Speed cameras often get a bad rap, with media focusing on how much money is generated, rather how many lives they save.
However, there has been significant investment into safety camera technologies thanks to compelling evidence of their success in reducing speeding and preventing deaths and serious injuries on our roads.
Well-designed evaluations of speed cameras are important to understand their effectiveness. For example, the latest review of the New South Wales (NSW) camera program showed a 40% reduction in casualty crashes compared to the five years prior to the installation of static speed cameras[i]. At the same time there has been a 23% reduction in casualty crashes across the network (which is amazing in itself!). This means that speed cameras reduced casualty crashes by 17% in the locations they were installed. This equates to over $500 million in social cost savings to the community. These figures are more impressive when you consider there was a 24% increase in traffic volumes across NSW over the same period.
[i] For more information, see https://roadsafety.transport.nsw.gov.au/speeding/speedcameras/2020-review.html
The ACT speed camera program, which included a mix of static and point-to-point (average speed) cameras, achieved an average 25% reduction in all reported crashes[i]. This is the equivalent of preventing 69 crashes each year and $1.3M in social cost savings. These savings are significant compared to the relatively low cost of implementing speed camera systems. In Victoria, the social cost savings exceeded the cost of camera operations by 45 times[ii].
Speed cameras encourage safer driving by penalising speed drivers; however education and awareness are also important. Most Australian state-level camera programs focus on raising awareness through public education campaigns. The NSW Wales mobile camera system claims to be the most transparent system in Australia, with warning signs posted before, at and after mobile camera sites. All speed camera locations are publicised on a public website and the public can also nominate new locations for cameras. This change resulted from a community outcry over a sharp increase in revenue from speed fines after signs were removed by the previous government.
Being transparent about how revenue from speed cameras is spent is also critical to community acceptance. In most Australian jurisdictions, this revenue is directed into road safety funds to pay for initiatives including infrastructure improvements, education campaigns and community grants. The NSW state government conducts an annual review of speed camera programs to find sites that are ineffective of reducing crashes. Poor-performing sites are then removed, regardless of how much revenue they are generating.
At a time when speed limits are changing around New Zealand, enforcement is increasingly necessary to fully realise the benefits of these reduced speed limits. We should take learnings from programs from across the Tasman so that we too can see the benefits of speed camera technologies in achieving Road to Zero.
[ii] For more information, see https://acrs.org.au/files/papers/arsc/2021/Increasing%20the%20effectiveness%20of%20mobile%20speed%20cameras%20on%20rural%20roads%20in%20Victoria%20based%20on%20crash%20reductions%20from%20operations%20in%20Queensland.pdf