Cartoon: By Zeg.
The NSW government deserves some kudos after it announced that more than a quarter of its fixed speed cameras had been switched off and would be removed within weeks after a report said they offered no real safety benefit. NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the 38 cameras being dismantled had added an average of $10 million to government coffers a year but were considered to be "revenue raisers" rather than helping improve road safety.
Traffic fines are a favorite source of revenue for all state governments in Australia, although this trend is probably a worldwide one. Any state with a budget gap will suddenly get all hot and bothered about the road toll and decide that the problem is that fines are too low to be a deterrent. Queenslanders are especially familiar with this.
Speed limits are entirely arbitrary in Australia, as they do not take into account any objective assessment of road conditions in the area. Some roads are safe for much higher speeds than others, but generally there is the old one size fits all rule which are based on the subjective views of nanny state politicians. The 85th percentile rule would be a better guide.
The newspaper report on this action by NSW carried a counter argument based on a European study indicating that cameras save money:
However, a study published by the British Medical Journal estimates that speed cameras in Europe save governments up to 23 million euros ($A30 million) a year by cutting the number of accidents, and therefore the cost of treating people and the bill for repairing damaged property. …There are a lot of variables involved in such an estimate. Presumably it is based on a falling accident rate, but in such a case it is difficult to assess the proportion of such a fall that can be accurately attributed to a specific cause. The figure also makes the mistake of attributing damage to vehicles and the cost of injuries as a cost to the whole community. The tendency to view the whole cost of an accident as a cost to the state is a socialist one.
The study authors, from the Public Health Agency of Barcelona, calculated net savings of 6.8 million euros ($A9 million) between 2003 and 2005 based on an estimate of 364 fewer accidents and 507 people avoiding injury during that period.
There is also the following far out doozie:
The authors noted that injury was the leading cause of death among people aged up to 45 worldwide, with road traffic injuries accounting for more premature deaths than heart disease or cancer.This is about as elucidating as saying, “More soldiers under 45 in wartime get killed than those who are older than that.” Heart disease and cancer are relatively uncommon in the selected age group, and it is hardly surprising that road deaths are higher given that there is a higher proportion of driving done by younger people and the age group and comparison has been selected dishonestly.
This statement clearly indicates that the study is biased.
The fact is, that fixed speed cameras are there to reduce the road toll, not to garner revenue. It therefore stands to reason that they should be in areas where speed is a dangerous factor, not in areas where drivers are likely to travel faster because by sensible analysis, it is safe to do so.