September 11, 2009

Horse 1035 - Is the RTA on the take?

This morning, I actually saw the speed camera on Fitzwilliam Rd go off and nab a motorist. Now my problem isn't necessarily with the obvious fact that excessive speed in inappropriate conditions is a bad thing, but that the whole campaign is basically a cover for a giant revenue take.

Nobody for a second doubts that when small children are about, that they often do not check for traffic and will simply dart across the road. And in that respect, 40km/h in a school zone during prime school hours is perfectly acceptable, but the rest of the time, because the speed camera is there, it turns into a giant game of watching the speedo which is a distraction and does not promote safe driving at all.

On Victoria Rd, there is a camera outside of Holy Cross College in Ryde. Now during school times when children are about it's fair enough but that same camera in peak periods, causes drivers in both directions to take their eyes off the road and all simultaneously look down at their speedos. The result is ironically more nose-to-tail accidents than if the camera hadn't been there in the first place.

I should also point out that speed by itself doesn't kill you. There was an advert a few years ago that showed a couple of kids being wiped out in a Ford Laser with the caption:
72 in a 60 zone. Safe speeding, there's no such thing.
Firstly, that 60km/h limit is a function of the authority who decided to put the limit there. If that same stretch of road was labeled as either 70 or 80, would the road be any more or less inherently safe? Ok, so the question is daft, but that's precisely the mechanics of the Pacific Highway between North Sydney and Hornsby, there are heaps of speed limit changes without any inherent change in the actual physicality of the road, but it's posted as 60, 70 & 80 depending on where you are.

There are of course several separate issues at play here. Namely, what speed limits are actually appropriate and at what point are they put in there simply on the basis of collecting revenue?

Take Brians Road between Windsor Rd and Old Windsor Rd. That was originally upgraded as part of a Sydney Ring Roads Project. The road itself has a set of design tolerances such that it is a safe road to be driven on at 90km/h. Yet when the M7 went in, as if by magic, that section of road instantly dropped its limit from 80 to 70. No single other factor changed about the road, except for the change in speed limits. If our friends in the Laser according to the commercial who would have been "safe" doing 72 in that 80 zone, are they now "unsafe" doing 72 in a 70 zone; considering that the road itself had been designed for 90?

I suppose my question about the speed camera on Fitzwilliam Rd is coloured by the fact that at 06:30am and against the flow of traffic, our friend would have been perfectly within a case of reasonableness doing 64km/h on that stretch of road. Yet because somebody decided to put a camera there, the RTA gets to push the buttons on its cash registers.


b said...

You sound like the telegraph. If people folowed the speed signs the govt wouldn't collect a cent. The RTA has a bunch of guidelines governing speed settings, including traffic density, cross streets, access points, the type is area and previous incidents and no doubt, terrain road surface, lanes and road width, shoulder space and so on. Don't go faster than the post and you won't give a dollar to anyone. NSW has a generous system of warnings and signage and grace if someone still gets booked they are a goose with only thrmselves to blame.

James said...

I agree with both.

Rollo, your thoughts are ones I generally share. Specifically with regards to 40kph zones - everyone spends more time looking at speedos, especially where there's a speed camera about, so I find them actually more dangerous.

In saying that, I have no idea what the solution is for school zones if speed cameras do actually make it more dangerous (imho).

But I 100% agree with b. 3 signs before a speed camera, about a month or 6 weeks notice before a speed change, plenty of speed signs, flashing lights on most school zones now... Seriously, no one has any excuse to speed. It's just an arrogance and thinking you're above the law really.

Let's keep in mind - our friends in Vic and Qld get no notification of speed cameras - their govts just put them in anywhere and I bet they'll make more money per capita.

Rollo said...

I quote from the opening paragraph:
"the obvious fact that excessive speed in inappropriate conditions is a bad thing"

I don't question the mechanics of the law. The law of itself is for regulation, order and safety.

What I do question is the idiom of the "Spirit of the Law". ie. what was the actual original intent?
I honestly think that in a lot of circumstances, that the law is being used as a cover.