Row over grieving mother's speed cameras campaign
Road safety campaigners have labelled a personal attack on a grieving mother by a drivers' anti-speed camera group as 'appalling and outrageous'.
Clare Brixey, whose son Ashley died in a car crash near Bath in 2004, is today leading a protest organised by pressure group Brake, calling for councillors not to cut the funding to speed cameras throughout Wiltshire, at County Hall in Trowbridge.
But on the eve of the demonstration, motorists' lobby group the Association of British Drivers has questioned her right to protest about the camera network.
Ashley, 20, died in a crash at Limpley Stoke, while a backseat passenger in a car that ploughed into a garden and ended up on its roof in a swimming pool. The driver had been taking drugs and drinking, and was speeding at more than 80mph at the time.
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Since then, Mrs Brixey, of Standerwick, near Frome, has devoted her life to road safety campaigning, giving talks to everyone from students to soldiers, often alongside the wreckage of the car in which her son died.
But the ABD dismissed her calls for Wiltshire's speed cameras to be retained, because the driver of the car which killed her son had also been drinking.
"It is ironic that Brake should use the example of the tragic death of Ashley Brixey to highlight their campaign to save cameras," said ABD chairman Brian Gregory.
"We commend Ashley's mother Clare for campaigning against drink/drug driving and for speaking to schools about road safety, but to see her campaigning for speed cameras makes no sense to us. It would be more logical for her to campaign for diminishing radius bends to be re-engineered or against swimming pools being built next to roads."
Mrs Brixey said she was determined not to let the ABD chairman's comments upset her. "It's absolutely ridiculous. How dare they question whether I can campaign for speed cameras? The driver of the car was doing 80mph in a 40mph zone, but it doesn't matter how Ashley died.
"Just because he had also been drinking and taking drugs, does that mean I'm not allowed to campaign on speed cameras? It's clear they've lost the argument and are clutching at straws.
"When I set out to campaign on road safety, I did so in every capacity, not just those which had to do with the death of Ashley. I've got the right of free speech, the same as everyone else.
"The ABD are taking nonsense, but obviously they're worried because now they're making it personal."
The Wiltshire and Swindon Camera Safety Partnership is due to be axed in the autumn with around 40 people losing their jobs.
The decision has been made following the announcement that local authority funding from the Department of Transport will be cut by 27 per cent.
The police and Wiltshire Council say the decision is being made reluctantly and have stressed that traffic officers will continue to watch out for speeders.
But Mrs Brixey said: "I cannot just stand by while the council puts an axe to vital road safety services that save so many young lives here each year.
"They need to know how appalled local communities are about this. Most people fully support cameras and feel safer with them turned on.
"The cost of a speed camera does not compare to the cost of a life."