Thursday, April 22, 2010

Traffic cameras and speed camera locations

I noticed some locals participating in a site called Trapster. The site is designed to enable people to register traffic camera and speed camera locations. I decided to visit the site and check out the Templestowe area.

On the Trapster map I noticed a number of spots I've regularly seen police cars with speed cameras and I'm sure most locals will have noticed them as well.

The places which stand out to me are: 
  • Corner of Fitzsimmons Lane and Rosehill Road
  • Foote Street
  • Bulleen Road
  • High Street and Lynnwood Parade (Fixed camera)
  • Corner Manningham Road and Thompsons Road (Fixed camera)
  • Blackburn Road
  • George Street
  • Snow Gum Road
  • Corner Doncaster Road and Manningham Road (Fixed camera)
  • Tram Road
  • Corner Doncaster and Victoria Street (Fixed camera)
  • Wetherby Road
  • Middleborough Road and Eastern Freeway intersection (Fixed and multiple cameras reported)
There are also other cameras in the area. I do find the focus on Foote Street and Wetherby Road area to be interesting. Wetherby Road is a particularly tricky spot. After having come off the freeway your perception of speed can be altered and this is when it is particularly easy to speed. Wetherby Road is a also very wide road and it would be easy to think it is or should be 70kph.

When it comes to speed cameras I think it is a hard call as to whether or not sites like Trapster help or hinder. On the one hand police are actively discouraging people from speeding and that is a good thing. I know most of us don't like getting fines of any type, but perhaps a fine every now and then is a good reminder that perhaps we should be a more vigilent. Sometimes we can get quite cynical, and it feels like the main reason for the cameras is to raise revenue for the government and it certainly does that on a grand scale.

To me the police and the government need to be very careful as once the perception becomes that it is all about the money, then the effectiveness of what the police are doing will be diminished. When that happens, to most people it will seen as all about the money and road safety will be seen as little more than government spin.

I remember my first speeding ticket. I was a student at the time and was riding a motor bike. I was cut off by a speeding car and sped up to get their details. I then thought this is silly and turned around and went back in the direction I came, but still at a higher speed matching the traffic. The police pulled me over and said I was unlikely that I'd gotten between them and another car they were following. I could have lost my licence. But the way the police handled it I ended up with a fine. Because of the good spirit of the police I never sped for years and to this day try to keep to the speed limit. I think when the police work with good people the result is better for everyone. The current approach which has become a system and impersonal, I don't think helps our society.

Sites like Trapster only become possible with the support of people who feel what the government is doing is wrong. I am even tempted to support Trapster as the fines being levied on people seem to be inappropriate for many of the locations. I'd be pretty certain if we mapped out the speed cameras against accident locations we'd probably find there wasn't much of a match. I'd like to be proven wrong on this point.

I thought the following quote from the Trapster site is what we should keep in mind when it comes to speed cameras. It shouldn't be about the money, it should be about encouraging people to slow down so the roads are safer for everyone.

The Travis County Sheriff's Office is now officially working with Trapster! They are entering their own enforcement locations, as well as other information such as dangerous intersections, road closures, accidents, and traffic jams. Officer Tom Carpenter says to a person he just pulled over, "Don't you have Trapster on that iPhone? If you had it you'd have known I was here a half mile back". Many police departments around the US are using Trapster in the same way, entering their own valid locations. They want you to slow down!

Personally I think the following should be considered by the government and police.
  • The first time someone receives a speed camera notice they should receive a warning and the fine should be suspended for twelve months. That way it is a wake up call for drivers and if they modify their behaviour they will have avoided the fine.
  • If you haven't received a fine in the past ten years of driving you should receive a similar warning. We all make mistakes and if the aim is to modify behaviour, a reminder is a more pleasant way to do things.
The way it is getting with all levels of government appearing to use fines as a source of revenue, we'll soon just see fines as another form of tax. Once that happens, any message the government is trying to get across will be lost. It will simply be the government pushing themself on the people, rather than government being for the people. I certainly don't want a world where we create an “us and them” situation. The government in the end is really what we want it to be. Not an end in itself.

Here's to safe and fine free motoring.

- Kelvin Eldridge

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