Governments are addicted to speed camera revenue and Victoria, Australia’s most over-regulated driving state, is calling for more.

YOU HAVE TO WONDER WHERE THINGS ARE GOING when a recent report highlights that South Australia’s speed camera revenue has increased from $6 million in 2010 to more than $79 million in 2013.

Now, speed camera commissioner Gordon Lewis wants the Victorian government to install more point-to-point (or average speed) cameras. Soon after his appointment for a third year, Lewis called for police to provide much greater information to justify selection of speed camera sites (there are already more than 2000 mobile camera sites on Victorian roads, in addition to countless fixed cameras), greater use of mobile speed cameras to enforce temporary speed limits on roadworks sites, more accurate speed advisory gantries to so motorists can usefully check what speed they are doing, freer and easier access to speed camera photographs and greater transparency about the traffic camera system to convince motorists that speed cameras are being used to save lives, not just raise revenue.

Mr Lewis, in his role as Australia’s only independent traffic camera watchdog, will push for more point-to-point cameras that measure the average speed of a vehicle over a stretch of road. He would like to see their use extended to various traffic-light free stretches of road including the Princes Highway and freeway between Melbourne and Geelong and parts of the Eastern, Monash, Calder and Western freeways. The intention, he claims, is to stop “camera surfing” where many motorists slow down before each fixed or mobile camera and then resume their previous speed once past it.

Of course, point-to-point cameras introduce double jeopardy to driving. Not only must you travel between two points at an average speed at or below the prevailing speed limit, but if you momentarily exceed the posted limit (when overtaking, for example) and are nabbed by a radar, you’ll still get fined, even if your average speed is within acceptable limits.

Mr Lewis said a recommendation from him in his first annual report prompted police to provide very brief details about the criteria used to choose the state’s 2000 mobile speed camera sites. “But,” he added “they should go much further and provide much greater detail on the history of each site as far as crashes, hoon behaviour and other factors.”

Of course, he’s right. Motorists are justifiably cynical about the location of mobile and fixed speed cameras. As Lewis pointed out, the scant details provided by police made it impossible for him or anyone else to determine why a speed camera is located at a given site. “I would be reassured if I knew the accident history, or the complaints history, or the hoon history of each of the approved sites,” he said, echoing the thinking of many of us.

Lewis also talked of his personal experience of having headlights flashed at him and being harassed by irate drivers forced to follow him at the temporary 40km/h speed limit through road works (he should try travelling through road works in South Australia where the temporary speed limit is just 25km/h!) He called for more frequent use of speed cameras in road work zones.

But despite the constant claims that speed cameras are all about safety, in an interview aired last night, a senior state politician inadvertently admitted that it’s really about the money. In his response to calls for a more sane camera and speed policy, he asked “So if we reduce the income from speeding offences, where does the Opposition party suggest we will raise the $60 million for essential services?”

No really, it’s all about safety…


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