Cameras Cost Lives: Victoria’s Deadly Road ‘Safety’ Sham

The Victorian Government boasts about issuing more speed camera fines than ever before, but the state’s road toll is up 15% compared to the same time last year. There’s no arguing speed camera fines make the government and its revenue-raising partner Tenix Solutions (a private company that masquerades under the banner of “Civic Compliance Victoria”) lots of easy money, but when it comes to road safety, they are utterly useless.

A key player in this appalling state of affairs is Brendan Facey, the Director of Infringement Management & Enforcement Services at Victoria’s Department of Justice and Regulation. Anthony Colpo recently wrote to Facey and asked why his department, the Victorian Government (which trades as the “State of Victoria”), and Victoria Police won’t simply come clean about the shambolic nature of Victoria’s punitive road ‘safety’ system.

Brendan Facey.

December 22, 2016.

Attention:
Brendan Facey,
Director, Infringement Management & Enforcement Services,
Department of Justice and Regulation,
GPO Box 123, Melbourne,
VIC 3001.

Re: Victoria’s Punitive, Fraudulent and Deadly Road ‘Safety’ System

Dear Brendan,

On June 8, 2016, I forwarded an email to the Victorian Attorney-General asking a series of questions arising out of the issuance of Obligation Number: ———-.

On August 5, I received an email back from the Department of Justice; attached to this email was a letter dated August 3 signed by yourself.

Your letter essentially ignored every single question I asked, apart from a handful of questions you made an intelligence-insulting pretense of answering.

In other words, I wrote to the highest legal office in Victoria, and the best they could do after making me wait two full months for a response was to essentially evade every issue I raised in the email.

So I thought I’d try again. I truly hope you can take time out from taunting and threatening Victorians with wheel clamping on your Twitter page (https://twitter.com/sheriff_vic), and instead answer my questions. They raise important issues, and if you cannot provide coherent answers I’ll be left to assume the worst about you and your cohorts at the Department of Justice. Please be aware a copy of this email will be posted at http://speedcamerascam.com/2016/12/22/cameras-cost-lives-victorias-deadly-road-safety-sham/ – as will any answer you provide. I’m sure you will have no objection to this; after all, the Department of Justice is a big believer in transparency, right? Not to mention that the issues I raise in this email, and any answers you provide, are of significant public interest.

Wheel-clamping: A vindictive, revenue-raising act that clearly excites Facey but does nothing to lower the road toll.

As noted in my email of June 8, the current manner in which infringement notices are issued is an abrogation of the presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial in a court of competent jurisdiction before any penalty is issued.

Your response to this?

No response. You ignored it.

Instead, you simply mentioned the Infringements Act 2006, a repugnant piece of legislation – neither created nor approved by the Victorian people but simply imposed upon them – that deems it acceptable for people to be accused of a criminal offense and issued with a penalty prior to a hearing in a court of competent jurisdiction. The underlying premise of this repulsive legislation is that it is fully acceptable for the State of Victoria, Victoria Police, et al to completely abrogate one’s right to the presumption of innocence. This allows them to circumvent the court system by holding the accused as guilty until proven innocent. It also allows them to demand payment within a short time frame, and issue further threats if this deadline is not met – again, all without having to prove the validity and veracity of their accusations in a court of competent jurisdiction. This system no doubt makes the issuance of fines and the subsequent collection of revenue much easier for the State of Victoria, Victoria Police, et al, but causes untold inconvenience, grievance and hardship for thousands of Victorians each year.

The bottom line is that legislation such as the Infringements Act 2006 paves the way for massive abuses by those in power, such as the implementation of extortionist revenue-raising schemes that are falsely portrayed as being in the interests of public safety. This last possibility is not a mere theoretical one; it is a disturbing everyday reality in Victoria (more on that in a moment).

In addition to ignoring both the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (most notably Article 10), and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Infringements Act 2006 also flies in the face of s.25(1) of Victoria’s own Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006, which states:

“A person charged with a criminal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law.”

You and I know full well that to be issued with an infringement notice is to be charged with a criminal offence. Whatever revisionist terms you and your cohorts wish to apply (“infringement”, “quasi-criminal offence”, “minor offence” etc, etc), the fact remains that anyone who wishes to fight such a charge must do so through the criminal justice system.

