NSW authorities were forced to make the embarrassing backflip after the number of low-level speeding fines increased tenfold by removing warning signs and drastically reducing the threshold at which tickets were issued.
Warning signs ahead of mobile speed cameras returned to NSW on January 1, 2023 after the number of tickets issued increased more than 10-fold and draconian measures failed to affect road tolling.
Community anger over the removal of mobile speed camera warning signs in NSW was so widespread that it quickly became a state election issue and the opposition pledged to restore them if they won office (see below).
Two years ago, NSW authorities removed portable speed camera warning signs in front of cars, stripped vehicles of their open reflective markings and dramatically lowered the threshold at which speeding tickets were issued.
Last October, the government announced that the warning signs would return.
Figures published by Nine News he showed 38,743 tickets were issued to drivers for traveling less than 10 km/h over the limit in 2020, when mobile speed camera warning signs were still in use.
However, the following year, when the warning signs were removed, cars were stripped of their open reflective markings and the threshold at which speeding tickets were issued was dramatically reduced. 361,896 tickets were issued to drivers for traveling less than 10 km/h over the limit (about 10 times the 2020 figures).
In 2022, when the NSW authorities slightly backpedaled the ban on warning signs and installed retractable signs on the roof of cars with speed cameras, there was 243,622 entries issued to drivers for traveling less than 10 km/h over the limit (six times the 2020 figures).
The initial removal of the warning signs led road safety experts to question the government’s motive behind the stealth speed cameras.
In a bid to support the tough new measures, the NSW government launched an advertising blitz claiming that speeding less than 10km/h over the limit was major roadkill.
However, road safety experts and frontline police said to drive the government has deliberately ignored the much larger role of drugs, alcohol, unregistered cars, unlicensed and prohibited drivers and failure to use seat belts in the under 10km/h fatality statistics.
“The 10km/h message is not an honest reflection of the real killers on our roads,” said a senior highway patrol officer, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“These cameras issue tickets for people who are holding up traffic, and those are fines (under 10km/h over the limit) that we wouldn’t issue because you couldn’t stop all the cars.
“The return of warning signs (in front of cars with mobile speed cameras) is fair game because it means if you get caught you’re clearly not looking around and paying attention to the road.”
Some drivers were so frustrated by the removal of the warning signs that they took matters into their own hands, although the makers of the makeshift signs are often hauled over by the police for public nuisance.
The rollout of speed camera cars with official portable warning signs in NSW is due to be complete by April 2023.
To date, 38 of NSW’s 143 speed camera cars are fitted with the portable warning signs, according to figures released by Nine News.
About 105 speed camera cars are not currently in use in NSW because they are not yet fitted with portable warning signs.
Although operators use a mix of vehicles, they say there is not enough space to store the portable warning signs in the cargo area of the Nissan X-Trail SUVs, because the space is taken up by camera equipment.
It is not clear why the portable warning signs cannot be secured in the back seat with seat belts. Camera vehicles only have one occupant on board.
Portable warning signs are supposed to be displayed before and after the mobile radar car when in operation, in addition to a retractable sign displayed on the roof.