The issue of police being directed to meet traffic offence targets or quotas are back in the news in Queensland and South Australia.
The matter generally raises the ire of motorists who say it is proof that police are revenue raisers rather than performing road safety duties.
Critics also say it leads to motorists being fined for minor speeds and diverts police patrols from catching high-range speeders.
The quota controversy has been raised after two recent events:
In Queensland, emails that set quotas for traffic tickets have been revealed in court by a Gold Coast cop in evidence of bullying by senior officers. Queensland police have always denied the existence of quotas but have again admitted there are “benchmark” expectations or “targets” for officers on various offences.
In South Australia, a senior police officer sent an email to staff offering a gift card as an incentive to issue more speeding and traffic fines. SA Police were forced to retract the email and advise that the incentive went against official policy.
Brisbane riders who spent Wednesday’s Ekka Holiday riding the famed Mt Glorious Rd may find they have an unwelcome TruCAM speeding fine in the mail in the next couple of weeks.
This video was recorded by rider David Englebright, showing police in the bushes using the TruCAM hand-held laser digital camera to record speeding offences.
“Being a public holiday in Brisbane a lot of people were out enjoying a drive or ride over Mt Glorious,” he says.
“They will get a rude shock in a few weeks.
“Little did they know a policemen was hiding in the bushes of the far side of Mt Glorious on a downhill selection of road with a TruCAM taking pics of vehicles going down the hill.
“This is a section where a billy cart would do more than 60km/h.
“This is no deterrent to speeding, just revenue raising.”
While there is no longer any requirement for speed camera detection signs, the Queensland police website clearly states: “It is not the policy of the Queensland Police Service to deliberately conceal speed cameras.”
This is yet another incident which may spark debate over the lack of speed deterrence in covert operations while others will argue “if you’re not speeding, you have nothing to worry about”.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers says these “sneaky” devices do not reduce the road toll nor stop motorists from speeding.
“Getting a ticket in the mail up to a month after speeding when you can barely remember even where you were back then, has no effect and is quite rightly cynically viewed as revenue raising,” he said.
RACQ technical and safety policy spokesman Steve Spalding says they also prefer a visible police presence.
“Our members have repeatedly told us that over the years, they much prefer to see a police officer use a marked vehicle, not just for speeding, but for all of the other problem behaviours that we see on the road,” he says.
Is covert detection legal?
Well, yes and no. It depends on the state and how the speed detection equipment is deployed.
We asked police in every state for their policies on covert speed detection and most replied.
Victoria Police say mobile speed cameras are “not deployed in a concealed way”, but didn’t answer questions about handheld devices and cops hiding in bushes.
South Australia Police say they make “no apologies about using covert, camouflaged cameras to detect dangerous road behaviour”.
WA Police basically told us it was none of our business: “We use various tools to assist in our traffic enforcement capabilities. We will not be providing details of specific tools or methodologies.”
NSW Police say they “use a range of enforcement strategies to assist in reducing road trauma”. But, like the WA cops, they say it’s none of our business.
“For operational reasons it would be inappropriate to discuss the guidelines surrounding these strategies. If riders and drivers observe the speed limits, then they have nothing to be concerned about,” they say.
Mobile speed cameras were originally introduced to reduce speed at black spots. NSW still has very prominently signed fixed and mobile speed cameras, Western Australia is now trialling more visible speed cameras and England is going all-out to make the cameras much more visible.
However, Queensland has removed the signs warning of mobile speed cameras and a report by Queensland’s auditor-general found they are not always deployed at the right time, in the right location, or in the “right mode” (not covert enough).
The report says only 16.3% of mobile deployment hours is covert because police want to avoid perceptions of revenue-raising.
It recommends that a high percentage of covert deployment would prompt a general deterrence to speeding.
Professor Cameron agrees: “… if you’re trying to affect speeding all the time then the best idea is to make sure the cameras aren’t predictable or apparent and to operate them covertly,” the professor says. “The idea of being conspicuous is really in the wrong direction.”
Now, Chris has offered the following tips on what to do when pulled over specifically by NSW police for speeding, although the lessons are generally applicable around the world.
If you are pulled over by a NSW highway patrol vehicle, the conversation is being recorded on both audio and video.
Even if it is not a highway patrol vehicle, the officer will make notes on your responses.
