What role could speed cameras have played in the Victorian election outcome? Like many slow burning issues that have built up over the last four years, speed cameras have been the subject of unrelenting campaigns by the Herald Sun and the Liberal Party. Speed cameras have been portrayed as primarily a revenue raising tool rather than a safety tool.
Proponents of speed cameras have not been successful in defending them, especially since many speed cameras are hidden and secret, and subject to much criticism about their accuracy following technical problems.
Despite this, there is a lot of evidence around the world that speed cameras do save lives, as people are more likely to slow down. Speed is a major factor in many crashes.
In the UK, there are much clearer guidelines about the use of speed cameras than in Australia (there is also very strong criticism of speed cameras in the UK).
Location and operation of cameras
- The majority (85%) of cameras must be in areas with a specified minimum level of death and injury within 1 km in the previous three years (4 collisions resulting in death/serious injury for fixed cameras, 2 for mobile).
- Crashes need not have been speed-related but it must be shown that speeding is a problem at the location.
- 15% of enforcement time can be used to respond to emerging problems, e.g. areas of local concern.
- Sites that are more appropriate for engineering solutions (e.g chicanes or speed bumps) are excluded.
Visibility and conspicuousness
Cameras should be clearly visible to motorists, with yellow housings that are not obscured by trees or signs. Covert cameras may be used where it is considered to be in the interests of road safety.
The prosecution processOnce a speeding motorist has activated the detection equipment, a photograph is taken which allowsthe number plate and (in some cases) the driver of the vehicle to be identified. The number plate is used to identify the registered keeper of the vehicle.
I think there are definitely things that we in Victoria could take from the UK.
- Specifically and publicly locate speed cameras principally in areas where there has been death and injury from road crashes.
- Make all speed cameras clearly visible – secret or hidden speed cameras should be phased out or removed (they are the most vulnerable to the accusation of revenue raising). All speed cameras should be signposted and painted an obvious colour (like yellow).
- Investigate whether a process can be easily introduced where the driver of the vehicle must be photographically identified before a fine is issued.
Finally, motorists may feel better if they know where any money from speed cameras actually goes. Revenue could be quarantined and used for either road safety projects or improving Public Transport, rather than go into consolidated revenue.