The Preamble to the Charter of Human Rights and Responsibilities Act 2006 states:

“On behalf of the people of Victoria the Parliament enacts this Charter, recognising that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

This Charter is founded on the following principles—

  • human rights are essential in a democratic and inclusive society that respects the rule of law, human dignity, equality and freedom;
  • human rights belong to all people without discrimination, and the diversity of the people of Victoria enhances our community;
  • human rights come with responsibilities and must be exercised in a way that respects the human rights of others;”

If the Victorian Parliament truly recognizes human rights as “essential” and belonging “to all people” why does it maintain legislation such as the Infringements Act 2006, which completely ignores these rights? Why does this act allow the issuance of accusations and concomitant penalties, typically demanding payment within 28 days, before the person has had a chance to have their case heard?

s.27(2) of the Act further states:

“A penalty must not be imposed on any person for a criminal offence that is greater than the penalty that applied to the offence when it was committed.”

So why all the late penalty fees and fine escalations if the payment demands are not met by the due date forced upon the accused?

Could you also explain to me why motorists exercising their lawful right to contest these extortionist demands in court are often ordered to pay additional costs if the judge rules against them, whereas those found guilty of far more serious crimes, including rape and murder, are not?

In my email of June 8, I asked why Tenix Solutions, a private company, was issuing legal advice while hiding behind the banner of Civic Compliance Victoria, whether it was even qualified to do so, and why it was blatantly misrepresenting the findings of a 1971 court case that had nothing to do with “automatic detection devices” nor “speed cameras” (Mitchell  v  WS  Kimpton  &  Sons  Pty  Ltd [1971]  VR  583).

Your response?

No response.

As noted in my email of June 8, after a thorough search of the tenders.vic.gov.au website I could not find a current contract between the State of Victoria and Tenix Solutions.

Your response to this?

To tell me the contract could be downloaded from the tenders.vic.gov.au website.

No link, no further information.

I asked what assurances you could provide me the device used to falsely accuse me of speeding was accurate and being used properly on the evening of March 23, 2016, and all you did was send me a partially-redacted calibration certificate dated April 16, 2015 – almost a year prior to the alleged offense! Once again, where is the proof that it was working with 100% accuracy and being used 100% correctly on the evening of March 23, 2016?

Why the evasiveness, Brendan? Is it because answering my questions in any meaningful and truthful detail would tend to confirm that Victoria’s Infringement Notice system is an illegitimate, unethical and unlawful sham?

The Victorian Police and the enterprise that deems itself the “State of Victoria” wax much lyrical about road “safety” – you even have a propaganda website called camerassavelives.vic.gov.au, to brainwash the public into believing speed cameras are actually good for them. I searched this website for actual proof that cameras save lives, and lo and behold it didn’t provide any. The reason being, of course, that no such proof exists.

In fact, the most recent evidence clearly shows an increase in speed camera infringement notices to be associated with an increase in the road toll.

Clicking on the link at the site titled “See how road safety cameras are saving lives” just brings up a page boasting how many infringements were issued in 2014-2015. To point out what should be bleedingly obvious, all that tells us is how many infringements were issued – it does not even begin to tell us how many lives were allegedly saved, does it?

Interestingly, that same page (http://www.camerassavelives.vic.gov.au/home/statistics/annual+statistics) shows that 224,578 more infringement notices for speeding were issued in 2014-2015 compared to 2013-2014, an increase of over 18%. This page further brags “There was a 3.24 per cent increase in total infringements for red light offences from 2013-14 to 2014-15.”

So if “cameras save lives”, such a marked increase in infringements issued should have produced a concomitant reduction in road fatalities, right?

Wrong.

The TAC website, which camerassavelives.vic.gov.au links to as alleged support for its twisted claims, actually shows the opposite.

The road toll for years 2013-2015 is as follows:

2013: 243
2014: 248
2015: 252

See: http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/statistics/road-toll-annual

The 2014-2015 increase, it should be noted, occurred despite a fortuitous drop in pedestrian deaths (-25%). While less pedestrians were apparently engaging in risky road-crossing behaviours (behaviours upon which speed cameras would have no influence) that year, drivers and their passengers were dying on Victorian roads at an increased rate (+7 and +14%, respectively).

