Speed cameras are extraordinarily controversial. Road safety advocates claim the systems keep people from speeding, which in turn makes for safer roads. Motorists, though, argue that speed cameras aren't so much protecting drivers as bolstering the government's pocketbook. While both arguments have some merit, drivers in Australia obviously aren't interested in hearing the other side.
"I hope these idiots grow up so I don't have to put draconian fines in place." – New South Wales Roads Minister Duncan Gay
A new social media campaign called Block Their Shot is asking motorists in New South Wales to take action against the state's 45 mobile speed cameras by faking "breaking down" in front of them, and in turn obscuring the camera's view. As of this writing, the Facebook page has nearly 38,000 likes, while its wall is jam packed with images like the one you see above, showing allegedly stranded motorists blocking the camera-toting trucks.
This has, unsurprisingly, infuriated both road safety advocates and members of the Australian government, with the NSW's Roads Minister going so far as to call them "idiots."
"I hope these idiots grow up so I don't have to put draconian fines in place," Roads Minister Duncan Gay told The Daily Telegraph. "If they don't stop this stupidity I will take action."
Raphael Grzebieta, a professor of road safety (which is apparently a thing) at the University of New South Wales echoed, albeit more delicately, Gay's concerns.
"The people pictured on the Facebook site are hindering safety by encouraging people to break the law," Grzebieta told The Telegraph. "If people don't think they will not be caught by the cameras, they may think about speeding."
Arguments aside, it's not hard to see what Aussie drivers are upset about – it's not just that New South Wales uses mobile cameras, it's that they're being used a lot more often. In 2013, The Telegraph reports, the cameras were on station for an average of about 930 hours per month, totaling over 11,000 hours per year. But in the last six months of 2014, the cameras were shooting for a total of 7,000 hours, over 200 hours more per month. While that isn't an enormous increase in and of itself, the impact on the total amount of speeding fines has been staggering.
From January 2014 to October, average revenues from the cameras climbed from $250,000 to $1.08 million.
From January 2014 to October, average revenues from the cameras climbed from 310,000 Australian dollars (about $250,000 at today's rates) to $1.35 million ($1.08 million). That's a nearly 80-percent increase in monthly revenue for a 20-percent increase camera usage.
While supporters have been touting improvements in road safety, the uptick has been nowhere near as dramatic as the rise in income from the speed cameras. According to the stats from the NSW Center for Road Safety (PDF warning), total road fatalities in NSW fell from 333 in 2013 to 309 in 2014, a decrease of about eight percent.
What are your thoughts? Are Australian motorists in the right? At what point do speed cameras go from safety device to road tax? Is there any way the Australian government can justify making over $1 million per month in such a controversial way? Have your say in Comments. And be sure to check back – we've reached out to the people behind the Block Their Shot Facebook campaign, and will update this story when we hear back.