The Daily Telegraph - Monday 14 February 2005

Camera does lie at our red lights

MORE than half of NSW's red-light camera sites did not catch a single motorist last year as this once-vital road safety initiative crumbles with old age.

A Daily Telegraph investigation has revealed that 53,081 infringements were issued by the cameras last financial year almost one-third fewer than the number issued five years ago.


Although some cameras are still busily catching thousands of motorists, documents show that 87 of the 166 sites at intersections across NSW did not snap any red-light runners during that period.



Figures obtained under Freedom of Information reveal the cameras brought in $8.294 million for the State Treasury last financial year.


In 1998-99, the cameras brought in $9.6 million at a time when the minimum infringement fine was lower.


The declining effectiveness of the network comes as the State Government continues to stall upgrading the ageing red-light camera network, which dates back to 1987.


Plans have been drawn up to convert the network from wet film to digital technology with fibre-optic links, as is the case with fixed speed cameras.


Police traffic services commander Superintendent John Hartley said last night a proposal had been drafted three years ago to upgrade the state's red-light cameras to digital operation.


Control of the network would move from police to the Roads and Traffic Authority under the blueprint, but the move was still on hold.


Supt Hartley was confident the present cameras were still working effectively and were "not outdated".


"But in a few years, they will be," he said.


"The new technology is digital, and obviously that's the next step that has to be taken."


A spokesman for Police Minister Carl Scully confirmed that no decision had been made on the future of the camera network.


Figures show the red-light camera at the corner of the Hume Highway and The Boulevarde, Yagoona to be the busiest in the state.


For the 12-month period, 2962 people were caught at the intersection and fined a total of $465,856.


In comparison, some fixed speed cameras are now issuing infringements of as much as $3 million annually.


The red-light camera network uses 42 camera units that are moved around to different locations.


Police rotate the camera units between locations depending on accident rates and other intelligence.


Supt Hartley confirmed that police officers no longer moved the camera units to a large number of sites because roadworks or other engineering changes had improved those sites' safety profile.


Road safety groups yesterday expressed concern that large numbers of red-light runners had been avoiding detection.


Pedestrian Council of Australia spokesman Harold Scruby said the running-down of the camera network was a scandal.


"Running red lights leads to much more serious accidents than anything else, especially given the growing number of four-wheel drives now on the roads," Mr Scruby said.


"I have never heard anyone talk about revenue-raising in connection with red-light cameras."


Mr Scruby urged the State Government to roll out dual-action red light and speed cameras, already used in Victoria and the ACT.


He said this change could easily be funded through some of the revenue collected by speed cameras.

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