Speed kills. Speed cameras save lives. We have heard it all before. But, two-hundred and forty-nine people people died in fatal traffic accidents on Victoria’s roads last year — a 2.5 per cent increase from 2013’s figure.
This is despite a record number of fixed and mobile speed cameras deployed on roads in Victoria, and around Australia.
For years, the governments have been claiming that speed cameras save lives and that speed is the greatest common factor in fatal car accidents.
But with road deaths on the rise, could it be that speed cameras actually don’t save lives and in fact are contributing to our road toll by breeding poor driving practises?
Since Saab introduced seat belts as standard in 1958, occupant safety has been improving every year, and the sedans, wagons, utilities and SUVs we drive today are safer than ever. And safer cars will undoubtedly go further in reducing the road toll than speed cameras.
Speed cameras certainly have their place in society, but not with the draconian enforcement of low-level speeding and covert tactics, such as hiding in bushes and unmarked mobile speed cameras, as occurs in Victoria, at least, more needs to be done.
The proof is in the numbers. People are still crashing, they are just safer doing so.
The figures show that revenue from speed cameras alone — on the spot police fines are not included in this figure — in 2010 was around $236 million. Fast forward to 2013 and that figures jumps a whopping $57 million to $293 million. Imagine ripping almost $300 million from government coffers; speed cameras have become like a drug addiction that governments can’t help but feed off.
Included below is a graph (click here to see larger version) that shows the relationship between hospital stays shorter than 14 days, longer than 14 days, fatalities and revenue from speed cameras. The graph shows that the increase in revenue from speed cameras isn’t commensurate with a reduction in hospital stays. Hospital stays of fewer than 14 days and more than 14 days during this period trended steady.
When asked about speed cameras and levels of enforcement, a spokesperson for the Department of Justice and Regulation told CarAdvice:
“Broadly speaking the rate of people being fined by cameras is not changing, but as the population grows, so too does the number of fines issued.
“The overall number of infringements issued annually is increasing as Victoria’s population grows and there are more cars on the road.
“Over 99 per cent of vehicles passing fixed cameras and over 98 per cent of vehicles passing mobile cameras comply with the speed limit.
That’s because people know that they are there. Drivers slow down for the cameras, and then once past them, they resume their normal driving habits – Ed.
“Fixed and mobile road safety cameras reduce speeds and cut road trauma because they are placed in high-risk or high-speed areas, areas with history of road trauma, or areas that will provide a road safety benefit.
This is not always so! In 2011 a NSW review of the placement of speed cameras was carried out by the Auditor-Generals Department, and a large number of cameras, 38 in fact, were identified as being placed to interrogate the speed of a large number of passing vehicles, or where the speed limit had been reduced from a higher limit; e.g. passing from a 90kmh zone into a 70kmh zone, with no identified high risk factors or adverse trauma history – Ed.
“100 per cent of the money from camera fines is allocated to the Better Roads Victoria Trust Account. The funds from this account are used to improve road safety for all road users.”
With an enforcement focus skewed on speed, ask yourself this question: how many speed cameras did you travel through (whether it be a fixed or mobile one) in the past month? Now, ask yourself how many times were you stopped to be tested for drugs or alcohol over the same period?
Similarly, in the past 10 years, how many times did you undertake driver training to improve your skills?
The unfortunate reality of speed camera-biased enforcement can be demonstrated with the tragic death of pedestrian Anthony Parsons and husband and wife Savva and Ismini Menelaou, who were passengers in a Ford Falcon struck at the intersection of Warrigal and Dandenong roads in Oakleigh, Victoria last year.
Brazilian national Nei Lima DaCosta was high on ice and drove through one fixed speed camera at 30km/h over the speed limit minutes before careering through the intersection of Warrigal and Dandenong roads at 120km/h (40km/h over the speed limit) through another speed and red light camera. He killed three innocent people. These two cameras did nothing to help save the lives of three innocent people.
This particular example illustrates why so much more needs to be done on enforcing and dealing with poor driving, whether it be due to drugs, lack of skills or visible policing.
There seems to be a reluctance, at least in Australia for police to perform in a pro-active role. Whenever police are seen on highways, it is always in the role of enforcement, speed checking, number plate recognition activities and the like, revenue raising activities – Ed.
Speed cameras alone will never be a useful immediate enforcement or protection tool against drivers excessively speeding, or people who don’t know how to drive to start with.
Those people that use the idiom “don’t speed and you won’t get caught” simply don’t understand the reality of driving safely. If I had the preference of watching the road or my speedometer, I know which one I would choose.
What is needed is an overhaul of driver training, the proper blitzing of drink and drug driving testing, along with the removal of low level speed enforcement. Who would have an issue with being stopped twice a day for drug or alcohol testing if it meant impaired drivers were taken off the road more promptly?
We also need more transparency on where the money generated from speed cameras goes and where it should be spent.
With all the roads around NSW in such poor condition, serious doubt has to raised as just where income from fines is actually spent on – Ed.
Source: Paul Maric, www.caradvice.com.au