Our $8m speed cameras

Our $8m speed cameras

Motorists on Hunter roads have been fined $8million a year over the past 4 years for speeding and red light offences, with 14 fixed speed cameras stinging motorists a total of $10.5million over the period.

The amount taken by fixed speed cameras is about half what the region’s police have issued in fines.

A Newcastle Herald analysis of NSW Office of State Revenue data found Gateshead’s camera on the Pacific Highway was the Hunter’s top earner, bringing in $2.6million between the 2006-07 financial year and December 31 last year.

FAST MONEY MAP: What we pay in speeding fines

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Fines across the Hunter issued by RTA mobile speed cameras (yellow markers), red light cameras (red markers) and fixed speed cameras (green markers). Zoom in to see the fines in your area.

The Gateshead camera is ranked 19th out of the top 20 earners across the state so far this financial year.

It has increased its takings from $486,471 in 2006-07 to $708,021 in 2009-10.

Total income from the Hunter’s fixed cameras has climbed slightly, from about $2.3million in 2006-07 to $2.46million in 2009-10.

The tally has prompted the NRMA to question whether the cameras have had any deterrent effect.

But the government says motorists are starting to get the message, and evaluations of fixed cameras have proved their worth.

In the period 2006-07 to December 31, 2010, Hunter police issued $24million in fines, including $1.6million for speeding in school zones.

The Hunter Valley highway patrol issued fines worth more than any other police command or patrol – $6.2million.

Lake Macquarie’s highway patrol followed closely with fines worth $5.7million.

Less visible RTA mobile speed cameras, introduced last year to target crash spots, brought in $81,000 in the four months to December 31.

The government began issuing fines from the new cameras late last year after a trial period in which motorists were issued warnings.

Ageing red light cameras earned $1.5million; the data showed the Mayfield red light camera had not issued a fine since 2005-06.

The Newcastle Herald has reported that three of those cameras, at Hamilton, Lambton and Mayfield, will soon be replaced with new ‘‘safety’’ cameras that detect speeding and red light infringements.

Safety cameras will also be installed at new sites in Newcastle and Kotara.

Point-to-point cameras are planned for the Upper Hunter in the next two years, to measure the average speed of heavy vehicles travelling between two points.

The RTA plans to install them on the Golden Highway near Sandy Hollow and on the New England Highway between Singleton and Muswellbrook, and Muswellbrook and Aberdeen.

The fixed camera data shows some motorists are travelling at highly dangerous speeds, but most are getting caught for offences at the lower end of the scale, such as exceeding the limit by 10km/h or less.

In six months last year, the Gateshead fixed camera issued two fines worth $3730 for speeding more than 45km/h over the limit and 652 fines worth $157,252 for exceeding the limit by 10km/h or more.

NRMA Hunter director Kyle Loades said more money from fines, particularly from fixed speed cameras, needed to be invested in road improvements.

‘‘I think there’s a view of the community that it’s all about revenue raising,’’ Mr Loades said. ‘‘The real issue is, are we making our roads safer?’’

Mr Loades said flashing lights near schools and highly visible signs should be rolled out more quickly by boosting the amount of fine revenue invested in improvements.

Greater police resources were also preferable as police could detect more than one offence.

A spokeswoman for Roads Minister David Borger said the fixed cameras were only one component of the government’s speed management strategy and were used to complement police efforts.

More than $620million, a record amount, had been invested in road safety over the past year.

An evaluation of 28 fixed speed cameras in 2005 found fatal crashes nearby dropped by 90per cent two years after the cameras were installed.

The government had installed ‘‘dragon’s teeth’’ road markings and upgraded signs to highlight school zones at the Pacific Highway, Gateshead, and the New England Highway, Lochinvar.

The spokeswoman said work finished in November on the resurfacing of the highway at Lochinvar, which cost $800,000.

She said there was no such thing as safe speeding, as even slightly exceeding the speed limit increased the chances of a crash.