|Daily Telegraph - Monday 19 June, 2006
Cash in a flash
OUR antique red light cameras are catching fewer motorists than ever but higher fines have created a magic pudding miracle of more revenue for the NSW Treasury.
An investigation by The Daily Telegraph has revealed the number of drivers snapped running red lights fell to 51,375 last year, nearly 2000 down on 2003-04.
But higher $300 fines mean the State Government has squeezed out millions of dollars more.
Roads Minister Michael Costa pushed through the fine increase from $225 to $300 from July 1, 2005, while decreasing the penalty for other offences such as speeding by less than 15km/h.
Office of State Revenue documents show the $13 million was generated in 2005, significantly up from the $8.3 million in 2003-04.
The red light cameras date back to the late 1980s and use so-called "wet film" technology, requiring regular visits by police to retrieve and replace film.
In 2004, The Daily Telegraph revealed spare parts were becoming difficult to find.
About 42 cameras were in service then, with the devices moved between the 166 sites, creating a game of Russian roulette for motorists.
But documents obtained under Freedom of Information showing fines collected by location reveal just 98 of the 166 red light cameras in NSW issued fines.
Of the sites that caught motorists, the corner of Warringah Freeway and Falcon St, North Sydney, was the busiest.
There were 3504 drivers caught with $920,516 raised.
In 2002, the State Government announced a plan for NSW to upgrade the cameras to digital and move responsibility to the RTA. But the plan has since gone nowhere.
Neither Police Minister Carl Scully or the RTA could provide any information about the status of this plan last week.
An RTA spokesman said: "The red light camera program is managed by NSW Police".
Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby said the Government's inaction on upgrading the cameras was a threat to road safety.
"People often bleat about speed cameras being unfair but you won't hear even the biggest hoons complaining about red light cameras," he said.
He said the present system was silly as it required a police officer to retrieve and replace the film.
Victoria and the ACT recently updated their red light cameras to digital and the units also record drivers' speeds.