Victoria’s independent Camera Commissioner, Gordon Lewis, has called for infrastructure changes at four of the state’s permanent 40km/h fixed-camera locations that would better alert motorists approaching the reduced speed limit zones.
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In a report handed down this week, Mr Lewis said that the four locations in question - two intersections in Melbourne, one in Chadstone and one in St Kilda - brought nearly 200 more complaints from motorists caught speeding by fixed cameras, between March and December last year, than any of the seven other similar 40km/h fixed-camera locations.

In that period, at one site in Chadstone alone, nearly 40,000 motorists were detected exceeding the 40km/h limit by less than 10km/h, while 29,364 exceeded the limit by 10 to 14km/h. A further 10,808 were detected travelling 15 to 24km/h beyond the limit.

Complaints made to the Commissioner’s office included concerns that the camera systems may not be reliably accurate and that the signage was either inconspicuous, insufficient or not sufficiently promulgated.

He said that an exhaustive technical review of the four locations had revealed no shortcomings of the signage and systems, leading his office to conclude that if penalised motorists did not notice the change in speed limits, it could be attributed to a combination of inattentiveness and less-than-ideal infrastructure.

“Once the lack of signage and malfunction of road safety cameras are eliminated as causes of motorists exceeding the speed limit, we are left with human factors of driver attitude and inattention,” Mr Lewis said.

In recommending changes to the design of each site, Mr Lewis stressed that signage was already adequate to warn “all drivers committed to concentrating on the task of driving at the applicable speed limit”.

“In short, these recommendations are directed at those who are distracted or preoccupied with something other than driving. In respect of other causes for exceeding the speed limit, such as impatience and indifference, I am not aware of any cure-all,” he said.

Among his recommendations, Mr Lewis said that “clear and concise explanations” of the reasoning behind the installation of fixed cameras at each of the four 40km/h sites should be made “easily accessible” to the public, along with details of why a given road or area has been defined as a 40km/h zone.

Mr Lewis also recommended that road environments be better aligned with the reduced speed limit, stressing that signage alone may not present a clear enough message to motorists.

Engineering changes recommended in the report included narrower roads and lanes in 40km/h zones, along with additional barriers, medians and landscaping.

In St Kilda, Mr Lewis said that replacing “School Zone” signs with new signs that read “School Ahead” could also help to avoid confusion and better prepare motorists for an approaching change in the speed limit.

For the Melbourne CBD, it was recommended that it “should not be possible to enter the CBD by motor vehicle without being confronted by at least one flashing, LED-illuminated 40km/h speed limit sign”.

Speed limit signs at other sections bordering the CBD, including stretches of Exhibition and Flinders St, should also be replaced with flashing signs, Mr Lewis said.

In delivering his recommendations, Mr Lewis said: “I believe these steps would make hollow any complaint by a motorist that they were unaware of the relevant speed limit”.

The four sites reviewed by the Camera Commissioner included:

  • The intersection of Warrigal Road and Batesford Road in Chadstone,
  • The intersection of Exhibition Street and Victoria Street in Melbourne,
  • The intersection of Flinders Street and William Street in Melbourne, and
  • The intersection of Fitzroy Street and Lakeside Drive in St Kilda.

Data presented in the report shows that speed limit compliance across the four locations was approximately 96 to 97 percent, compared to a statewide average of 99.5 percent at other fixed camera locations. Mr Lewis described the statistic as “disappointing”.

What do you think of 40km/h speed zones; do they work? Are engineering changes to the environments of each location the answer to improving compliance and safety? Tell us in the comments below.