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.
Is it time for Australia’s speeding fine system to be overhauled so the rich don’t get away with comparatively light fines while working Aussie motorists pay among the highest fines in the world?
According to British website GoCompare, Australians rank sixth in the world with the highest fines and 10th in relation to their average wage.
Ours is supposed to be an egalitarian and fair society, but how can it be fair for a motorist on a low wage to pay the same fine as a millionaire?
The average Aussie speeding fine for 21km/h over the limit is $401. South Australia leads with $771 fine, followed by NSW ($472), Queensland ($435), Western Australia ($400), Victoria ($332) and Tasmania ($163).
Top 10 fines for speeding 20km/h+
United Kingdom $595
Rich cop higher fines
Several countries, such as Britain, Finland and Switzerland, have a system where speeding fines are linked to their wages.
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.
“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).