Should we be warned about speed cameras?

camera warnings

The NSW Auditor General recently recommended Transport for NSW remove speed camera warning signs. In Victoria, where there are no warning signs, a lot more motorists are fined for speeding. The AG report says NSW speed cameras catch only 1 in a thousand motorists and it’s time to step up the speed camera program.

How speed cameras work

The authorities aim to put speed cameras in places known for speeding and a high crash risk. However, this report claims there are not enough of them to provide a general deterrent. Warning signs and limited operating hours further reduce their effect.

In general, 28% of drivers travel up to 10kph over the limit and more than 5% travel over 10kph. Yet NSW speed cameras catch only 0.1% of motorists.

TfNSW did accept many recommendations in the report but stated it would not review signage or operating hours. This is because they are government policy.

Cameras or police?

You may be surprised to learn the NRMA favours policing over speed cameras. The main reason is because police can make discretionary decisions and machines cannot.

In NSW, unlike Victoria, police can decide whether to fine a motorist who is speeding. If the motorist is no risk to others, for example, they may overlook low range speeding. But if someone is speeding and tailgating, police are more likely to issue a fine.

There is no evidence of a 10% over the limit tolerance for speeding.

We don’t like low speeds

Speed limits are crucial to safety, but not always in the direction you think.

American researchers published in Accident Analysis and Prevention found lowering speeds by 8kms per hour reduces crashes. But lowered too much – by 15, 25, 40kms per hour or more – drivers stop paying attention. They were:

  • Twice as likely to obey the speed limit at 80 kph or 90 kph compared to under 80 kph
  • Four times more likely to obey when the limit was 97 to 113 kph.

The UK’s Department of Transport in 2017 found a similar pattern:

  • 9% of drivers break 60mph (97kph) limits
  • They are 10 times more likely to break 20mph (32kph), on average 42 kph.

Some speeds are just too slow.

Heavy fines for speeding

Fines for speeding in NSW are heavy, even in the lower ranges, and double demerits during holiday time can soon wipe out a licence.

Speed Fine Demerits
10kph or under $119 1 (4 for L or Ps)
Over 10kph $275 3 (4 for L or Ps)
Over 20kph $472 4
Over 30kph $903 5
Over 45kph $2,435 6

Take it slower.

Corrina Baird

Writer and expert

Corrina used to lend her car to her kids and discovered first hand what Ls, Ps and demerits mean for greenslips. After 20 years of writing and research in financial services, she’s an expert in the NSW CTP scheme. Read more about Corrina

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