Often people are nervous and say things. It is sometimes safer not to make any admissions, especially if you do not have all the facts.
Even then, be wary of making admissions as they may seriously compromise your potential defence.
For example, where exactly do they say they observed you speeding and how did they assess your speed?
It can be the case that where you were alleged to be speeding is not where you have been pulled over by police. You may not have been speeding at the point they say you were.
In one case I defended, the in-car video clearly showed the bike passed the unmarked police car travelling in the opposite direction some 15km from where the rider was eventually pulled up. The rider obviously had no idea what the officer was talking about.
If a police officer comes knocking on your door accusing you of failing to stop, there are clearly issues about the potential identity of the rider, etc.
In another situation on the Wisemans Ferry, a Ducati 748R rider went past a police four-wheel-drive and they accused my client some days later.
We successfully defended the case over the accuracy of the police recording of the bike rego number and whether it was his bike at the scene.
You generally don’t know all the facts on the side of the road so why step on a potential landmine?
Generally there are four methods police use to assess speed, excluding fixed and mobile speed cameras. They are listed here in descending order of accuracy:
The Lidar, which is a gun-like object which projects a laser beam and is aimed by the officer at an alleged specific target;
The in-car radar which is a radar attached to the police car and uses a Doppler beam;
Check speed which is a police officer following you and assessing your speed by using the car’s digital speedometer. It essentially shows their speed which may not be yours; and
Police officer’s estimate, which has no objective measurement of speed.
Often the police will use one of the first three methods, combined with their estimate.
Things to consider on the roadside
If you have the presence of mind, ask the officer where specifically you are alleged to have been speeding and how they assessed your speed.
It is beneficial for you to take photographs of where the incident is meant to have taken place. If you have the capacity on your GPS or phone, record the exact longitude and latitude.
On country roads it may be difficult to pinpoint the exact location weeks later when you decide you want to challenge the allegation.
If the police officer was stationary when they alleged they observed you speeding, try to observe from that vantage point.
That will provide you with the officer’s visibility of your approaching vehicle and their maximum sighting distance.
Again, take photographs from that vantage point. Take notice of anything that may have obstructed the officer’s vision in tracking your vehicle.
Try to assess the distance you travelled from when the officer first observed you to when they started their test. This distance will depend on your alleged speed. Consider the following:
What is the maximum sighting distance the officer had from where they were standing or where their vehicle was parked;
From the maximum distance, how far had you travelled when the officer finished their test? Often we roughly work that out from when they step out on to the road or when they turn their lights on if facing you or if you get shown the reading on the Lidar; and
If they are mobile, we use either when they turn their lights on as they are approaching or, at the worst, the “crossover point”. That is the point at which they go past you and are no longer getting a reading from your vehicle.
This article is for your information and interest only. It is based on New South Wales law only. It is not intended to be comprehensive, and does not constitute and must not be relied on as legal advice. Please be aware that every case is different and the matters raised may not be of specific relevance to your situation but may have a general application. Seek specific advice tailored to your circumstances.
Police in every state plan to immediately increase police presence on regional roads leading up to a “National Day of Action” on Tuesday 27 August 2019.
We contacted the police in each state to find out what a National Day of Action will involve, but they have not revealed anything specific.
One police media unit replied: “The National Day of Action is still in the planning stages. We hope to provide updates as the day approaches.”
However, they have all pledged to increase police presence on rural roads after yesterday’s national meeting in Victoria of all state road policing deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners.
Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Wendy Steendam said there was “great value in the jurisdictions all coming together to workshop the challenges and consider short-term solutions at a national level, as well as developing some longer-term collaborative strategies”.
“From discussions it was clear there are some common challenges that we are all facing,” she says.
“A particular trend is the increasing trauma on our rural and regional roads, as well as the emergence of drug driving.”
A plan to temporarily lower speed limits on regional highway intersections when approaching side-road traffic is detected may not work for motorcycles.
The technology has been initially installed at the intersection of Glenelg Highway and Dunkeld-Cavendish Road and Penshurst-Dunkeld Road, near Dunkeld, Victoria, and will be rolled out across the state.
Watch this video to see how it works.
The problem for riders is that it uses the same inductor loop technology deployed at traffic lights that often fails to detect small motorcycles.
The summit was told C roads (minor unsealed roads) have the highest number of fatalities.
