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Motorists cheat speed cameras

The Sunday Telegraph

Sunday 16 June 2002

By ROD SMITH

THOUSANDS of NSW motorists will never be caught by the State's fixed speed camera network because they can escape detection by obscuring or defacing rear numberplates, transport lobbyists claim.

The Pedestrian Council of Australia said millions of dollars in road revenue was being lost because NSW motorists knew that fixed speed cameras only photographed rear plates in one direction, unlike most other states.

As a result, many drivers escaped detection by cunningly shielding their plates with bike racks, towbar balls, even mud or altering their plates with electrical tape to
escape detection.

Council chairman Harold Scruby said the current fine structure provided no deterrent value with a paltry $69 penalty for having a defaced or obscured plate.

“I can alter my rear numberplate and speed past every fixed speed camera in NSW and through every red light camera and never get caught,” Mr Scruby said.

“And even if I do get pulled over by the police for having a defaced or obscured numberplate all I am going to get is a $69 fine.”

Mr Scruby said NSW's rear plate rule meant that digital cameras, which can cost up to $250,000, were effectively operating at only 50 per cent of their capacity.

“It's like having a Manly ferry and using it one way only.”

A request by the council for the Auditor-General Bob Sendt to examine the speed camera anomalies has been “put on the backburner” according to the audit office.

Mr Scruby said that in Victoria, where fixed cameras could photograph rear and front numberplates, five per cent of plates were either defaced or obscured, depriving the government of $5 million.

Digital fixed speed cameras began operating in NSW in 1999 and there are now 58 across the State.

According to 2002 Budget papers, treasury officials had budgeted to earn $231 million from the cameras.

Instead, just $190 million was earned which treasury attributed to drivers knowing camera locations.

The Roads and Traffic Authority defended its rear plate rule. It was to protect privacy and was a safety factor when a flash was needed.