Sydney Morning Herald - Thursday 29 May 2008
Speed traps still fail most schools
LESS than 1 per cent of schools attracted 95 per cent of the fines for speeding in school zones, while other schools averaged fewer than one each over six months, despite the NSW Government's crackdown on child safety last year, figures show.
Documents obtained under freedom-of-information laws show more than 125,000 fines were issued for speeding in school zones in the second half of 2007, after penalties were increased following the accident which injured Sophie Delezio.
Of those, 118,000 were issued by fixed speed cameras in fewer than 40 locations, while just 7139 were issued by police across about 10,000 school zones. There is no fixed speed camera at Sophie Delezio's northern beaches school.
The low number of fines has been blamed on safety rules limiting where officers can operate.
The most heavily fined location was on the Hume Highway at Bankstown, where eastbound and westbound cameras caught 19,033 motorists over six months, including 31 who exceeded the limit by more than 30kmh.
Other locations included the Pacific Highway at Lindfield, Avoca Street in Randwick and Botany Road at Rosebery.
Harold Scruby, the chairman of the Pedestrian Council, said the figures proved the reliance on high-visibility enforcement was nonsense. "Parents are being led to believe their children are safe when the opposite is true. There is no effective police enforcement in school zones where there are no fixed cameras. The cameras must be covert."
Last September, the Roads Minister, Eric Roozendaal, backed away from his promise to enforce school-zone speed limits by rotating covertly monitored mobile speed cameras through almost 11,000 zones across NSW.
At the time, he said: "Any school zone could have a camera in it." Instead, fixed cameras would monitor just 50 zones.
Strict industrial rules dictate where police can set up out-of-car speed cameras, and many school zones do not meet the criteria. Sources say there is also a shortage of in-car mobile cameras which rely on film.
Inspector David Evans, of the Traffic Services Command, said police spent many hours enforcing road rules in school zones.
"Our strategies are working," he said. "Sure there's a reduction in the police detecting speeding, but that doesn't mean the school zones are not being patrolled."
Mr Roozendaal said 39 of a promised 50 new speed cameras in school zones had been installed. The Government was delivering a package to improve school-zone safety, including foot crossings and flashing lights. "The Government can't get behind the wheel of every car - that's why I ask motorists to slow down in school zones because they are there to keep our children safe."
Worried parents at Gladesville Public School are campaigning for a speed camera, having just won their battle for flashing lights. The main entrance is on busy Victoria Road, but is slightly hidden from view.
Megan Quintiliani crosses Victoria Road every day with her children on their way to and from school. "It's very dangerous," she said. "You take your life into your own hands."
Yvette Vignando, the president of the school P and C, said: "The police are not able to safely enforce this stretch of road. They've actually told us that."