It is reported there was general agreement that lowering the speed limit on many country roads was the solution to reducing the road toll in regional areas.
However, it must be in partnership with regional communities so they understand the long-term view.
The state government’s summit included experts from the TAC, VicRoads, VicPol, MUARC, RACV, Road Trauma Support Services Victoria and cycling and motorcycle advocates including the Victorian Motorcycle Council and the Motorcycle Expert Advisory Panel.
Other suggestions at the summit included:
Country road limit
The proposal to reduce speed limits on tens of thousands of kilometres of country road follows a 2018 report by the International Transport Forum that studied data from 10 countries including Australia.
It suggested any country road without a median barrier should have a 70km/h speed limit.
The report found that crashes, injuries and fatalities decreased when speed limits were dropped and speed camera use increased.
According to a scientific formula, it showed that every 1% increase in average speed resulted in a 2% increase in all injury crashes, a 3% rise in fatal and severe crashes and 4% more fatal crashes.
It not only recommended the 70km/h rural roads speed limit, but also 30km/h in city streets with high pedestrian use and 50km/h on urban roads.
Their recommended speed limits are based on the “Safe System” principles that speed should be set “at a level that humans can survive without dramatic consequences in case of a crash”.
The report also noted that “lower driving speeds generally improve citizens’ quality of life, especially in urban areas”. They also reduce emissions, fuel consumption and noise, it said.
Reducing speed limits on rural roads to 70km/h may be understandable in some densely populated countries.
But in our sprawling nation, it would bring our transport system and our economy to a halt.
It may also sound the death knell for motorcycling as many riders concerned about the heavy use of speed cameras have sold their sports bikes and bought adventure bikes to explore the more remote country road network.
Australian case study
The Australian case study was based on data from 1997 to 2003 where urban speed limits dropped from 60km/h to 50km/h (except in the Northern Territory) and speed camera use increased.
It found that the mean speed decreased by 0.5km/h, while the total number of crashes decreased by 25.3% and the number of persons injured by 22.3%.
There were differences between states:
NSW mean speed reduction of 0.5-0.9km/h resulted in a 22% casualty crash reduction;
Victoria 2-3km/h reduction resulted in a 12% reduction;
Perth 0.3km/h led t a 21% drop;
Regional Western Australia 3km/h – 16%;
South Australia: 3.8km/h and 2.1km/h drop on unchanged arterials ed to a 23% crash drop; and
Queensland there was no relevant crash data for the 6km/h mean speed drop.
The study also found that the reductions in the proportions of vehicles exceeding 60, 70 and 80km/h speed limits were more substantial than the reduction in mean speed.
It accredited this to strong enforcement of urban speed limit reductions.
Looking at severe crashes, the covert use of mobile speed cameras in Victoria, Australia, has been shown to be very effective in reducing injury crashes and fatal outcomes (Cameron and Delaney, 2008). Recent research has also shown that only 7% of injury crashes in Melbourne are now attributable to high-level speeding, compared with 24-34% in other Australian major cities where mobile cameras are operated less effectively (Cameron, 2015).
Colin’s HUD display unit fits in the visor aperture of any helmet while a bulky and ugly controller attaches to the back with a GoPro-style mount.
The display unit shows coloured lights that relate to your speed which it gets from a Bluetooth connection to an Android app.
You can set the coloured lights for brightness via the app.
Colours change from blue (0-9km/h), green (10-19km/h, yellow (20-29km/h), orange (30-39kmh) to red (40-49km/h).
Then it repeats the cycle, going back to blue for 50-59/km/h, green (60-69km/h, yellow (70-79km/h), orange (80-89kmh) to red (90-99km/h).
That’s a lot to remember and it could become a little confusing and distracting trying to remember which colour is which speed.
Colin is a hardware engineer who started while he was living in California a few years ago.
“I started working on the idea when I got back to Canada in 2016, after I realised that there wasn’t really much helmet display tech out there (this was at the same time that Skully went down),” he says.
“I envisioned something like a fighter pilot’s HUD, but I wound up with this thing. It’s a hell of a lot simpler.”
He agrees that the controller unit is bulky, but says slimming it down could be difficult.
“The best way to slim down the rear unit is to replace the three alkaline AAA batteries with lithium ion,” he says.
“But Li-ion batteries don’t do well when they’re punctured or abraded. They explode.
