It looks like nothing more than a grate on the road, but the device in this picture is a sophisticated scanner that detects illegal tread depths as vehicles pass by. And it could be the British police’s new speed camera.
The set-up uses a combination of high-speed cameras and lasers to accurately measure the depth of each tyre groove, and sounds a warning if the central 75 per cent of the tyre has less than 1.6mm of tread.
The Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) confirmed that its advisor on road policing enforcement technology, Trevor Hall, had seen the 50,000 Euro (£43,000) device on a visit to maker ProContour in Germany.
Hall is a well known advocate of speed cameras, and formerly ran the Essex Safety Camera Partnership. He also advises the Home Office on approving technology for police use. Florian Hitzler, ProContour marketing director, said of Hall’s visit: “He was quite excited.”
An ACPO spokesman told Auto Express that evidence from the scanner wouldn’t initially result in points. “It would be used as a screening tool, with
a checkpoint beyond,” he said.
However, motoring groups are concerned about police targeting drivers with the technology.Adrian Tink of the RAC said: “Should this be a priority when resources are limited? £43,000 could fill a lot of potholes, and issues such as drink-driving or driving while using a mobile are more important.
“Anything that improves safety is welcome. But motorists are going to be left scratching their heads if they start getting fines or points for their tyres.”
Another money maker?
So, the ACPO man can hardly contain his enthusiasm for a device to detect worn tyres. But is he “excited” because it reduces accidents, or at the prospect of millions in fines? Maybe he’s excited that this device means less real police work and more pen pushing.
Speed isn’t and never was the biggest killer. But that didn’t stop the invasion of speed cameras, which are more about money making than accident reduction.
Dodgy tyres are far from the top road safety priority. But that’s not the point. The point is that our ‘law enforcers’ may decide that the machines will pay for themselves several times over, by fining drivers who breach tyre laws that they know little about.