New eyes on road safety

LAST year Premier Barry O’Farrell won widespread applause from motorists when he ordered a review of speed cameras on the state’s roads, promising to remove any that were shown to be more cash cow than safety measure.

That review led to 38 fixed-speed cameras being switched off.

Now Mr O’Farrell’s government is presiding over a huge surge in the number of cameras, prompting the inevitable criticism that it is following its predecessors on the hunt for more dollars from a prolific source.

Seven of the switched-off cameras will be switched back on, putting the total of old-style fixed cameras at about 139.

Red light cameras – including, presumably, the newer-type ‘‘safety’’ cameras that monitor both traffic light and speed transgressions – will increase in number from 91 to 200.

The number of controversial mobile speed cameras, operated from parked roadside vehicles, will increase from six to 45. Anger has been expressed in many communities about these cameras being located in places that seem chosen for purposes of entrapment rather than for genuine accident prevention.

The government has countered this criticism with the assurance that it will ensure the use of more and larger warning signs to get drivers to slow down.

Point-to-point cameras, widely regarded as the fairest, most honest and least mercenary of this technology suite, will increase slightly in number from 21 to 24, although it is not clear whether all of these will monitor all types of vehicles on the highways where they are deployed.

The government is tipping a revenue boost of $180million from its new crop of sentinels, but promises the money will go into a special road-safety fund instead of the consolidated revenue slush fund.

Hunter people will be especially interested in the distribution of the new cameras. During the 2010 ‘‘period of grace’’ trial of the new technology, about a third of the drivers who were sent warnings after being detected speeding past mobile speed cameras were clocked in the Hunter – a disproportionate number that suggested an uneven weighting of camera deployments in this region.

The credibility of the government’s claim to be seeking safety, not revenue, will depend to a great extent on where it permits these new cameras to be put.

AS the rust-red monument of the bulk carrier Sygna slowly decays into the sands of Stockton Bight, it continues to evoke memories of the great destructive storms that, in Newcastle’s collective memory, are associated with the ships they drove ashore or sank.

Cawarra in 1866, Sygna in 1974 and the Pasha Bulker in 2007 stand out the most.

The Sygna’s demise wrote a chapter in Novocastrian social history. Even today, arguments can be provoked over the question of blame for the failed salvage exercise that left the ship’s stern, like a man-made headland, embedded in the sand. Soon, however, only the memories will remain.

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