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Speed camera's - Neil Mitchell gets it right

Discussion in 'Politics, Laws, Government & Insurance' started by Mouth, Mar 23, 2006.

  1. http://www.heraldsun.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5478,18566373%5E5000106,00.html

    Put your foot down
    Neil Mitchell

    THIS sounds like a routine from a stand-up comic, but would you believe it?

    A man receives two speed camera tickets for the same car on the same day.

    One ticket is for High St, Malvern.

    The other is 23 minutes later on the Great Ocean Road at Lorne.

    Rocketman could not have managed it.

    Asafa Powell with a tail wind and a fair dinkum attitude would have had trouble.

    So the motorist investigates further.

    He discovers that at the time of the alleged offences his car was locked up on the ferry crossing from Sorrento to Queenscliff.

    Not only could he not have made the trip to get the fines, nobody was driving the car at the time.

    Would you believe it? I'm not sure I do, and evidence is yet to be produced.

    But there will be thousands of drivers who do believe it, and hundreds more who will be convinced their own speeding tickets are equally shonky and should never have been issued.

    Such is the credibility of speed cameras: they have none.

    But there is an answer. It is radical, it requires a degree of government determination, but it would be a significant improvement.

    This problem is not new. It began three years ago, when police insisted that a battered Datsun 120Y did something on the Western Ring Rd that was mechanically impossible: 158km/h.

    There were other complaints, and after months of stonewalling from police the error was finally admitted -- and $20 million was put aside to repay fines and compensate motorists who had lost their licences because the cameras were wrong.

    But the damage was done, because the police insisted, in the face of irrefutable evidence, that the cameras were accurate and formally rejected appeals from motorists wrongly booked.

    The credibility of the appeal system was gone.

    The same applied to Steve Bracks and his ministers, who continued to insist that a car that couldn't drive out of sight in a foggy paddock actually had the torque of Alan Moffat's old Mustang.

    The problems continued.

    A TRUCK was "booked" in the tunnel driving uphill at an impossible speed that would have frightened Mr Moffat.

    Cameras were found to have been set up wrongly on at least "six to eight" occasions, including a notorious example on the Hume Highway that created total confusion about speed zones, cameras and operators blinded by the sun.

    Now, there are new doubts.

    They are unproven, but that is not the point.

    The new suspicion shows the public considers the cameras about as trustworthy as Alexander Downer denying knowledge of Iraqi kickbacks.

    There has been the report of the ferry-bound car booked in Malvern and Lorne, and the accountant whose boss was booked at cameras two minutes apart -- something that seems physically impossible.

    But most complaints involve one of the new cameras on the Geelong road.

    Several people who had never been booked before received eight tickets in eight days from this camera, most in the same speed bracket of 108-112km/h.

    Their stories have a similar ring: we never speed, we have never before been booked, our cars tell us we are on the limit, but the camera has booked us at 108-112.

    Coincidence? Possibly. Poor driver concentration? Maybe. Dodgy speed camera? Perhaps. The police say the camera has been checked and is accurate.

    In a change of attitude, they are now willing to reconsider tickets if a driver can prove their speedometer was wrong.

    That is sensible, but it does not help the broader problem because on this issue the credibility of the police, the Government and the speed camera operators is gone.

    If this newspaper opened the letters pages to complaints about dodgy speed camera tickets there would be hundreds of examples.

    That would make everybody feel better, but not solve anything.

    So here's an answer.

    Versions have been floated before, but it is time to address this seriously and in detail: Steve Bracks should set up an independent review panel -- let's call it (sarcastically) the Speed Camera Re-Assessment Panel, or SCRAP.

    The panel would be chaired by an independent person and include several scientifically qualified members who could test complaints.

    If motorists believed they had received inaccurate tickets they would be required to lodge a bond, perhaps $100, and the panel would then review whether there was sufficient doubt about the accuracy of the reading.

    SCRAP would have the authority to dismiss a ticket because there was reasonable doubt and refund the bond.

    If the panel rejected the appeal the driver could still fight it in court, but the bond would be forfeited.

    This is bureaucratic, true. But it would allow motorists to test their complaints before experts rather than have go to court before magistrates, who are not physicists.

    This is not a legal issue but a technical one.

    It would free the courts, which are too busy, remove those with a vested interest from reviewing the tickets, and give drivers a simple and quick appeal.

    THE SCRAP system would also protect the Government. Under this regime, the $20 million disaster on the Ring Road would have been identified and stopped earlier, saving much money and angst.

    More, the panel would help to restore confidence in the cameras because it would kill the conspiracy theories and make speeding drivers face the fact that they had a lead foot.

    But the most basic reason for SCRAP is this: the problem with the cameras is what the Government sees as their strength.

    They are a road safety tool but they are also gold-plated revenue-raisers, because the onus of proof is reversed.

    Any driver is presumed guilty until they prove otherwise.

    That is why the accuracy must be beyond question.

    It is only fair.

    NEIL MITCHELL broadcasts from 8.30am weekdays on 3AW