15 October 2021

Impact of new speed cameras put under microscope as government revenue set to double

| Lottie Twyford
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Speed camera on Northbourne Avenue

Time is running out to manage your Northbourne Avenue speeding fine, but new data shows the ACT Government could have done more to warn you about the new speed limit. Photo: Dominic Giannini.

With the ACT Government’s revenue from traffic infringements predicted to more than double this financial year, a standing committee has been set up to examine the impact of the city centre’s lucrative new speed cameras.

It’s also been revealed that a proposal to send a warning letter to every motorist caught speeding in the new 40km/h zones in Civic during the grace period in July 2021 was explicitly rejected by government ministers.

The 2021-22 Budget Papers predicted the ACT Government’s traffic infringement revenue would more than double from $26.8 million in 2020-2021 to $58.9 million in 2021-2022.

However, it was noted this could decline in the forward estimates given “anticipated driver behavioural change”.

A standing committee comprising MLAs Jo Clay, Suzanne Orr and Mark Parton is currently investigating the impact of the new speed limits in Civic on commuters after a petition was tabled in the Assembly in September calling on the ACT Government to waive fines.

The ACT Opposition called on the government to drop all fines issued by the new cameras in July after the petition was signed by more than 1200 people.

At total of 6100 speeding infringements were issued in July 2021, totalling more than $5 million.

Since then, more than 1000 fines have been issued each week, a trend that has continued since the ACT’s COVID-19 lockdown began.

The committee is accepting submissions from Canberrans about their experience with the new speed limits until Monday, 18 October.

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Mr Parton had previously labelled the spike in revenue – up to $1.6 million a week at its peak – as a “perverse outcome” for the cameras and criticised what he perceived as a communication failure on the ACT Government’s part.

Around 20,000 people sped through the cameras during the grace period, and none were issued with a warning letter.

At the time, the NRMA criticised this decision.

Now it’s been revealed the ACT Government knowingly rejected a proposal from ACT road officials to write a warning letter to every motorist caught speeding in the new zone due to the expected high cost of such an undertaking.

ACT Minister for Business and Better Regulation Tara Cheyne, and ACT Minister for Transport Chris Steel, rejected explicit proposals to send letters to motorists, with Ms Cheyne telling the ACT Legislative Assembly that sending a warning letter to every single driver would have been too expensive and would have required extensive resourcing.

She suggested that each letter would have cost more than $1 in postage and stationery, and that it would have been a significant use of staffing, amounting to costs somewhere in the vicinity of $300,000, “including the significant diversion of resources”.

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Ms Cheyne also outlined the fact that there are 17 road signs showing the new speed limit on the roads, that there are variable messaging signs in use, and pointed to the fact that the ACT Government had run radio advertisements in peak-hour to warn commuters of the change.

Earlier this year, Mr Steel committed to boosting signage in the area after the initial community outcry when more than $5 million in fines were issued in one month.

In the cameras’ first 48 hours of operation, 5000 drivers reportedly breached the new speed limit and the government warned Canberrans to slow down.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr then had to apologise after suggesting on ABC Radio that motorists who had been caught speeding in the grace period had been issued warnings.

He later said warnings had been issued in many ways, just not through individual letters.

The speed limits are signposted before each of the cameras at the intersections of Northbourne Avenue and Barry Drive; Northbourne Avenue and London Circuit; and Barry Drive and Marcus Clarke Street.

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Governments focus these days is purely on revenue raising and creating more ways to leach money out of us. It is as simply as that. Close down any deductions etc. and increase new revenue streams. Just look at the stamp duty / land tax gorge. These are the appalling, arrogant, conceited people who we trust to govern us.

Jaffa Groube9:58 am 19 Oct 21

The govt has not made a case for lowering the speed in the first place and to do so on major thoroughfares like North borne Ave and Barry Dr is ridiculous given the number of traffic light controlled pedestrian crossing on both roads. Where are is the data showing the number of incidents involving pedestrians and cars and the causes. Is it the speeding drivers or pedestrians looking at the phones who are the problem? Is it cyclists having two bob each way or the roads and foot paths? What was wrong with the 60kph speed limit?

Given the complete lack of care in the majority of drivers because they know that the likelihood of them being caught speeding the behaviour will never change. We need to look to states like SA that allow for large numbers of hidden mobile cameras. Given that the overall objective is to reduce the abysmal road toll we need to start making all driving offences to result in a real impact. For example 20km over the limit should result in a loss, not suspension, of the licence for a minimum of 2 years and require the driver to undergo the full process (L & P) to regain their licence.

Is a speed limit a “never exceed” or a permissible maximum plus/minus 10%? Cameras don’t image opinion. Time to move on .

I believe this 40k zone is unreasonable. If you’re drive from, say, Sydney to Woden, you’ll go from 110kph to 100kph to 80kph to 60kph then all the way down to 40kph while driving on the major thoroughfare through Canberra.

What exactly has been achieved here? Every intersection has pedestrian crossing lights so the experience for pedestrians has not changed. Has there really been a lot of carnage on Northborne Avenue that’s triggered this?

No. It’s purely a revenue raising exercise which is really working out well for the ACT government.

Felix the Cat2:13 pm 17 Oct 21

How many deaths or serious injuries is acceptable? Pretty minor inconvenience to be delayed for literally only a few seconds.

Failing to see the relevance of your coment about driving from Sydney to Canberra and there being different speed limits along the way. 100km/h zone is the highway/freeway where you are unlikely to encounter any pedestrians. 80km/h areas are similar but more likely to encounter pedestrians but not as many as you would see in a residential or built up area such as the CBD.

Sydney CBD is a 40kn/h zone, why not Canberra?

School zones have been 40km/h since forever. Why are they not an issue for you but Northbourne Ave is?

Canberra now has light rail running down the centre of Northbourne Ave with passengers needing to cross Northbourne Ave to get on or off. Along with many shops and office buildings in the area makes for a high population density and therefore more risk of motorist and vunerable road user unplanned ineractions.

Just because someone needs to cross the road doesn’t mean they need to do it where there is no pedestrian crossing.

So it would have been a significant cost and strain on resources to send out a warning letter to everyone caught speeding during the grace period.

That may be the case but it might have prevented the significant cost and strain on resources to send out thousands of infringement notices after the grace period.

I wonder how many people that were caught during the grace period then got one or more fines after the grace period ended? Those statistics should be easy to get.

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