For anyone who thought speed cameras were about raising government revenue and not saving lives – WA’s police union and apparently a lot of its members agree.
The union’s president George Tilbury has delivered a sharp critique of the use of cameras, accusing police of targeting motorists that drive at safe speeds with concealed cameras in Perth’s suburbs, sometimes at the bottom of hills, where there are few accidents.
By contrast, in regional WA’s expanses, where the majority of the fatalities occur, there are virtually no speed cameras except for one each in Albany, Northam, Geraldton and Bunbury.
“Good people within this state often going a couple of kilometres over the speed limit get pinged for speeding,” Mr Tilbury told reporters.
“The question we are asking the commissioner of police and WA government is why are they deploying cameras in locations that raise revenue, yes, but don’t make a difference saving people’s lives in this state.
“If the government and commissioner were serious about addressing the road toll he would put cameras where it counts.”
Speeding fines go into the WA government Road Trauma Trust, which has $117 million.
That should be spent on high visibility policing on the roads, hitting truly dangerous drivers, which was a more effective deterrent than cameras, he said.
However 75 dedicated traffic enforcement officers had been recently transferred to general duties, due to WA’s rising crime rate and a lack of government revenue.
He said 75 per cent of fatal crashes were not related to speed but other issues that only police on the roads could detect: seat belts not being worn, dangerous driving and inexperience, alcohol or drug issues.
Mr Tilbury was speaking in the wake of a horror Labour Day weekend last month when 11 people were killed in 72 hours, all on country roads.
WA’s 2016 road toll of 59, including 42 in the bush, is only one ahead of the tally at the same time last year.
He denied his comments were self-serving because he was campaigning for more officers.
Police union members that worked in regional areas told him they were at breaking point and did not have the resources to properly patrol the roads, hence police cars rarely being seen compared to in the past.
Road Safety Commissioner Kim Papali described Mr Tilbury’s comments as ill-informed and unfair, with speed a major contributor to crashes.
The camera operators worked in risky situations to save lives and were an important part of the an overall solution to policing the roads, he said.
Acting police minister John Day said he thought the majority of people supported measures such as cameras to target dangerous drivers.