“Alkalines, on the other hand, are usually okay, even when they’re sawn in half.
“Keeping the price tag low means using off-the-shelf batteries that are still safe, so I’m kind of stuck.
“As for the ugliness, you know, I figured that it’s kind of like Crocs. It’s kind of obvious, so I shouldn’t bother hiding it. If it’s useful enough, though, I think people will look past that.”
Melbourne plans to drop its CBD speed limit to 30km/h, the lowest of any capital city in Australia, following a Monash University report to council.
The new speed limit will replace the 40km/h limit introduced seven years ago between Flinders, Spring, La Trobe and Spencer streets.
The university research says the lower speed will protect vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.
In 2017, the United Nations Global Road Safety Week called on 30klm/h speed limits in all city areas, citing World Health Organisation claims that a 5% cut in speed would result in a 30% reduction in the number of fatal road traffic crashes.
Victorian Motorcycle Council chairman Peter Baulch says that while road safety is a shared responsibility of all road users, “pedestrians have a responsibility to be fully aware of their surroundings at all times, without distractions”.
“However, for this 30km/h idea to take root and become law, it would require a change of both legislation and regulations, for which VicRoads says it has no current plans,” he says.
“Is this idea of 30km/h in the CBD another case of punishing the masses for the crimes of a few?
“VicPolice and the media generally report that many pedestrian incidents are the result of pedestrians being distracted by devices (phones, tablets, etc, often with earphones), which affects their ability to both see where they are walking and hear what is around them.
“A cynic may even suggest this is a plan to rid the CBD of vehicles all together.
“It’s time for pedestrians to be more disciplined and less distracted, like they were when probationary constables patrolled CBD intersections and pedestrian crossings.”
Longtime motorcycle advocate Rodney Brown says he believes Mayor Sally Capp’s strategy is to “have a city full of pushbike riders and thousands of hoops clogging up the footpaths”.
“Certainly it will not be a friendly city for motorists,” he says.
“Pushbike riders and pedestrians need to know and obey the road rules and police need to concentrate on those walking blindly while texting, talking on their mobile phones, ignoring stop-walk signals/signs and J-walkers.
“Police need to fine pushbike riders who believe a speed limit doesn’t include them. Maybe pushbikes need a speedo.
“Lowering the speed limit to 30km/h may encourage pushbike riders and pedestrians to take more risks.
“Melbourne City Council needs to run an advertising campaign encouraging pushbike riders and pedestrians to be more responsible with regards to their own safety when navigating in and around the City of Melbourne.”
The Monash report on CBD speeds follows a council review of central Melbourne transport.
Among the recommendations in the City of Melbourne’s transport strategy due for release next month is moving motorcycle parking from the footpaths to the streets.
However, the extensive capabilities of the cameras will surely be under scrutiny by police and governments in other countries.
Saher means “one who remains awake” in Arabic.
These new cameras are high-resolution and act not only as a traffic infringement unit, but also as a 24-hour CCTV unit monitoring nearby streets for police.
They rotate 360° to capture images in all directions.
Their features include capturing instant and average speeds, number plate recognition, red light violations, excessive lane changing, vehicles in the wrong lane, mobile phone use, seat belts and even tailgating.
It’s interesting that excessive lane changing and tailgating are specific offences while in most countries they are a police interpretation as dangerous driving.
In Saudi Arabia, it is an offence for car drivers to travel fewer than three seconds behind a vehicle, four seconds for SUV drivers and five seconds for trucks.
There aren’t many Saudi laws that we would want to follow, but perhaps these may be worth considering.
For anyone travelling to the Mid East for work, a holiday or to watch next year’s Dakar, an Aussie expat has some words of caution.
He says any traffic fines incurred by foreigners are attached to their visa and they will not be allowed to leave the country without paying.
That is also the case in many other countries. However, the Saudis can get nasty about unpaid fines.
“If you get lots of fines or drive very fast the authorities will take your car,” the expat says.
“If you have many many unpaid fines the authorities get very nasty and they’ll get your power or water disconnected until the fines are paid.”
Fines are not excessive, though.
Speeding up to 20km/h over the limit costs 300 Saudi Riyals (about $A110) and tailgating attracts an SR150-300 fine (about $A55-$110).
However, if you “gathering for joy at riding areas” it will cost SR1000-2000 (about $A375-$750).