since the introduction of the camera car very few parents now park on yellow lines and it has had a positive effect on the school.

“Parents and children feel a lot safer and happier entering and leaving the school as there is not as many cars.”

The hi-tech vehicle automatically takes photographs of offenders and a £70 fine is sent to the registered keeper of the vehicle.

Anyone snapped parking outside a school, in a bus stop, on zig zag lines or cycle path on in a waiting prohibited zone is fined.

Mr Hepburn said the only disappointment was in the number of motorists parking in bus stops, which have increased during the year despite publicity campaigns.

He believes the rise is partly down to the camera car extending its coverage of the town.

The money made by the car goes back into running the scheme and on other traffic and transport related schemes.

Mr Hepburn said he hopes some of the future revenue from the next year can go to specific road safety schemes.

Hartlepool was the first North-East council to use the camera car technology, but several other local authorities are set to follow their lead.