Sydney Morning Herald – Friday 30 May 2008
Fixed address the answer to speed
FIXED speed cameras work, and not just at raising revenue. Motorists do slow down. That's clear from new figures on speed camera fines in Sydney school zones. The worry is what's happening at other schools - the vast majority - that don't have fixed cameras.
But first the good news. The figures for offences in the September and December quarters of last year show motorists quick to learn from what can be a costly lesson. The most offences recorded by any one camera in the three months to the end of September was 9554 for traffic westbound on the Hume Highway at Bankstown, outside Bankstown North Public School. But in the following quarter this dropped almost 60 per cent to 3848. That's a dramatic change in driver behaviour in just a few months, and it is echoed at other fixed camera sites outside schools.
The total number of offences at the worst five sites was 27,231 in the September quarter, but fell more than 55 per cent to 12,105 in the next three months. Most fines were for being 15 kilometres an hour or less over the limit; the money funds flashing lights and speed signs around schools.
Now the bad news. Very few schools are protected by fixed speed cameras, and the rest don't appear to be protected by much at all. As the Herald has reported, almost 95 per cent of fines for speeding in school zones in the last half of 2007 came from fixed cameras installed at less than 1 per cent of schools. The other 99 per cent of schools had to rely on cameras operated by police. That these mobile cameras accounted for just 5 per cent of fines suggests most speeding in school zones goes undetected and, consequently, undeterred.
The police protest lamely that the lack of fines at the 99 per cent doesn't mean those schools are aren't being effectively patrolled. Yet that would seem to be precisely what the figures suggest; how else could you explain the enormous number of offences detected at schools where there are fixed speed cameras and the lack of fines where there are not?
Clearly, the Government must hasten the roll-out of fixed speed cameras at schools. In the meantime, all other schools must have improved police patrols if the whole notion of school zones is not to be dangerously, even fatally, misleading.