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.
“For example if you commit two speeding offences of driving 21km/h over the speed limit in a 12 month period, you will be allocated four demerit points for the first offence and four demerit points for the second offence plus an additional four demerit points,” he says.
“This means that you will have accumulated 12 demerit points within a 12 month period and you risk having your licence suspended.”
How demerit points are recorded
Double points apply in NSW and ACT over the Australia Day weekend, Easter, Anzac Day, Queen’s Birthday, Labour Day and Christmas/New Year (from December 21 2018).
In WA, the double points apply on Australia Day (unless it falls on a week day), Labour Day, Easter, Anzac Day (unless it falls on a week day), Western Australia Day, Queen’s Birthday, and Christmas/New Year.
If a rider in another state commits a traffic offence in a state during a double-demerit period, the offence is recorded as a double demerit offence on their traffic history in the state where the offence happened.
The state licensing authority will then report the offence to the transport department in your state who will record the offence on your traffic history.
However, the double points will only apply in Queensland under the circumstances described above.
Choice of penalty
Stephen says that if you have committed a traffic offence recently and you receive a Queensland Transport notice that you have accumulated your allowed demerits, you will have a choice of a good driving behaviour period or a licence suspension for a period.
“When considering whether to agree to a good behaviour driving behaviour period and a licence suspension, it is important that a licence holder understands that accepting a suspension of their licence may preclude them from making an Application for a Special Hardship Order or an Application for a Restricted (Work) Licence for the next five years,” he warns.
If you are unsure about how many demerit points you have, you can search your record online at your state’s transport department website or call them and request a copy of your traffic history.
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).
Stalker has been building speed-detection devices for 30 years, helping law enforcement bring the hammer down on those of us with a heavy right wrist with its long line of portable radar and lidar machines. This is its latest creation: the X-Series XLR Lidar.
“It’s the worst thing invented for the happy motorist, especially this new one,” says Wayne Dixon, a deputy with the Orange County Sheriff’s Department. “I’ve gotten this one out to 3,800 feet.”
At that distance, Stalker says the XLR is accurate to within 1 mph, and it can pick up a target in less than half a second.
“It’s traveling at the speed of light, 186,282 miles per second. By the time I pull this trigger, it’s already gone and come back.”
That’s why lidar is so effective for officers, and so frustrating for riders with radar or lidar detectors. There’s no hoping that you have time to slow down when you see the squad car. If the cop can see you, he knows how fast you’re going.
And with machines like the XLR, lidar is more prevalent than ever. The gun weighs just 2.3 pounds with the battery in place, and unlike previous iterations that had to rely on a suitcase full of AA batteries or an obnoxious cigarette-lighter plug, the XLR uses lithium-ion cells that can power the gun for two full shifts and endure up to 500 charges before needing to be replaced. Oh, and it can track targets through obstructions such as leaves, bushes, or fences.
Riders who believe there is safety in numbers may be in for a shock when the whole group is pulled over by police and fined for speeding.
The issue was brought to our attention when three of a group of four Brisbane riders were recently pulled over and fined for speeding.
One of the riders decided to challenge the finebecause he believed he was not doing the same speed as the others.
His lawyer advised him “a group of motorcyclist travelling together can be reasonably considered as all travelling at the same speed, therefore the police only need to confirm one was speeding to be able to apply the same ticket to the rest of the group”.
The rider’s challenge was unsuccessful in Magistrates Court this week.
Queensland Police officer Senior Constable John Wilkins used an in-car radar to record the speed of three of the riders as they approached in the opposite direction to which he was travelling. He missed the fourth rider.
To back up his observations of each rider’s speed, he used a bodycam to record the vision of the riders and a partial view of their speed on the dashboard-mounted radar unit.
Proving the speeds of several riders in a group seems impossible, yet the Magistrate in this case accepted the police evidence.
The defendant, who has already spent $5500 on the matter, plans to take it further.
No safety in numbers
Many riders may have similar stories of numbers of riders copping the same speeding fine while others may have examples of only one rider being pulled out of a group for speeding.
Both scenarios seem unfair and unjust.
Except for fixed speed cameras, which can pick up individual number plates to issue fines, there does not appear to be any mobile equipment that can do the same.
In this case, the officer backs up his evidence with bodycam video.
We asked police in each state about their operations and policy.
Only Victoria, Queensland and South Australia replied, while the others refused to comment on operational procedures or “hypothetical situations”.
Victorian Police say that “under the right circumstances it is possible for police to intercept and issue speeding infringements to a large group of motorcyclists”.
However, they won’t say what those “right circumstances” are.
It seems police are simply willing to fine group riders and accept the chance that it may be challenged in court.
