|Mass Robbery Of Motorists||October 2012|
|Mass Cancelling Of Licences||April 2004|
POLICE are spending 34,000 hours a year operating speed cameras which collected $23 million in fines — or $700 an hour — last financial year.
The figures have fueled calls for police to be replaced in camera vans with Transport Department officers.
Opposition police spokesman Jeff Seeney said it was clear speed cameras were being used simply as revenue raisers — each one bringing in almost $1 million in fines and were tying up valuable police time.
"The Beattie Government is giving too much emphasis on fining motorists rather than catching crooks," Mr Seeney said. He said Transport Department officers should operate speed cameras to allow police more time on the streets. "There was a total of 28,692 break-and-enters and 39,666 other thefts reported in metropolitan Brisbane in 2000-01, only a small fraction of which were cleared up," Mr Seeney said.
Queensland's top traffic policeman, Superintendent Grant Pitman, said last year that traffic police spent too much time operating speed cameras. And half the respondents to an RACQ survey believed speed cameras were mainly used to raise revenue.
As well, a new report puts Queensland roads as among the safest in all the developed nations. The Australian Transport Safety Bureau's Benchmarking Road Safety report, to be released today, found Queensland was safer than all but three OECD nations — Sweden, Finland and Norway — in terms of fatalities per 100 million kilometres travelled.
Police Minister Tony McGrady said yesterday the police force was tackling property and other crime just as hard as they were targeting those breaking the rules of the road. He said he did not decide which duties police were assigned to. Mr McGrady said speed cameras were a vital road safety tool and never caught those motorists doing the right thing.
"Excessive speed is the major contributing factor in over 20 per cent of fatal crashes." he said. "Currently these crashes cost the Queensland community up to $120 million annually and the cost in terms of human life is incalculable."
RACQ spokesman Gary Fites said he was prepared to examine any proposal that would tree up police for mobile patrols. But he said the RACQ had no criticism of police methods used to select speed camera locations.
Police Service figures tabled in State Parliament yesterday showed the speed cameras were operated for an average of 95 hours a day, 34,000 hours a year. That equated to less than 0.25 per cent of the total hours Queensland police worked each year.
Queensland Police Union general secretary Gary Wilkinson conceded the revenue raised by speed cameras was "a lot of money". But Mr Wilkinson said the cameras were part of a "total law enforcement model" and were only used where police believed they were necessary. He said the National Party proposal could lead to the cameras being used where the biggest revenue was gained rather than targeting black spots "because Transport Department bureaucrats are not independent of the executive".
Almost 4500 Queensland motorists will be stripped of their licences in the first year of new rules that slap instant bans on those caught grossly exceeding the speed limit.
Only days before the traditional horror Easter road period, the number of speeding bans has prompted concerns that tough road penalties have failed to slow motorists.
The regime of increased fines and penalties for speeding, introduced for the first time by the State Government at Easter last year, levelled automatic six-month bans and $700 fines on motorists caught more than 40km/over the limit.
New figures produced by the Government yesterday show that from Easter last year to the end of November, 2788 motorists were banned for excessive speeding. With the rate of about 12 motorists a day being banned likely to continue, almost 4500 drivers would have lost their licences by the law's anniversary next week.
Opposition transport spokesman Fiona Simpson yesterday said their high number of people caught proved hefty penalties alone did not deter speeding.
"For a start, drivers need to know that there is a good chance of them being caught if they speed," she said. "Nothing improves the behaviour of motorists like the presence of a police car. If the Minister for Transport wants to do something realistic about reducing the road toll, he should talk to the Minister for Police about increasing the presence of police on our roads."
Along with the instant bans, Queensland's year-old speeding penalty regime levels a $100 fine at motorists caught up to 12km/h over the limit, $150 for 13 to 20km/h over, $250 for 21 to 30km/h and $350 for between 31 and 40 km/h over the limit.
Transport Minister Paul Lucas said while the number of motorists caught at excessive speeds was too high, he believed the ban was an adequate deterrent to prevent repeat offenders.
"As this is the first year that the new penalties have been in place, I would hope that motorists will become increasingly and acutely aware of the tough fines and penalties they now face," Mr Lucas said. "One immediate thing is clear — these penalties are such that repeat offenders will lose their licence. That means they won't be able to endanger their own lives or those of other motorists."
Mr Lucas warned that police would be out in force over Easter. The Government launched its road safety campaign yesterday and is likely to reveal a heftier new fine for motorists caught not wearing seat belts.
The raising of Queensland's seatbelt fine ($105 and three demerit points) will complete the government review of all motoring penalties and sanctions.
RACQ External affairs manager Gary Fites labelled drivers caught 40km/h over the limit the "irresponsible minority". But he said it was too early to tell if the increased penalties had lowered the speed of motorists.