A PLAN to more than double the number of speeding fines in Merseyside is not a money-spinning venture, police chiefs insisted last night.
Proposals are being considered to increase the number of fixed penalty fines handed out to drivers caught by speed cameras from 20,000 to 50,000 a year.
The number of fixed speed camera sites is also to be almost doubled, from 40 to 76.
The proposals are part of a strategy expected to be approved by the Merseyside Road Safety Camera Partner-ship (MRSCP) board tomorrow.
The partnership, between Mersey-side Police, Magistrates Court Service and five local authorities, was set up last year to take part in a Government scheme.
It allows police to plough money generated from fines back into the road safety network.
A report expected to be approved by the MRSCP board predicts the scheme will net £1.8m in fixed penalty fines (£60 each ticket), and the projected expenditure will be £1.6m.
* The number of fixed penalties for speeding to be increased from 20,000 a year to 50,000 a year;
* An extra 18 fixed cameras to be placed at accident blackspots;
* At least two new mobile camera units that will tour a potential 19 accident blackspot sites;
* All speed cameras to be maintained with film and checked more regularly;
* All speed cameras to be painted yellow and made visible, including 36 existing cameras at traffic lights;
* Locations of all cameras to be posted on a new website to allow the public to check danger zones;
* A speed threshold to be decided, above which offenders will be offered a driving improvement course instead of fine;
* A margin of error to be decided, below which drivers exceeding the speed limit by only a few miles per hour will not be fined;
Merseyside currently has 76 speed cameras, including 40 fixed yellow cameras and 36 traffic light cameras.
MRSCP project manager Sayon Yaidoo, who compiled the report, said: "The problem at the moment is many of the cameras in Merseyside are not maintained properly.
"Lots of them don't have film in them and so we are struggling to maintain even 20,000 fixed penalties.
"The aim now is to make sure the whole system is managed more efficiently so we make better use of the existing cameras and add in new ones when we can afford them."
He added: "It doesn't necessarily mean the number of fines and cameras will increase year on year. If people stop speeding in one area, then we would consider moving that camera to another area."
Motoring organisations have criticised similar schemes being considered throughout the country but the RAC and AA both say they would back the scheme so long as new cameras are only fitted at known accident blackspots.
Last night, Johnathan Simpson, spokesman for the RAC Foundation, said: "Basically they have got the whole thing the wrong way around.
"By saying that they want to increase the number of fines, people are automatically going to assume this is a money-spinning venture and it is going to make a lot of people in Merseyside very unhappy."
But Chief Inspector Lol O'Donnel of Merseyside Police Traffic Department said: "We are not trying to catch people out. We just want to make sure our roads are safer.
"We want to tell everyone where the cameras are so that this is completely transparent and people can not accuse us of trying to catch them out."
Pauline Fielding, chairwoman of Liverpool group Road Peace which represents families of people bereaved by road crashes, last night welcomed the proposals.
Pauline, whose 18-year-old son, Andrew, was killed in a hit and run crash in 1994, said: "Obviously the current system is not working because we still have incredibly high numbers of deaths on our roads each year."
But she added: "Although we have evidence that speed cameras do slow some people down, they are not good enough on their own because not everyone takes notice.
"We need to see the traffic police out doing their jobs and getting involved in education programmes."
Chief Insp O'Donnell stressed it was possible that none of the fixed cameras would be set up this year due to lack of funds.
THE FIVE BIG DANGER AREAS
THESE are the five most dangerous of 36 sites where the partnership is considering placing a camera in April.
Bracketed figures show deaths or serious injuries per 1-1.5km (0.6 to 1 mile) stretch of road between January 2000 to December 2002.
New Chester Road (B5136) at Toll Bar, Wirral (11); Brighton St, Seacombe (10); Rowson St, New Brighton (10); Edge Lane Drive, Kensington, Liverpool (7); Wavertree Road, Wavertree, Liverpool (7).
These are the top five accident spots of 40 existing speed camera sites: M62 final 1.2km into Liverpool (8); 1.2km of Prescot Rd, Tuebrook, Liverpool (6); 1km of Aigburth Rd, around junction with Sandringham Road, Liverpool (5); 1km of Mill Road (A41), Wirral (4); 1km of West Derby Rd, near Farnworth Street, Liverpool (4).
Information was collated by each local authority area.
A GRIM TOLL
SOMEONE is killed every five days on Merseyside's roads. Total number of fatalities on Merseyside's roads, April to April for each year listed: 1999/ 2000 - 54; 2000/2001 - 72; 2001/2002 -45; 2002/2003 - 62; 2003/2004 - 36 so far since April 2003.
Total number of serious injuries on Merseyside's roads, from April to April for each year listed: 2001/2002 - 722; 2002/2003 - 691; 2003/2004 - 300 so far since April 2003.