SPEED CAMERAS: friend or foe?
Tagically, lives have been lost and motorists have been injured in accidents on North Shore roads because of reckless driving. But despite the area’s checkered history, a number of speed cameras have been dismantled to give warnings instead of fines to motorists who break the law.
According to the NSW government, if your vehicle is detected by a ﬁxed speed camera, mobile camera or a police officer, a penalty notice will be issued and ﬁnes incurred in addition to the possible loss of demerit points and driver’s licence.
But statistics from the North Shore-based Pedestrian Council of Australia show nearly 35,000 vehicles avoided fines from speed cameras while travelling through areas of the North Shore including Gordon, Epping, North Willoughby and the Spit Hill.
Pedestrian Council CEO Harold Scruby says “speeding is speeding, no matter where you are“ but the state government is “selectively deciding" which cameras will operate and which will not, and therefore who gets a fine and who will not.
“How can the state government decide which drivers get punished for breaking the law and which ones just get a slap on the wrist?” Mr Scruby asks.
He argues that the warning cameras - like the ones at The Spit- are merely “joke cameras” where three warnings are given to drivers travelling up to 30 kilometres per hour over the speed limit.
“These do not warn motorists, they just warn cars, because there is no conﬁrmation of who is driving the vehicle," Mr Scruby states.
This situation is contradicted by ﬁgures conﬁrming the revenue raised by a North Shore speed camera, northbound, on Macpherson Street, exceeded $500,000 in 2013/14, according to state government records.
Mr Scruby is now calling on the government to transfer all responsibility for operating speed cameras and red light cameras in the state to the NSW Police Force.
One North Shore resident, who spoke to North Shore Living on the condition of anonymity, says she was deﬁnitely going over the speed limit on a trip up the Spit Hill when she saw the telltale ﬂash.
"I knew I would receive a hefty ﬁne in a matter of weeks." she says.
"So I was extremely surprised when I opened a letter notifying me that I was speeding 15 kilometres per hour over the limit, with a warning to let me know I should not do it again," she says.
“To say I was relieved would be an understatement, as I know these fines can sometimes be up to $200 - even more. I suppose the warning letter has deterred me from speeding - but not as much as if I had been given a fine."
Mosman councillor Simon Menzies says he supports the issuing of warnings rather than tickets for offences on the Spit Hill. “The state government should be praised for making the issue about trafﬁc safety and not revenue rising," Cr Menzies tells North Shore Living. “Using the carrot and not the stick will be more successful in changing driver behaviour in the long term.
"Warning letters remind drivers of their responsibilities and ensure they are more alert to their speed in the future. Warnings also acknowledge that it is easy to go slightly over the speed limit without realising it," he says.
He is happy that law enforcement energies are focused on "the hoons" whose reckness driving puts all roads at risk”.
State government figures show speed cameras that actually are in operation on the North Shore and across NSW are collecting more than $500,000 per day, despite a commitment to not use them as revenue raisers. This revenue includes speeding fines on the Lane Cove Tunnel and the Pacific Highway at Wahroonga.
There has also been a record number of new roll outs of mobile speed cameras that are mounted on the back of vans and station wagons at a total of 640 locations.
Roads minister Duncan Gay says cameras will be removed in areas without a proven road safety benefit. "Before we remove any camera, we carry out safety works such as additional signage, barriers and markings. Thirty four cameras have been switched off," he says.
Mr Scruby says despite the government's claims of fairness, there are "total inconsistencies" in the current policy. “We still don’t know why the Spit Hill is considered a safe place to speed and to be given a warning and yet other areas are not," he says.
"It just seems like a huge waste of public funds and its costing millions of dollars to send warnings."