More speed camera transparency amid call for big brother scheme


NSW speed camera review recommends greater transparency, as government turns off devices amid calls for speeding drivers to be monitored

More speed camera transparency amid call for big brother scheme
More speed camera transparency amid call for big brother scheme
By Brad Gardner | July 27, 2011

The Roads and Traffic Authority has promised greater transparency on speed cameras, as the government switches off almost 40 devices amid calls for recidivist speeders to be tracked by GPS.

NSW Auditor-General Peter Achterstraat today released his review into speed cameras, which found they changed driver behaviour and were generally located in high-risk areas.

The review rejected the assertion the devices were merely revenue raisers, but 38 of the 141 fixed cameras Achterstraat recommended be closely examined due to their limited impact on road safety have been shut off.

Roads Minister Duncan Gay today ordered the RTA to flick the switch on the 38 units, some of which are located on the New England, Princes, Pacific and Hume highways, the M4 Motorway and at school zones.

In releasing his review, Achterstraat urged Premier Barry O’Farrell to consider slapping a GPS device on motorists booked twice for speeding.

Under the proposal, submitted as part of the public consultation process on the review, the GPS device will alert a driver when they speed or approach an accident hotspot. Achterstraat says it may also be able to limit a vehicle’s speed.

He recommended the government look at issuing warnings instead of fines for first-time offenders caught travelling less than 10km/h over the speed limit and sending thank-you letters and lottery tickets annually to 100 random motorists photographed at speed camera sites travelling within the limit.

"I would encourage the government to explore and test suggestions made by the public, particularly the speed camera lottery, the amnesty for first time low-range offenders at the 10 most problematic cameras and GPS restricted licences for habitual speeders," Achterstraat says.

The review, which O’Farrell ordered earlier this year in response to community concerns, reports that the number of speeding offences, crashes, injuries and fatalities all fell after the introduction of fixed speed cameras.

Costing $214,500, Achterstraat’s investigation found the government collected more than $58 million in revenue last financial year.

"Some cameras have generated substantial revenue but there is no evidence that revenue-raising is a factor in decisions on where cameras are located," the review says.

"The selection criteria focus on road-safety. And the evidence also shows, in the months after cameras are installed, there is a decline in fine revenue as driver behaviour changes."

However, The Auditor-General criticised the RTA’s lack of transparency on speed cameras, particularly its decision not to publicise the reasons for installing cameras at specific sites.

"If a camera is there to improve road safety, RTA must publicly provide the information to support that decision. They need to publicise trends in crashes, revenue, and speeding or infringement data for each speed camera," he says.

The review was unable to determine if cameras reduced average speeds after installation because the RTA does not regularly monitor vehicle speed at detection sites.

"RTA’s analysis of safety camera locations does not include vehicle speeds or the number of speed-related crashes. Therefore we cannot confirm if speeding was a problem at these sites," the review says.

Achterstraat says publishing trends will allow motorists to see what impact a camera has had on driver behaviour and adds that devices should be integrated with other road safety measures and regularly reviewed.

He wants the RTA to develop a strategy by March 2012 that outlines the appropriate speed camera device (fixed or mobile) for each road, prioritise high-risk areas and define how the effectiveness of cameras will be assessed.

The review recommends the department publicise trends in crashes, revenue and speeding or infringements by June 2012, while saying an annual review of existing locations to make sure the cameras are still relevant should begin by December this year.

"While key selection processes are in place, more could be done to ensure cameras are located in areas of greatest road safety risk," the review says.

Achterstraat has also echoed a call from the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association, which wants point-to-point cameras to cover motorists.

The units are currently limited to monitoring heavy vehicles, but Achterstraat says if they are effective in controlling truck speed then "the same technology could be used for any driver caught speeding, especially in rural areas".

RTA RESPONDS TO CALL FOR GREATER TRANSPARENCY
RTA CEO Michael Bushby says the Centre for Road Safety – which operates within the RTA – will develop a strategy and outline how the effectiveness of each camera type will be measured.

He says the RTA will investigate ways to improve community confidence in speed cameras, such as publishing trends in crashes, revenue, and speeding or infringement data for each device.

"The RTA will also develop a website to provide information to the public," Bushby says.

Existing camera locations will be reviewed annually and new areas with a higher risk will be prioritised.

"If future camera decisions are inconsistent with site selection criteria, the RTA will document the reason. Some cameras are installed to prevent a potential future crash problem," Bushby says.

In a written response to Achterstraat, Bushby rejects the Auditor-General’s call for the RTA to assess the impact of speed cameras on crashes for a minimum of five years after their installation. He believes a shorter period of about three years is more suitable.

"Based on the initial three year analysis the RTA has already identified a number of cameras that should be reviewed and potentially relocated," he says.

"The RTA agrees that where a fixed speed camera has not had a significant impact on road safety the camera should be removed and other road safety treatments considered for that site."

During the public consultation process Achterstraat received more than 1,700 submissions, with some voicing concerns about inadequate signage and the time taken to issue infringements.

There were suggestions revenue should be donated to local charities or dedicated to road safety improvements.

One submission wanted an independent organisation to oversee speed cameras to restore community trust in the system, while another recommended fines be done away with altogether in favour of issuing demerit points only.

The RTA says only the funds collected from school zone offences is funnelled into road safety projects, with the rest of the money going to consolidated revenue.

Achterstraat says the proposals to donate revenue to charity or abolish fines completely will affect the government’s ability to fund services, in turn adversely impacting those who do not speed.





What do you think of the review's findings? Should the government resort to GPS monitoring to keep lead-foot drivers in check? Leave your thoughts below


You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook