I recently moved a motion in Parliament calling for an inquiry into the effectiveness of speed cameras for improving road safety.
Mr WINGARD ( Mitchell ) ( 11:02 ): I move:
That this house establish a select committee to inquire into and report upon—
(a) the operation of speed cameras and speed detection devices in South Australia;
(b) the relationship between the location of speed cameras and the incidence of road accidents;
(c) the impact of constantly changing speed limits and the effectiveness of speed limit signage;
(d) the effectiveness and appropriateness of current penalties for speeding offences, including a review of fines imposed;
(e) the operation of the Community Road Safety Fund; and
(f) any related matters.
Let me start by dealing with the perception that we cannot hide from in this place. It was stated in The Advertiser late last year, after a survey they did, that 80 per cent of people who responded to the survey believed speed cameras were revenue raising for the government. We can debate the percentage—80 per cent, 70 per cent, 90 per cent, 50 per cent, whatever it might be—but the perception is out there in the public that speed cameras are revenue-raising operatives for the government.
Experts will tell you that speed cameras help reduce road fatalities. I do not know anyone who would deny that we should do everything reasonably possible to bring down the road toll, especially after last year, when we had a very poor year, with fatalities again rising above the 100 mark to 108. That number is just not good enough. Police say a number of factors influence where mobile speed cameras were located, including crash data, traffic volumes and reports of dangerous driving. I hope this committee can help motorists understand the contribution that speed cameras make to road safety.
Noting point No. 1 in the recommendations for this committee, 'the operation of speed cameras and speed detection devices in South Australia', I refer to an article in the News Limited Press in November 2014, which talked about speed cameras on the South Eastern Freeway. The article stated that speed cameras are generating three times as much revenue as expected, and that they are providing the government with a 'multimillion-dollar windfall'. Cameras at the Crafers Interchange and Mount Osmond Overpass have generated $5.84 million in speeding fines in their first seven months of operation. At that rate, the fixed cameras would return $10 million for the year—well above the expected $3 million. More than 13,000 people were caught in a six-month period leading up to June last year. Even the RAA felt that was a higher than expected revenue and they thought it maybe because of the variation of speed limits and the ability to vary speed limits on signs depending on the conditions.
The RAA also suggested that more signs making speed limits clear to drivers could be helpful to reduce the number of speeding incidents on the South Eastern Freeway. That is just one example where people get very confused about speed limits. You can see from the numbers that the resulting fines that have ensued would appear to be quite disproportionate to the operations going on. If they are effective and they are all legitimate people speeding and not adhering to the speed signs, there is a concern that the message is not getting through and people are not changing their behaviour. So, that is one area that could very much be looked at.
It is probably remiss of me also not to mention the late Dr Bob Such, the former member for Fisher, and the good work he did inquiring into speed cameras and the positioning of speed cameras. I am sure he probably put forward a similar motion to this across the journey. Dr Such was very passionate about making sure speed cameras were not placed where they were just used as a revenue raiser. I am sure he would sit in that 80 to 90 per cent of people who believe speed cameras are for revenue raising. Dr Such had countless motions on this topic, and some may suggest he ran a crusade on the issue of speed cameras; he had some very good points that could be considered in a select committee on the issue.
Dr Such was a strong advocate for better signage of speed limits to ensure drivers were suitably notified of the speed limit to give them the best chance of driving at the posted figure. Dr Such spent a lot of energy ensuring speed cameras were not set up to trick people who missed an obscured sign as the speed limit changed from 80 km/h to 60 km/h. He was also a stickler for the accuracy of speed cameras and a big advocate for the road safety commissioner as they have in Victoria, someone who independently reviews complaints and monitors the accuracy and efficiency of speed cameras.
I go to point two which talks about 'the relationship between the location of speed cameras and the incidence of road accidents'. Again, I refer to a report that was issued in The Advertiserin December last year which pointed out Adelaide's mobile speed camera hot spots: the top 10 sites and the revenue they were returning. Bearing in mind we have a couple of different methods and mechanisms to record speed, we have mobile cameras and fixed cameras, we now have point-to-point speed cameras as well, and this evolution is growing day by day. In fact, in November last year it was revealed that new infrared mobile speed cameras were on the market as well for use by authorities—new technology to detect speeding drivers at night as they approached the camera instead of passing it. They can also take photos of car numberplates without using a flash. This new infrared technology has been fitted to all mobile speed cameras at a cost of $57,000.
Along with infrared, point-to-point, mobile and fixed camera technology, there are quite a number of ways that people can get caught speeding and that alludes again to the suggestion of having a select committee which I think the government should put in place so we can really have a look at all these different methods of detecting people and let us find out the location of these speed cameras and the incidence of road accidents. We can correlate them together and work out whether we are putting these speed cameras in places to reduce road traffic incidents, fatalities and crashes, or whether we are just putting them in places that are just there to increase the government's coffers and raise revenue.
I mentioned the top 10 mobile camera sites and it was revealed, as I said, in a newspaper article late last year that the number one location was South Terrace with $629,000 in revenue being generated. People might ask, 'How many crashes, how many fatal crashes have there been on South Terrace?' Fortunately, the number of crashes is very low, and the number of fatal crashes is zero, as far as I could tell, in recent times. But $629,000 in revenue has been raised. This is the debate that needs to be had and things need to be talked through. Is the lack of incidents because we have had the speed cameras there, or would there have been no incidents were there no speed cameras and have we just been raising revenue? That is the debate we need to have.
In Jeffcott Street in North Adelaide, 452,000 was raised there; in South Terrace, Pooraka, $422,000; in Mitchell Park, Bradley Grove, $418,000; and, the list goes. These cameras return upwards of $350,000 to $400,000 for the top five or six cameras in the mobile camera operations. The top 10 sites in fact returned $4 million of the total fine revenue last financial year. They are big money earners, there is no doubt about that, but we need to have this committee to look at how they are impacting or reducing incidents and accidents on our road and, ultimately, fatalities on the road as well.
We talk about fixed cameras as well as mobile cameras. The number there is far greater: in fact, Montague Road, Ingle Farm, recorded 10,061 fines totalling $3.370 million. I mentioned the South Eastern Freeway, and it has been in the press a lot. The top two of the fixed cameras are on the South Eastern Freeway, which is no surprise. At Leawood Gardens, 8,227 fines have been issued and $3.6 million in fines have been handed out there, with 6,171 fines, at $2.9 million, at Crafers, and the list goes on. The top nine net over $1 million in revenue and over 3,000 fines for the top 10 fixed speed camera locations around South Australia.
This really is what this is about and why we need to have this select committee. The perception out there is that speed cameras are all about bringing in revenue to the government and that they are not about safety. We need to look at this; we need to take an independent view so that we can determine where speed cameras need to be to keep people safe and also educate people.
I hark back to where I started in this speech, to Advertiser reports that up to 80 per cent of people believe that speed cameras are just for revenue raising. The experts will say that they are not. I am not disputing the experts here, but we need to get the facts and put them on the table for the public of South Australia. We need to change that perception and/or make our roads safer, and in doing that we can change that perception. If people understand that speed cameras are there to keep us safe, that is what the objective of this committee will be.
We talk about fines as well, and we can see whether or not the fines need to be looked at. For example, at the last budget a fine for anyone travelling between 10 to 20 km/h over the speed limit went up from $340 to $349, plus the victims of crime levy, which is $60, so it is getting quite hefty. We need to look at it and say, 'Is the financial imposition on someone committing this crime in going over the speed limits having an impact and is it reducing our road fatalities and our number of incidents on the road?' That is the question.
I will run through the other fines. If you are doing less than 10 km/h over the speed limit in a motor vehicle, you will be fined $159. I mentioned that at between 10 and 20 km/h over the limit you will be fined $349, between 20 and 30 km/h it is $709, between 40 and 45 km/h it is $846, and 45 km/h over the posted speed limits will get you an expiation fee of $952. The figures are much higher if you are driving a road train. The demerit points also I notice were increased a little while ago: they run two, three, five, seven and nine through those five categories I mentioned. So, demerit points are also a big issue here.
As we go through the other list of recommendations for this select committee, we see that the impact of constantly changing speed limits and the effectiveness of speed limit signage are key factors which we need to address and which people are very confused about. To the department's credit, they have been doing some work in this area, and I was quite glad to be involved in the Adelaide Hills Council area speed limit review in November last year.
This is a great initiative, where the Adelaide Hills Council came together with the RAA, the Motor Accident Commission and the Centre for Automotive Safety Research (CASR) and collectively reviewed the speed limits in the Adelaide Hills—funnily enough, for this very reason. So, we have done it in the Adelaide Hills and, as we are pointing out in relation to this select committee, we want to look at the impact of constantly changing speed limits and the effectiveness of speed limit signage right across the city of Adelaide and South Australia. It has been done here in the Hills and the feedback was quite interesting. This is why, again, I think a select committee looking into these factors would be very beneficial.
A collective review of the speed limits in the Adelaide Hills was conducted, with community engagement, firstly, on 9 July at Uraidla footy club, at Stirling council on 22 July, the Village Well at Aldgate on 24 July, the Woodside Institute on 5 August and the Gumeracha Town Hall on 7 August. That is the one that I went to. It was impressive, and the department was very impressed with the feedback and, dare I say, surprised by the quality of input from local residents. There was lots of discussion, the butcher's paper came out and across the board the opinion was divided on speed limits.
However, they did say they wanted no more than three speed zones, and that was the commonly held view. They all looked for improved signage—that was very high on the list of wants from these groups. More advanced warnings of signage and the use of painted signage on the roadway, like they do interstate, were also brought up. Greater use of electronic sign boards and greater enforcement of speed limits were also raised, along with an increased police presence. More community education on road safety in the Adelaide Hills and improved maintenance and better infrastructure were also mentioned. Consistency of speed limits was the key.
Results from the seminars found that 50 per cent of participants felt that 50 km/h and 60 km/h speed limits were not applied consistently; 70 per cent of participants felt that the 80 km/h speed limits were not applied consistently. That is a big issue, and that is what I think this select committee can have a look at. It is an issue up in the Hills, and I think it is an issue right across South Australia. These are the points that have people confused, and we know there has been a big change in time.
I hark back, and I point out, too, that there are a number of different speed camera methodologies, if you like: we have the mobile ones, the fixed ones, point to point, and now we have the infra-red ones as well. That is a really key point. I could go on because this really is a vexed issue in the community. As I said, 80 per cent of people, from The Advertiser report, feel that this is something that should be looked at.
Finally, as we go through the list of things we could look at, another impact that could be considered (and I think this is very important) is that reports have shown the negative impact of speed cameras and fines on the police force in the community when they are imposing these fines. While the police are supposed to be respected and appreciated by members of the community, and they do a fine job in helping solve crimes, instead they are blemished by this perception that they are the ones who are imposing the fines on people for speeding. I think this is a real issue that we could look at as well because the police need to be held in high regard.
Mr KNOLL ( Schubert ) ( 11:17 ): I thank the member for Mitchell for bringing this issue to the house. Can I say that 'the member for Schubert' is an honourable title and something that the previous member (Ivan Venning) and I share and, on this issue, as with many other issues (including the establishment of a new health facility in the Barossa), the members for Schubert are at one. Indeed, almost four years ago to the day, on 9 March 2011, my predecessor moved:
That this house establishes a s elect c ommittee to examine the use and effectiveness of speed cameras and other speed measuring devices used by South Australia Police in South Australia.
Can I say that the reason he moved that motion, and the reason we are discussing this notice of motion today, is very much brought home to the people of Schubert because we are very much in the eye of law enforcement when it comes to speed cameras. It is a huge issue in my electorate because of the huge attention the Barossa gets when it comes to this issue. Can I say of the former member for Schubert's motion that, unfortunately, it was defeated in this form, thanks to some what we will call word manipulation by the Labor government at the time, and it is unfortunate that the issue could not have been given the weight and the time it deserved.
Can I say of the beautiful Barossa Valley that we are lucky enough to have in our local service area one of the lowest crime rates in the state. For example, we had only 238 total offences against property and persons in January, and we compare that with, say, the Murray Mallee LSA, which had 429. It has often been put to me by local police that the Barossa LSA has the lowest crime rates across South Australia. However, maybe there is a consequential link that, because there are low rates of crime, we are often and very frequently visited by speed detection devices. Since the start of the year, the cameras have visited the Barossa on 10 days in various locations. So, here we are talking about coming towards the end of February and already on 10 days we have had speed cameras in the Barossa.
Interestingly, and this is a point that I would like to make, a lot of these days tend to be a Friday, Saturday or Monday, which are peak times for tourists visiting the Barossa. Especially because of the nature of where the Barossa is in relation to Adelaide and the spread out nature of the wineries across my district, people tend to use cars, and it is unfortunate that we are targeting one of our tourism hotspots in this way, particularly to a group of people who would be less familiar with the area than the local residents.
It is also interesting that most of those cameras are located not on the long stretches of road, not on the crash hotspots in my electorate, and I am thinking of Gomersal Road, which has had a number of crashes since it has been upgraded. They tend, more often than not, to be in the 50 km/h stretches of road. I find this extremely difficult to align with revenue raising versus the preventative element of having speed cameras helping to change people's attitudes in relation to speeding.
