Pedestrian Council of Australia

Friday 22 December 2006

Red Light Camera Scandal

FoI Reveals Government Incompetence & Police Union Patch-Protection Causing Deaths and Injuries on NSW Roads and Costing the State Millions in Lost Revenue

An FoI recently obtained by the PCA has revealed that the NSW Government has allowed the Red Light Camera system to deteriorate to such an extent, that it is costing scores of lives and limbs on our roads and millions of dollars in lost revenue, which has dropped from $57 million in 2005 to $31 million in 2006.

The Chairman of the PCA, Harold Scruby said: “This is a scandal.  This is the government which in 1995 committed to provide NSW with the safest roads in the world by 2000.  It failed dismally, so in 1999 it committed to the safest roads in the world by 2010 and saving 820 lives by 2005 - not one life was saved.  Surreptitiously, this same government has allowed an antiquated wet-film system to disintegrate from 160 locations a decade ago, to only 69 sites by 30 June 2006. And fewer than half of these locations contain cameras.

“One of the main reasons for this scandal is that the NSW Police Association has consistently refused to allow the RTA to take over the management of the system because they fear loss of jobs.  Outrageously, highly skilled, scarce and expensively trained police officers are required to perform the menial task of climbing ladders and retrieving the film.  For years the RTA has wanted to upgrade the system.  But it has been thwarted by a patch-protecting, luddite police union and a pliant government.

Mr Scruby said: “In 1993 the Victorian Government installed 65 dual function, digital red-light speed cameras at 86 locations throughout the state.  These life-saving devices also book motorists who speed through intersections, whether the lights are red, amber or green.  The then Police Minister, Andre Haermeyer stated:  ‘serious injury and death were more common after cross-traffic crashes. One in four fatal accidents over the past five years occurred at intersections.’  The Acting Assistant Traffic Commissioner Bob Hastings said: ‘the cameras would be a vital tool to lower the road toll.’

“In 1993, the PCA pleaded with the then Road Minister Carl Scully to emulate the Victorians.

“In August 2006, the PCA wrote to Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal pointing out the serious dangers existing at the new Falcon Street intersection, ‘begging’ him to commence a trial of a red-light speed cameras.  We are still waiting for a reply. (copy below)

“Crashes at Falcon Street have almost doubled in 2005-06, averaging about six crashes a month, since the changes to the off-ramp.  It’s one of the worst black-spots in NSW.  Yet our FoI has revealed that there is no camera there for over 50% of the time, where in one month alone, it booked over 800 motorists for running the red lights.  Frequently, the wet-film runs out, while scores of motorists get off without penalty or demerit points.

“Mr Scruby added:  The NSW Government must immediately install a modern, digital, red-light speed-camera system at all black-spot locations.  It must be transferred to the RTA and the revenue hypothecated to allow for the installation, expansion and maintenance of the system throughout the state.  This will also permit valuable police officers to get back on the beat, where they belong.  And significantly reduce the NSW road toll.

Contact:  Harold Scruby – (02) 9968-4555 or (0418) 110-011

CLICK HERE to view Red Light Camera statistics



PCA []
Sent: Wednesday, 30 August 2006 8:35 PM
To: The Hon Eric Roozendaal
Cc: Darren Holder
Subject: FW: Red Light Speed Cameras: Life-Saving Technology - Ancient, Police Managed, Wet-Film Technology Must Go Now

The Hon Eric Roozendaal MP
Minister for Roads
Attention:  Mr Darren Holder

Dear Minister
Could we please have a reply to this email at your earliest convenience.
Harold Scruby

From: PCA []
Sent: Wednesday, 9 August 2006 1:01 PM
To: The Hon Eric Roozendaal
Subject: Red Light Speed Cameras: Life-Saving Technology - Ancient, Police Managed, Wet-Film Technology Must Go Now

The Hon Eric Roozendaal
Minister for Roads (NSW)
Dear Minister
At the Parliamentary Lane Cove Tunnel Inquiry into Road Safety regarding the Falcon Street intersection couple of months ago, I gave evidence about the very serious dangers confronting pedestrians trying to cross at the location.
You have apparently committed to an underpass and a pedestrian bridge at the eastern end of the intersection, which is indeed most commendable and we thank you (as long as same is implemented as soon as possible).
But at the western end, pedestrians are now required to cross 8 lanes of traffic at one of the busiest intersections in the NSW.
Many school-children cross at this location.  There is a Police Boys Club within 50 metres.  And the prevailing speed limit is 60 kmh.

