Your chances of getting caught speeding in NSW are now higher than ever. Since it removed warning signs, NSW government has netted nine times more revenue from mobile speed cameras. Fines were $3.4 million in January 2021, from only $382,000 in January 2020. That doesn’t include fines issued by fixed cameras and police. Meanwhile, it’s still not obvious speed cameras are saving lives.
In NSW, 46.7% of all road deaths in the year to January 2021 involved speeding, up from the 3-year average of 40.2%.
Road safety targets unmet
Australian Automobile Association says no government met their 30% reduction targets for road deaths and serious injuries. These unmet targets were part of the 10-year National Road Safety Strategy (NRSS) 2011–2020, now ended. In fact, 522 more lives were lost than expected. Even though 2020’s road toll was 6.7% lower because of Covid, Qld and Tas saw sharp 25% increases.
While the number of fixed and mobile speed cameras, red light cameras and fines have all increased in 10 years, the strategy made little difference.
Speed camera fines triple
In November 2020 warning signs about mobile speed cameras were rapidly removed. At the same time, 45 mobile speed camera cars had their hours of work tripled from 7,000 to 21,000 hours per month. Now unmarked, parked cars make up a fleet of undercover mobile speed cameras, which catch speeding in both directions.
In only 6 months, fines from fixed and mobile speed cameras were $98.8 million, compared to $105.7 million in 12 months last year. With the same rate of fines, the 12 months amount will be $200 million – double all speed camera fines last year.
Top 6 mobile speed camera hotspots by value in December 2020
- Hume Highway, Casula $80,446
- Penshurst St, Chatswood $77,088
- King Street, Warrawong $58,161
- M31 Hume Motorway, Ingleburn $41,708
- Pennant Hills Road, Carlingford $38,820
- Docker St, Wagga Wagga $35,334
Source: Channel Nine.
An NRMA spokesperson says removing warning signs from before and after the cameras was a lost opportunity to educate drivers about speeding at the time. One injury lawyer claims a mobile speed camera won’t deter a drunk driver because the ticket arrives 6 weeks later. He says drivers need to be keeping a proper lookout, not “staring at their speedometers”.
UK speed cameras
The AA (Automobile Association) president in the UK also doesn’t want drivers glued to the speedometer 100% of the time. They want drivers to concentrate on the road ahead. This is why many UK police forces have a tolerance on speed cameras to improve driver safety.
Auto Express contacted 45 UK police forces and found most police forces that responded used a tolerance of 10% plus 2 mph above the limit before speed cameras go off. So on a regular 30 mph (48 kph) road, you wouldn’t get a ticket unless you drove at 35 mph (56 kph) or above.
Nearly 5 people each day were killed on the roads in the UK during 2019, much the same since 2012. During 2020 in Australia around 3 people died each day, which is high considering the UK population is 2.65 times bigger.
In Australia, we don’t know the tolerance of any speed cameras, fixed or mobile.
Why do we speed?
Some like it. Middle-aged men readily admit to speeding, especially when driving alone. As reported in Personality and Individual Differences, aggressive driving, including sharp acceleration and speeding, is more closely associated with men. Men score higher on risky, angry and high-speed driving styles, while women score higher on dissociative, anxious and patient driving styles.
Some anxious and patient driving styles could be seen as slow. Is driving too slow as bad as speeding?
We don’t have much to do. This may be the unintended effect of so much driver assistance technology. Is it lulling drivers into a stupor or, worse, causing them to rely too heavily on these systems? Drivers could even start to lose some of the basic skills of driving because their vehicles do most of the work.
We don’t learn proper driving skills. Road safety authority, Robert Solomon claimed: “a competent driver at 120 kph is far less dangerous than an incompetent one at 80 kph”. He is not the only one to blame poor driving skills, rather than poor roads or fast speeds.
While speeding appears to be the biggest killer, it is easier to measure than mobile phone use. NSW government has come down hard on mobile use while driving and installed cameras to catch people doing it. There are still no statistics to measure deaths or injuries from illegal mobile phone use.
Even harder to measure is distracted driving in general, which could be more dangerous than speed. For example, when drivers become bored at the wheel they are more likely to be inattentive. Should our speed limits allow some risk so people will keep their eyes and focus on the road ahead?
Speeding affects your pocket
The fines for speeding are heavy. Speeding offences apply to each class of vehicle, inside and outside school zones, and vary according to your licence status. Demerit points from 1 to 7 always apply to speeding offences. The table below is for Class A vehicles, as at July 2020:
|10kph or under||$123||1 (4 for Ls or Ps)|
|Over 10kph||$285||3 (4 for Ls or Ps)|
Since 2017 the UK has used a penalty system based on speed and income. This means offenders can be fined up to 175% of weekly income, depending on severity. They also have a points system.
Should we do something like that in Australia? At the moment, speeding fines disproportionately affect people who are less able to pay. As The Australia Institute wrote, “For a driver earning a million dollars per year, a $150 traffic fine is of little consequence. For a low income earner, it can be a serious setback”.
Speeding affects green slip price
Traffic offences, demerit points, licence suspensions – all these affect the price of your green slip. All speeding offences carry demerits and even one demerit can dramatically put up the price. So it makes sense to slow down.