The NSW Government has been forced to make a U-turn on its decision to remove warning signs for mobile speed cameras after issuing a year’s worth of tickets each month, raking in record fines, amid a rising road toll.

Warning signs will return to mobile speed cameras in NSW just nine months after the government packed them away and stripped camera cars of reflective markings.

Following a public backlash and a tenfold increase in fines – during which time mobile speed cameras issued a year’s worth of fines each month – the NSW Government has been forced to make an embarrassing U-turn on the controversial decision to not give motorists fair warning.

While the removal of the portable reflective warning signs attracted most of the media attention at the time, the NSW Government also discreetly lowered the speeding threshold at which drivers are fined – leading to a sharp increase in motorists being busted for speeding at less than 10kmh over the limit.

Above: An example of a NSW mobile speed camera car before the signs were packed away and the reflective vehicle markings were removed.

The draconian measures coincided with camera cars being stripped of their reflective markings, a tripling of the number of vehicles on the road, and a tripling of their hours of operation.

The camera cars were also modified to have the capability to detect cars in both directions of travel at suitable locations.

A news bulletin on Channel Nine, owner of this masthead, reported there were 2300 drivers busted by mobile speed cameras in June 2020 – before the signs were taken down – raising a total of $453,000 in fines.

However, in June 2021 – after the new measures were introduced – more than 22,000 drivers were busted by mobile speed cameras, raking in $5 million in fines, a more than tenfold increase.

Above: A recent example of a NSW mobile speed camera car without reflective markings or portable warning signs.

Nine months ago NSW Transport Minister, Andrew Constance, justified the sneaky move to remove warning signs, strip camera cars of their markings, and lower the speed threshold fines are issued, by telling media: “We’re here to save lives, it’s that simple.”

Yesterday, Andrew Constance told media: “We’re going to 1000 static signs, 350 variable signs around the state to remind people of their obligations.”

Since the NSW Government ramped up its mobile speed camera campaign, removed portable warning signs, stripped camera cars of their reflective markings, and lowered the speed threshold at which tickets are issued, the NSW road toll has gone up – despite a reduction in traffic due to restrictions caused by the pandemic.

Detractors of unmarked mobile speed camera cars say they don’t discourage speeders if they’re hidden from view, and don’t stop speeding drivers – or any potentially dangerous drivers – because the ticket arrives weeks later in the mail.

Supporters of warning signs for mobile speed camera cars say drivers who are caught speeding past highly visible locations deserve a ticket because it shows they are not paying proper attention to the road and its surroundings.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury told Channel Nine News: “We’ve got two issues here. The first is that the government is fining more people in a month than what they were in a year, and the second issue is the road toll this year is worse than it was last year.”

Figures reported by Channel Nine showed NSW has recorded 172 road deaths so far this year, which is three more than the same period last year – despite the reduction in traffic during the pandemic.

The NSW Government said from mid-August 2021 it will start to introduce 1000 permanent roadside warning signs in areas where mobile speed cameras are used, and 350 portable roadside warning signs, presumably to be displayed when a mobile speed camera car is operational.

NSW Opposition leader Chris Minns, who was formerly the shadow minister for transport, had been lobbying for the return of warning signs at mobile speed camera locations since their removal – and has repeatedly accused the NSW Government of a “cash grab” and “hitting families in the hip pocket” with the harsh new measures.

“They’ve announced a thousand new signs in NSW but revenue’s already gone up 1000 times,” Mr Minns told Channel Nine News.

The biggest backdown, however, has come from Bernard Carlon, the head of the NSW Centre For Road Safety (pictured above), who has been campaigning for stricter speed enforcement measures for years.

Mr Carlon and the NSW Centre for Road Safety were the driving force in removing portable warning signs, stripping camera cars of their reflective markings, and lowering the speed at which cameras capture speeding vehicles.

“Now it’s working, we want to help people to recognise that they need to adjust their behaviour and to not speed,” Mr Carlon told Channel Nine News, in a stance that is a stark contrast to his earlier comments.

Mr Carlon had been a strong supporter of the removal of mobile speed camera warning signs, previously telling media: “We don’t want people to stop speeding just where the mobile speed camera is … we want them to stop speeding everywhere.”

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