: NSW turns off 38 speed cameras

NSW turns off 38 speed cameras

Katherine Biber
New South Wales

In July 2011, the NSW Auditor-General, Peter Achterstraat, released a performance audit into speed cameras. The report, Improving Road Safety: Speed Cameras, inquired into the Roads and Traffic Authority’s (‘RTA’) installation and use of cameras, and was a response to public concerns that the cameras were ‘revenue-raising’, rather than effective safety measures.

The Auditor-General was asked to determine whether the cameras were located in the areas identified as having the greatest road safety risk, and whether the cameras actually reduced speeding and the number and severity of road crashes in those areas. The report inquired into fixed cameras (installed to identify speeding in designated locations), safety cameras (installed to detect red light infringements, but which also detect speeding), and mobile cameras (which aim to reduce speeding across the road network generally).

At the time of the inquiry, NSW had 172 fixed speed cameras in 141 locations, 65 of which were located in 44 school zones. The Auditor-General examined evidence relating to crash and injury rates in these locations, and also travelling speeds.

The Auditor-General concluded that speed cameras were generally located in appropriate places, and that they did contribute to changing driver behaviour and improving road safety. In general, fixed cameras did reduce speeding offences, fatalities, injuries and crashes. However, the results varied for individual cameras, some of which were not found to be effective.

The Auditor-General found that the RTA did not have an integrated framework for selecting locations, or the type of camera selected for each location. Better analysis of crash data, better review processes, and ongoing monitoring were recommended. Where the cameras were not effective in improving safety, better and different road safety measures were recommended.

The Auditor-General agreed that 32 fixed speed cameras already identified by the RTA as needing review, were not effective, together with a further six cameras that had already been deactivated by the RTA. The NSW Minister for Roads and Ports, Duncan Gay, has since announced that these cameras will now be deactivated.

Following the Minister’s announcement, residents of Clunes on the far north coast, protested against the deactivation of the speed camera in their town. They argued that, having long fought for the installation of the camera following a fatality and other serious crashes, the camera brought a sense of security to residents in the area. Similarly, parents of children attending two schools in Sydney — where the cameras had been due to be deactivated — lobbied for the continued presence of the cameras. On 2 August 2011, the Minister’s spokesman announced that these cameras would be retained and that, whilst speeding offences would still be recorded by the cameras, offenders would be sent a warning letter rather than an infringement notice.

The performance audit report can be accessed at:

http://audit.nsw.gov.au/publications/reports/performance/2011/speed_cameras/speed_cameras_contents.htm

The Minister for Roads and Ports, together with the Minister for Transport, Gladys Berejiklian, announced in mid-July that the RTA would be abolished. Together with the also-abolished NSW Maritime, the Transport Construction Authority, and the Country Rail Infrastructure Authority, a new transport authority will be created, to be called Transport for NSW, with six divisions.

KATHERINE BIBER teaches law at the University of Technology Sydney.

(2011) 36(3) AltLJ 208
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