Speed camera signs a hazard
Thursday Jan 4 15:00 AEDT
By Wade O'Leary
Signposted speed cameras may actually make roads more dangerous, according to experts.
Road safety advisor Ray Shuey told ninemsn that speed cameras have a positive local influence but signposting them could make other areas of the road network more hazardous.
The warning follows the revelation of a 25 percent dip in speeding fines in NSW since a trial of mobile speed cameras in unmarked police vehicles was abandoned in 2004.
"If you analyse the traffic flows near overt speed cameras along the Hume Highway on the NSW side, you'll see that many motorists break before the camera zone and accelerate afterwards," he said.
"It does reduce crashes in this location but then you have to consider the collision displacement effect – has this strategy really reduced crash rates?"
Mr Shuey, a former Victorian assistant police commissioner, cited a 2003 study showing that accident blackspots in the United Kingdom monitored by overt speed cameras reported a 30 percent reduction in collisions.
However, the overall road fatality rate in the UK rose by two percent that year. His concerns are shared by Professor Jack McLean, director of the Centre for Automotive Safety Research at Adelaide University.
"The best parallel I can draw with fixed speed cameras whose locations are revealed is with random breath-testing," he said.
"Random breath-testing would not be nearly as effective if it was only conducted in the same set and advertised locations.
"Drink-driving is dangerous wherever you do it and so is speeding."
A policy of concealing all speed cameras is opposed by the NSW Council for Civil Liberties, with council vice-president David Bernie claiming that speed cameras warning signs generally affect driver behaviour positively.
"That achieves the result of slowing people down where they should rather than being a revenue-raising exercise," he said.
"So if you're talking about reducing speeding and lowering the death toll, then we'd have to say that advertising speed cameras is the way to go."
A campaign against speed camera warning signs has been waged by Pedestrian Council of Australia chairman Harold Scruby.
He sites a Monash University Accident Research Centre study that suggests a combination of hidden speed cameras and a high-profile awareness campaign can reduce the road toll.
Victoria boasts Australia's lowest per-capita road toll of 6.6 deaths per 100,000 people while employing a hidden camera only policy, compared to the NSW rate of 7.6.
Mr Shuey puts the effect of speed camera warning signs in simpler terms: "You'd only get a dill caught speeding in those locations, but they'll take a risk elsewhere."