Worst of all, it has the highest number of red-light infringements in the State of NSW.  You can see the "Red Light Camera Ahead" sign in the photo below.
NSW has one of the most ancient and inefficient Red Light Camera systems in the western world.  It employs wet-film technology and requires expensive and highly trained Police Officers to climb ladders, regularly, to take the film to the State Debt Recovery Office (formerly the Infringement Processing Bureau).  The system is so old, that the suppliers of the wet-film have apparently advised that soon, they will no longer be manufacturing this product.  It is also rumoured that a high percentage of Red Light Camera locations do not even have cameras in them, as they are apparently rotated around the state.
For years now, other states and territories have embraced digital speed camera technology and outsourced the collection function, freeing up Police to do the valuable work for which they are trained and that they should be doing ... back on the beat, enforcing the law. 
The ACT and Victoria have gone one step further and now use Red Light Speed Cameras at dangerous intersections.  They are life savers.  Pedestrians and motorists alike are most vulnerable at these locations.   This brilliant technology, not only issues infringements to motorists who run the red-lights, it issues tickets to motorists who speed through these intersections, even when the lights are amber or green.  As such, most motorists slow down at these places where there is a high level of trauma or potential for trauma.  And you won't hear one person bleating that these devices are revenue-raisers.  In fact, all motoring journalists I know agree they are life-savers.  It's because we are all feel so vulnerable when motorists run red lights and speed through intersections and pedestrian crossings.
The ACT has had these Red Light Speed Cameras for over 6 years.  Victoria has over 86 of them.  All digitally controlled.  No Police Officers required.
As you know, technology is the last remaining silver-bullet in the war against the Road Toll.  Yet NSW has a horse and cart system, which must be replaced immediately, if the Government is really serious in NSW having the (quote) "safest roads in the world by 2010" (i.e. you will save 2,000 lives 38,000 injuries by that date).
Through hypothecation, even taking a small percentage of the revenue from fines, for the installation and maintenance of these devices, you could fund their installation and maintenance immediately at all the black-spot intersections and traffic light controlled pedestrian crossings across the state.  If you wait for Treasury to provide the funds, it could be years, with scores of deaths and serious injuries being the result.
I asked for the immediate installation of a Red Light Speed Camera at Falcon Street at the Parliamentary Inquiry.  We've been campaigning for this life-saving technology for years. Here's our Media Release of September 2003:
We therefore ask, in fact we beg, that you consider commencing this potentially self-funding and life and limb saving program without delay.
Yours faithfully

Harold Scruby

Pedestrian Council of Australia Limited
The Walking Class Heroes

Telephone: (02) 9968-4555 - Facsimile: (02) 9968-4566 - Mobile: (0418) 110-011
Email:  -  Internet:
PO Box 500 - NEUTRAL BAY  NSW  2089 – AUSTRALIA - ABN 18 075 106 286


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The Age - Saturday 9 December 2006

Police see red because city drivers don't

Stephen Moynihan

Passing parade: taxis, trucks, sedans … you name it and they
are all carrying drivers more than willing to ignore red lights on
Melbourne's roads.

Passing parade: taxis, trucks, sedans … you name it  
and they are all carrying drivers more than willing to  
ignore red lights on Melbourne's roads.

WAVES of traffic spill down the hill of St Kilda Road towards Inkerman Street. It has just hit 6pm, in the midst of Melbourne's evening peak.

City workers are rushing to get home while truck drivers make their final deliveries of the day. It is a 60 km/h zone but cars are whizzing past.

Every minute or so, the lights on the outbound lanes of St Kilda Road change from green to amber. Most drivers slow down to brake, but at almost every change there are one or two that put their foot to the floor, accelerating through the busy intersection as the lights turn red.

The scene is repeated countless times at hundreds of intersections across Melbourne. Every day, motorists make the same calculation, weighing up the odds of a fatal accident or lasting injuries against the chance to cut their travel time by a few seconds.

Crash statistics reveal that more than 25 per cent of fatalities and 54 per cent of serious injuries occur at intersections. Road safety experts say that while the road toll has fallen and general driving behaviour has improved, drivers' actions at intersections have not.

During an hour on Wednesday night, The Age observed 32 vehicles running the red light at the St Kilda Road/Inkerman Street junction. Most were cars, but one was an LPG tanker, which shot through the intersection despite having adequate time to stop.

Two cyclists pedalled on and ignored the red light. Even an ambulance without its siren blaring failed to stop. As did a taxi.

Every time the lights changed, an average of at least two vehicles ran through the red light. The St Kilda intersection is not fitted with a red light camera to snare speeding drivers.

In August, police switched on 22 speed/red light cameras across Melbourne. The sites were chosen from VicRoads' top 100 most dangerous intersections. Since then, 41,000 infringement notices have been issued for running red lights.

Superintendent Shane Patton of the Traffic Camera Office says it is amazing how many drivers are unaware of the dangers of the practice.

"Going through red lights significantly increases the risk of injury or death," he says. So serious is the concern that almost all pleas from drivers who contest their fines are knocked back. "We don't entertain any pleas except for serious medical cases," Superintendent Patton says.

People who charge through a red light and get caught lose three demerit points and are fined $200. But as well as risking death, there are other hidden costs. Almost 50 people every day are seriously injured on Victoria's roads.

As the Christmas holiday period begins, police are still hopeful Victoria can record its lowest road toll ever. In 2004, 330 people died on the state's roads. The figure for this year now stands at 315. Police believe that is 315 lives that need not have been wasted.

While the message is being largely accepted by motorists heading over long distances, those rushing to the local shopping centre must also be aware of the dangerous combination of speed and holiday stress.

Superintendent Patton again urges caution on the roads. "Clearly the message is to slow down on the roads. We all want to see our families."