Independent Member for Wagga Wagga, Dr Joe McGirr, has voiced his support for the removal of warning signs from mobile speed detection cameras – despite a noticeable increase in speeding fines in the Tumut area being linked to this decision.
Dr McGirr’s support comes as other regional MPs have recently weighed in on the debate surrounding the NSW Liberal Government’s new approach to speed, with some arguing that the policy is nothing more than a revenue raising exercise.
However, Dr McGirr believes that it is important to remember that the goal of removing warning signs from mobile speed cameras is to convince motorists to slow down and obey the speed rules – in an attempt to reduce the number of road accidents.
“I understand the concern about fines, but what we don’t want is tragedies,” Dr McGirr said.
“Since being elected, I have heard from the community about the devastating impact of road trauma deaths and injuries. This reinforces what I know from personal experience, dealing with the victims of motor vehicle accidents and their families.”
Since the new policy came into effect in November, there has been a significant increase in mobile speeding offences in the Tumut area – 31 in the most recent December/January period compared to just two for the same period over the last two years.
A favourite haunt of the mobile camera is on the Snowy Mountains Highway on edge of town, which only recently was reduced to a 50km/h speed limit, down from 60km/h.
Meanwhile in Tumbarumba, there has not been a mobile speeding offence since 2018.
Recently, Wagga Wagga-based Nationals MLC Wes Fang argued that the change in approach is another example of a ‘Liberal Party city-centric’ policy decision, and will disproportionately target motorists in rural and regional areas – given the ‘longer distances and higher speeds in the bush’.
However, Dr Joe McGirr points out that it is these motorists in rural and regional areas who are statistically most at risk of having a fatal accident on NSW roads.
“According to the NSW Centre for Road Safety, 42 lives have been lost in NSW so far in 2021. Of those, 32 were lost in country areas,” he said. “It is important for everyone to slow down on the roads, whether they are in the city or on a quieter road in the Snowy Valleys.”
Dr McGirr also argues that the revenue from these fines – totalling $6,129 for motorists in the Tumut area – will go directly into the Community Road Safety Fund.
Meanwhile, in the lead-up to last Christmas the NRMA undertook new research, surveying 1,141 of its members to find what they believed was the most effective method for reducing speeding on NSW roads.
The results found that motorists were overwhelmingly in support of the impact that marked Police Highway Patrol cars have on driving down the death toll.
Over 80 per cent of members believed that on-the-spot fines or warnings from police were the most effective way to change bad driver behaviour.
Only 10 per cent identified cameras as suitable motivation – evidently going against the Liberal State Governments own direction in regards to mobile speed cameras.
In addition, results of the survey found that 68 per cent of motorists believed that there should be more highway patrol cars on the state’s roads, while only one-in-five (21 per cent) believed they had actually seen any increase in patrols over the last twelve months.
Previous NRMA figures also support this last claim, as a month-on-month analysis since 2017 shows that speed cameras consistently double police fines.
NRMA spokesperson Peter Khoury said that the organisation’s support for the critical role of marked highway patrols in reducing the road toll was unequivocal.
“While the NRMA acknowledges the limited role of cameras as a tool to reduce the road toll, there is no doubt where the public’s views lie – more police, all of the time – and the NRMA supports the public’s view,” Mr Khoury said.
“Despite a significant impact on traffic volumes in the middle of 2020 due to Covid restrictions, the number of people who’ve lost their lives on NSW roads is way too high. We have not seen a meaningful reduction on the road toll and 2019 in particular was a horrific year on our roads.”
Mr Khoury also agreed that if the State Government wants to truly save lives and see a meaningful reduction in the road toll, there needs to be an increase in the number of marked highway patrols on the roads as well as the number of hours that they patrol the streets.
He did however say that the NRMA welcomed the additional 250 police included in last year’s NSW Budget.
“What is critical now is that we see more of them dedicated to reducing the road toll and patrolling our roads to tackle bad driver behaviour,” he said.
“We also support funding that guarantees highway patrols have the adequate resourcing they need to do their job.”
Whilst it is too early to determine whether the decision to remove warning signs from mobile speed cameras has had any impact, other than raising more fine revenue at the expense of motorists, over the coming months there will certainly be those who keep a watchful eye on the latest road statistics.