The Sydney Daily Telegraph (29/12/2015) headline “Thin Blue Fine” details that NSW Police “Push for more speeding tickets, RBTs to curb (road) toll.” The article goes on to say that traffic cops in NSW are being told to increase the number of random breath tests (RBTs) they perform and to issue more speeding tickets in response to the state’s “soaring” number of fatal road crashes. The NSW road toll for 2015 is 345, which is increase of 34 over 2014.
Highway patrol officers are concerned that their managers have an unrealistic expectation about the number of infringements that can be issued, and the number of RBTs that can be performed.
During my tenure as an emergency services officer, the yearly road toll in NSW has been reduced by 75%, from 1200 deaths annually, to 300. This is due in part to a combination of better car design, more safety features, seat belts, air bags, ABS, traction control and the introduction of RBT and other high profile policing measures. Driver training, experience and ability have remained unchanged. Speeding fines have had no effect in reducing road fatalities.
However, senior police deny that there is “quota” system in place, and emphasise that it is “their duty” to book speeding and drunk or drugged drivers. This author supports this approach, as dangerous and illegal behaviour needs to be eliminated from the roads.
However the issuing of more speeding fines will not stop drivers from speeding. The use of fixed and mobile speed cameras has exploded in NSW with mobile speed cameras now being used for 7,000 hours per month, up from 930 hours per month. But this has done little to reduce speeding. Moreover, the use of these cameras is seen as blatant revenue-raising by the NSW state government, rather than an emphasis on safety. Data reveals that over 50% of all speeding fines issued in NSW are for offences in the lowest category; 1-10 kmh over the speed limit. Less than 1% of fines issued have been for speeds greater than 30 kmh over the speed limit. Revenue from all speed and red-light cameras will be directed into a community road safety fund, the Road & Maritime Service spokesman said.
Government agencies maintain steadfastly that speeding increases the chances of a crash, as well as the likelihood of serious injury or death in a crash. While the latter is true, the former is not so accurate; many drivers who speed and are never involved in an incident or accident. Speed on its own is not the issue. Crashes (including fatalities) occur at all speeds, both high and low. But when speed is combined with alcohol, drugs, fatigue, inexperience, aggression, testosterone, inclement weather or any combination of these factors, the outcomes can be severe. An aggressive driver under the influence of “ice” is a recipe for disaster! Governments steadfastly state that speed cameras help reduce the road toll and lower the chances of having a crash. Our annual reviews show that speed cameras continue to improve road safety in NSW. In my professional experience, speed cameras make drivers slow down, while they pass them, and then drivers resume their usual behaviour thereafter.
Point-to-point speed cameras are used to measure the average speed of heavy vehicles over long distances, there is serious doubt as to the value or effectiveness of these as heavy vehicle drivers are very aware of their existence and adjust their driving accordingly, once past the average speed check zone, truckers resume their usual driving habits. Even if these cameras were used for all vehicles their effectiveness would be suspect.
There is no real effective way to combat all speeding, and many of those detected speeding are repeat offenders who do not seem to learn from the experience. Perhaps mandatory disqualification and/or impounding of vehicles of habitual speeders may be a solution!
In conclusion, there needs to be a greater emphasis on RBT and drug testing, as these two factors will have the greatest impact on reducing road crash fatalities in NSW. Highly visual mobile speed cameras and fixed speed cameras will have no effect on driving habits. Covert detection, where any car or object on the side of the road could be a mobile speed camera, will have the greatest effect on reducing speeding.