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Duncan Gay must change his mind on speed cameras

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Clearly what is being done to reduce the road toll is not enough. Point to point speed cameras are worth trying and evaluating for cars and light vehicles. Inaction will cost more lives.

The transparent political manipulation of speed camera policy in NSW reflects poorly on the Baird government, and especially Roads Minister Duncan Gay from the Nationals in the upper house.

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All transport policy should be based on safety first and risk minimisation. Following reductions over many years, the NSW road toll is rising again. It stands almost 50 higher than it was in November last year. And one key cause, speeding cars on rural roads, can be minimised simply and cheaply.

Yet as the Herald reported last week, NSW remains the only Australian state not using existing point-to-point speed camera technology to catch cars and light trucks breaking the limit.

Our state signed a national commitment to do so more than five years ago. What’s more, the NSW government’s speed camera strategy insists that “developments in other Australian jurisdictions will be monitored to help guide any further roll out of the program” of P2P cameras.

Federal Transport Minister Darren Chester has made road safety a national priority as well, saying he refuses to accept that the price of any road system is deaths. Meetings of roads policy leaders in Perth last week stressed the “need to address the disproportionate amount of trauma in regional and remote areas”.

Speed, fatigue and alcohol are the three biggest causes of road deaths.

NSW has 25 point-to-point speed camera zones – which average a vehicle’s speed over an extended distance – to detect speeding trucks at accident black spots. Yet the Baird government refuses to activate the cameras to detect speeding cars and light vehicles.

The evidence shows P2P cameras for trucks have been beneficial in reducing speeds and accidents.

Yet the number of road fatalities in rural areas of the state is up 18 per cent this year. More than 200 people have died on NSW country roads so far in 2016.

Mr Gay, who is based in Crookwell near Canberra, defends his reluctance to broaden P2P cameras to cars because his party made an election promise not to do so.

Surely the Minister knows how this cheap politics is threatening lives.

The Nationals fear the P2P path because they know rural and regional constituents have long distances to travel and dislike speed cameras.

What the Nationals should realise is that those same voters have families. And those families are at greater risk of dying from speed-induced crashes because the P2P cameras have not be turned on for cars.

The debate is complicated by the common belief among voters that the government uses fixed and vehicle-based speed cameras as cash cows and that P2P on cars would be just as bad. True, some speed cameras are money raisers. But they also save lives. With transparency, the P2P system can win public support for use on cars.

Backing will be needed from the influential National Roads and Motorists Association. So far the NRMA has been disappointingly stubborn. It argues that “reliable evidence” is required before it would consider the measures extending to cars. Surely better safe than sorry is the required approach, rather than protecting car drivers who like pushing the limits at the expense of other road users. If the NRMA wants the best evidence, then it should call for a two-year trial of the P2P speed cameras in place and ready to activate for cars. Then the results can be analysed.

Opposition roads spokeswoman Jodi Mckay is right: “If the evidence points in the right direction of a solution then I feel it must be considered.”

Labor introduced the P2P speed cameras and it, too, said they’d only ever be for heavy vehicles. So the shift in rhetoric from the Opposition opens the way for bipartisanship, thereby reducing the political risk for Mr Gay and the Nationals in adopting this sensible, life-saving measure.

Sure, the odd independent might rail against the P2P cameras in some Nationals seats. That would be a small price to pay for risk minimisation.

In May Mr Gay said speeding sadly was still killing people despite extensive efforts to slow people down.

“Motorists are still flouting the law, regardless of the longest and most intense high-visibility police operations this state has ever seen,” the Minister said.

Clearly what is being done is not enough. P2P speed cameras are worth trying and evaluating for cars and light vehicles. Inaction will cost more lives.

 
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