Here are the replies from Queensland and SAPOL:
Queensland Police utilise multiple types of speed detection devices that are capable of accurately detecting motorists exceeding the speed limit. Police remind all road users to drive safely and not exceed the speed limit. A handheld laser speed detection device will enable accurate targeting of an individual vehicle travelling in a group of vehicles. A mobile radar will not allow the individual targeting of a vehicle travelling in a group of vehicles, however it does have a feature that will allow the device to display both the strongest signal returned and the fastest vehicle detected. With regards to both types of devices, it is incumbent upon the operator to make visual observations as part of a valid tracking history to confirm the speed detected is accurate. The observations of the officer are vital in supporting any prosecution.
SAPOL uses both hand-held laser and vehicle mounted radar devices to detect speeds, along with officers observations of vehicles. A laser devicecould be used to detect speed of a motor cycle rider in a group.The detection could be used to prove that other persons in the group were exceeding the speed limit, if they were observed by police as travelling parallel to each other.”
It was followed by another post showing what a rider thought was a car parked in a private property with the boot up and a speed camera located inside. It could not be verified as a covert police camera.
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.
Yet the Queensland police website clearly states: “It is not the policy of the Queensland Police Service to deliberately conceal speed cameras.”
It’s not just motorists who don’t like covert speed detection devices.
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.
However, motorists, police unions and motoring groups are fighting a losing battle against covert speed detection.
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.”
The road safety expert who advocates wire rope barriers, lower speed limits and mandatory hi-vis vests for riders, and alcohol interlocks and electronic rider aids on bikes has been honoured with a special award.
UNSW Sydney Professor Raphael Grzebieta has been honoured with the 2019 Kenneth A Stonex award in recognition of his lifetime contribution to reducing run-off-road injuries and transport deaths worldwide.
“In other words, any changes to current designs of road barriers will have almost no effect on reducing rider fatalities and serious injuries,” he says.
The annual Stonex award was presented by the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine’s Transportation Research Board’s (TRB’s) Roadside Safety Design Committee AFB20.
It honoured the Prof for “identifying the leading causes of roadside fatalities and injuries and developing mitigation techniques using full-scale crash testing and computer simulation”.
The Professor says he has “long advocated for installing nation-wide wire-rope barriers”.
“When wire-rope barriers are installed with rumble strips on rural roads, there is an 80 to 90% reduction in fatalities and serious injuries,” he says. Sweden halved their fatalities when they installed these barrier systems in 2000.
“Victoria has now installed 1200km of wire-rope barriers on rural roads to reduce their rising fatality count in 2016. They just recorded their lowest ever road fatality count (in 2018).
“Other states and in particular NSW are still lagging behind terribly. They are simply not investing the same scale of money to have a real effect on deaths and serious injuries.”
Victoria’s road toll in 2018 was 214, compared with 259 in 2017 and 290 in 2016 when they started installing wire-rope barriers, he says.
The Prof says the barriers have been controversial with motorcyclists because of misinformation.
They have also supported a petition by widow Jan White, whose husband, Phil, aged 60, died when his bike unavoidably hit a dead kangaroo on a 110km/h slightly sweeping bend of the Calder Highway in Victoria on November 5, 2017.
Phil hit four support poles on the WRBs next to the road.
Prof Grzebieta helped launch a $1 million project examining motorcycle impacts into roadside barriers and how motorcyclists could be better protected in collisions, particularly with W-beam barriers.
“We disproved all of the myths promulgated by motorcyclists, providing strong support for continued installation of these lifesaving barrier systems,” he says.
“Sweden saw a 40 to 60% reduction in motorcycle fatalities.”
However, WRBs are banned in Belgium and Norway, not supported by the Netherlands government and have never been used in Germany or other European countries, except Poland, Iceland, Romania, Sweden and the UK to a lesser extent.
Professor Grzebieta also says the award recognises his research into the reduction of speed limits on highways, suburban and high pedestrian active streets.
“The speed limits throughout Australia, in particular NSW, WA and NT, are much too high,” he says.
“In NSW, the limit on parts of the Newell highway are 110km/h where there are no barriers installed. The speed should be reduced to the survivable limit of 80km/h unless median and roadside barriers have been installed.
“Also the speed limit in residential streets, the CBD and high pedestrian active areas should be 40km/h, preferably 30km/h, in line with best practise European countries that have half the Australian fatality rates,” he says.
“The Australian default speed limit for suburban roads is currently set at 50km/h.”
In a paper he co-wrote with his UNSW Sciences colleague Professor Jake Olivier, presented two weeks ago at the TRB’s annual meeting where Professor Grzebieta received his award, Professor Grzebieta said the reduced speed limits he proposed were commonly used by countries such as Sweden, Netherlands and the UK, which had the world’s lowest road fatality rates.