THE man in charge of policing the county’s roads has insisted motorists drove faster while our speed cameras were turned off.

The comments by Supt Rob Povey, head of roads policing, came as lenses were once again trained on speeding drivers after a six month period which saw the number of deaths on Oxfordshire’s roads rise by 50 per cent.

Cameras were turned off in August after Oxfordshire County Council said it would not pay £600,000 a year to help keep them on.

But, after figures showed the number of deaths climbing from 12 to 18, and serious injuries rising from 160 to 179, police have decided to turn them back on.

Supt Povey insisted there was clear evidence to show people had speeded up after the big switch-off.

He said: “It is a fact that more people died on the roads in 2010 than they did in 2009.

“And it is a fact that people were speeding up while the cameras were turned off.”

After just a month of the switch-off, the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership – the organisation which ran speed cameras in the region – reported up to four times as many speeding offences taking place at camera sites.

The site with the largest increase in offences was at Cumnor Hill/West Way in Botley, West Oxford.

A camera there recorded the number of speeding drivers increasing from an average of 10 per day between the period 2007-2010, to 40.7 per day during a nine-day period after the switch-off.

Supt Povey added: “The figures here show people are speeding up. We support the cameras because we think they reduce peoples’ speeds, and we believe speed kills.”

The full cost of running the cameras, estimated to be about £800,000, will fall to the police from today.

Oxfordshire County Council will, however, pay for maintenance at the 72 fixed camera sites, which will cost about £600 per camera.

Supt Povey said police made the decision to turn the cameras back on last year, but it had taken time to find necessary funding and put the wheels in motion.

He added: “We have made more than £1m in savings to pay for this.”

These savings came from a variety of sources, including outsourcing, reducing ad-vertising and scrapping the Thames Valley Safer Roads Partnership.

Supt Povey dismissed suggestions that speed cameras were simply being used as a way of raising money.

He said: “What we are trying to do is stop people speeding. The reality is people do not have to speed. If they took the choice not to speed, there would be no income.”

He said there would be no leniency for drivers caught out by today’s turn-on.

However, Mark McArthur Christie, former chairman of the Oxford group of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, said speed cameras did not reduce accidents. He said: “Speed is only recorded as a contributing factor in seven per cent of accidents. Using cameras to reduce speed is like trying to fix a watch with a hammer and chisel.”