5/22/2008Australia: Unreliable Speed Cameras Secretly Disconnected
Officials in Victoria, Australia quietly turned off unreliable West Gate Freeway speed cameras in 2006.
A set of speed cameras in Victoria, Australia were quietly turned off nearly two years ago because of police concerns about their reliability. In September 2005 the state government spent A$2 million to install the automated ticketing machines on the West Gate Bridge, a busy 1.6 mile route across the Yarra River in Melbourne. Police officials today confirmed that they had secretly disabled the cameras in September 2006 after the devices had issued 4243 citations.
"They were turned off, I've been advised, for technical issues," Assistant Police Commissioner for Traffic Ken Lay told Melbourne's 3AW radio. "So the decision was made that if we can't be absolutely sure let's not infringe. Motorists shouldn't be dobbed and if we do start doing that it undermines the system, it undermines road safety."
Lay insisted he was "happy" with the accuracy of the devices and that it was only the clarity of the photographic images that moved him to turn off the cameras. Some suspect more is involved.
In July 2003, a Victoria speed camera accused motorist Vanessa Bridges' 1975 Datsun 120Y of driving at 98 MPH, setting off a chain reaction of events that ultimately cost the state government A$26 million in refunds. Even after the thirty-year-old Datsun was tested and found to be capable of reaching speeds no greater than 73 MPH, police dug in their heels and insisted the photo enforcement system was accurate and that Bridges' fine would stand. Intense publicity arising out of her case, however, forced an investigation into the cameras on the Western Ring Road. Independent testing showed faulty in-ground sensors and electromagnetic interference had been responsible for generating bogus speed readings. The government had no choice but to cancel 165,000 camera tickets.
Today, Lay insisted safety was the only factor driving the 2006 decision by Victoria Police to keep the West Gate Bridge problems quiet.
"There was a decision made by us not to put it out there that they weren't operating," Lay added. "Some will criticize us for doing that, I understand that. But the decision was made to keep people alive."