Speed camera message getting through?
Are people finally starting to wise up to speed cameras being revenue raisers rather than life savers?
Lights, cameras ... reaction
By Peter McKay
The Sydney Morning Herald
Monday April 29 2002
A Sydney traffic engineer claims shallow research has been used in NSW road safety policies. Are governments cutting corners?
State administrations, including the Carr Government, say a succession of road safety initiatives – among them speed cameras and 50kmh limits – were sensible moves we had to have.
But road safety research has become a politically explosive issue. Some groups – such as the National Motorists' Association Australia, a small but terrier-like group of motoring activists – have voiced ongoing concerns speed cameras are more about pouring money into consolidated revenue than saving lives.
Is road safety research manipulated to support government policies , they ask.
Has the public been fed lies? The truth is out there Scully...
Government bodies regularly wheel out the research to support state road safety initiatives. The Roads and Traffic Authority, for example, claims crash rates were reduced by almost 30 percent at 20 of the 53 sites with speed cameras operating in NSW.
To June 2001, the RTA estimated those 20 cameras have prevented nine fatal, 60 casualty and 96 tow-away accidents, saving the community $14.4 million.
Now a Sydney traffic engineer says the RTA should be challenged to prove the scientific basis of its selection of speed camera locations and speed limits. The engineer, who says he wishes to remain anonymous for reasons of ongoing employment, has years of experience at the RTA and Department of Main Roads. He said he's particularly perturbed NSW is to get 50 more fixed speed cameras by December.
"The key issue is how many of these crashes are speed-related, rather than the result of poor geometry, poor visibility or poor engineering practices," the engineer told the Herald.
For example, he said the camera (not yet operational) on Blaxland Road, Ryde, between Anzac Avenue and Melville Street, "trapped" road users travelling south-east. "Having travelled this road for many years, I can honestly say I have never seen a crash on this perfectly straight section of four-lane road," he said.
"From my observations, the crashes occur at the S-bends nearby. The crashes at the S-bends may well be speed-related, but the new camera is aimed at vehicles travelling away from the bends." It was an example of "blind ignorance", he said.
But a spokesman for the RTA said the road section the camera covers had seen 62 accidents – one fatality, 19 injuries – from 1999 to 2001.
"Investigations revealed while some crashes have occurred on the bends, more have occurred to the south," the spokesman said.
Three warning signs in each direction, also within the bends section, alert drivers approaching the camera. "Experience to date shows that the signs cause drivers to reduce their speed before they reach the camera," he said.
"Fixed speed camera locations are carefully selected using site selection criteria developed in association with the police and the NRMA. The criteria include site-specific speed measurements and crash history analysis."
But the engineer said that in many Sydney locations, cameras are on "safer sections", such as on the M4 near the Cumberland Highway interchange, when they should be in the middle of dangerous bends or on sections of poorly aligned roads, where excessive speed is dangerous.
He also criticised the application of speed limits across Sydney as "woefully inconsistent" and called for an independent review of speed zoning in the metropolitan area.
The National Motorists' Association Australia concurs. Its members routinely attend road safety conferences, and claim research on the relationship between speed and crashes in 60 zones has been "reinterpreted to suit government policy".
Meantime, the engineer said he supported 50kmh zones in quiet residential streets but cited as inappropriate the "too-low" 70 zone on Homebush Bay Drive (a freeway with no potential for right-angle conflicts) and 60 zone on the otherwise 70kmh-limited Ryde Road in West Pymble.
The RTA spokesman said it based decisions on nationally-endorsed guidelines prepared by Austroads, along with field research, road geometry investigations, NLIMITS data, practical assessments of driver speeds as they relate to specific locations, and con*****tion with local police and councils.
"Research-based initiatives such as the 50kmh urban speed limit project and 40kmh speed limit zones have high levels of community support and are providing real safety benefits."
You know, somebody actually complimented me on my driving today. They left a little note on the windscreen. It said, 'Parking Fine.'So that was nice.