In The Advertiser on 5 December 2014, Murray Street in Nuriootpa (which is a fantastic and beautiful town) was listed as the seventh most common site for a mobile speed camera. This is a town of about 6,000 or 7,000 people, yet it rates as the seventh-highest spot for having a speed camera in South Australia, between 13 January and 21 December last year, with a deployment on 51 days out of that period—51 days on the main street of Nuriootpa in a 50 km/h zone on a main street that does not necessarily see a lot of accidents.
Can I say, though, that this motion also deals with speed limits and whether or not those speed limits are appropriate. I have long been talking about the vexed issue of inconsistent speed limits in my electorate. One example that always comes to mind is the beautiful Gomersal Road, which was only developed about 10 years ago. It was one of the crowning achievements of Ivan Venning. It was rated at 90 km/h, whereas the Mount Pleasant to Angaston road is rated 100 km/h and it is not in as good a condition, but those roads are single lane into town roads that are of a very similar nature.
I also have a series of three roads that are in parallel with each other, being Bethany Road, Basedow Road and Krondorf Road. All three of those roads, even though they are parallel with each other and serve a similar function, have different speed limits. It is incongruous to believe that these things should not be the same. It really is a struggle for locals to understand, and very much a struggle for tourists to understand.
Can I say that, of the top 10 mobile camera sites as listed in The Advertiser on 5 December 2014, in that same year, in 2014, none of those top 10 camera sites had a road fatality. In fact, the only connection that we could find was that on Main North Road at Blair Athol there were 56 deployments last year and there was a fatality that occurred at the Main North Road-Grand Junction Road intersection, but that would not have been where the speed camera was. That is as tenuous a link as we can find between road crash fatalities and where mobile camera sites are set up.
Of the 2014 road fatalities—and working towards getting our road fatality rate down to zero is a cause that we should all be very much invested in—speed was only a contributing factor in 26 per cent, and that is lower than the five-year average of 33 per cent, so people are getting the message. But can I say that non-restraint use (i.e. not wearing a seatbelt) came in at 26 per cent and, again, that is below the five-year average of 34 per cent. You can see that the message is getting through.
But if we want to look at tackling road fatalities, here is an issue that I think we need to be focusing more attention on, and that is that drugs were a factor in 27 per cent of road fatalities, and this is higher than the five-year average of 21 per cent. That shows that we are not winning the war and not winning the fight in changing people's attitudes when it comes to taking drugs and driving. That is possibly where government should be spending more of its time and effort in helping to address that issue.
It is also interesting to note that the Community Road Safety Fund, in the Auditor-General's most recent report, identified that the state government received $81 million from speeding fines in 2013-14. When the Community Road Safety Fund was established in 2003-04, it raised $38.8 million. So we are talking about well over doubling. We are talking about a 110 per cent increase in the amount of money that the government collects from speed cameras. This inquiry would be very good at helping to drill down and understand where that increased revenue has come from. The cynics amongst us may say that it may be coming from the government targeting specific locations where we do not necessarily have increased precedence of fatalities but maybe an increased rate of being able to administer fines.
The government's own Towards Zero Together target, the Road Safety Action Plan 2013‑2016, notes that research in South Australia and nationally has shown that investing in road improvements can produce crash savings with a value at least 10 times the cost of infrastructure—at least 10 times the cost of infrastructure. We have had recent announcements on road funding where maybe we have not seen cost-benefit analysis done, but the government's own Towards Zero Together report says that we can get a 10 to one return on the cost of infrastructure in terms of producing savings by having fewer crashes.
If that is not an argument for dealing with the $400 million backlog in road maintenance, I do not know what is. It is coming from the government's own voice, so surely the government realises that investing in road maintenance has to be a high priority. Indeed, if we are collecting over twice the amount of revenue from speeding fines as we did when the Community Road Safety Fund was first established, surely this means that we should be able to increase extra money in road maintenance. Can I say that for the seat of Schubert that is a huge and absolute priority.
Just last week, analysis by the Australian Automobile Association revealed that a $3.25 billion funding boost is needed to improve the safety of South Australian roads and to limit traffic congestion, and that approximately 38 lives would have been saved last year if our state improved its road safety performance to the same level as New South Wales. If we invested in the same way as New South Wales does, we could have saved 38 lives. If that is not an argument for increased funding for road maintenance in dealing with the road maintenance block, I do not know what is.
In closing, Deputy Speaker, I very much appreciate and thank the member for Mitchell for bringing this to this place. It is a huge and important issue and a chance for the government to be able to allay the concerns that some of the cynics amongst us have in relation to speed cameras.