And as of December 20, the 2016 Victorian road toll stands at 281, compared to the 244 at this same time last year – a further increase of 15.1% ( http://www.tac.vic.gov.au/road-safety/statistics/road-toll-year-to-date ).

While the Department of Justice and Tenix Solutions counted the mountains of cash they made from speed cameras, and while you boasted to journalists and on Twitter about your department’s wheel-clamping escapades, thirty-seven more people have died on Victoria’s roads compared to the same time last year.

As you are aware (or should be), this situation is hardly confined to Victoria. A similar situation is playing out around the rest of Australia: Increasing speed camera revenue is being accompanied by no change or increases in the road toll.

This, despite continued improvements in the design and safety of motor vehicles.

Tell me again how “cameras save lives”?

What a bunch of Orwellian nonsense.

Given that increased deployment of speed cameras is undeniably associated with an increase in the road toll in Victoria, I suggest you rename the website “camerascostlives.vic.gov.au”. Given the available evidence, that would certainly be a more truthful domain name.

Continuing around the camerassavelives.vic.gov.au propaganda site, I came across the page at http://www.camerassavelives.vic.gov.au/home/road+trauma/research+and+evidence/ which lists a series of research studies conducted by Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC). No offense to the esteemed folks at MUARC, but I have to wonder how truly independent they are when their website states they are “partners” with a litany of government departments, some of whom profit handsomely from speed camera revenue:

Victoria Police
VicRoads
Commonwealth Department of Infrastructure and Transport
Transport Accident Commission
Transport for NSW
Motor Accidents Authority (NSW)
Australian Government Dept. of Justice
Austroads

Let’s take a look at just how robust the research from MUARC is.

Let’s start with “MUARC report 307 – Evaluation of the crash effects of Victoria’s digital speed and red-light cameras” which was published in 2011. Rather than use hard, unmolested before and after data, “Data were analysed using a before-after quasi-experimental design incorporating controls and Poisson regression to calculate the adjusted percentage reduction in the number of casualty crashes at treated sites in the post-treatment period when compared with the pre-treatment period … Analysis results estimated large decreases in casualty crashes associated with the FDSRL cameras and their associated signage.”

Brendan, I read a lot of research papers, and when I see words like “quasi-experimental”, “Poisson regression”, “adjusted”, and “estimated” I know immediately that what I am looking at is not a statement of fact, but an exercise in speculation (some less kind folks might use the term “statistical wankery” or may even recite terms depicting the end products of bovine digestion).

So what did the MUARC team conclude as a result of their “quasi-experimental” speculative estimates?

“Across the 77 intersection where the cameras evaluated were installed, it was estimated that 17 serious or fatal crashes per year and 39 minor injury crashes would be prevented representing crash cost savings to the community of over $8M. Based on the outcomes of the evaluation, continued and expanded use of combined fixed red-light and speed cameras in Victoria is expected to improve driver safety, save lives and reduce crash related costs.”

Remember, this report was published in 2011. Given the subsequent increases in the road toll, it’s clear the MUARC team “estimated” terribly wrong, isn’t it?

Interestingly, report 307 is one of the few studies for which the camerassavelives.vic.gov.au site links through to the full text. Clicking on the links for most of the studies listed at http://www.camerassavelives.vic.gov.au/home/road+trauma/research+and+evidence/ simply takes one to a generic page at the MUARC website, which provides no further information on how to access the full text of those studies. Which is most curious, because these studies are available freely online from other sources, so you cannot claim unavailability of the full text for these studies.

So why does the camerassavelives.vic.gov.au site not provide links to these other studies? Is it because they either do not support the site’s agenda, or because their ‘supportive’ results are so patently ridiculous even a primary school student could immediately see through them for the nonsense they are?

Well, let’s take a look at MUARC report 267, which I was able to access, no thanks to camerassavelives.vic.gov.au, but to my favourite search engine. This report attempted to analyse the effectiveness of a 2001-2002 “speed-related package” which involved more mobile speed cameras, 50% increase in speed camera operating hours, lowering of the speed detection threshold, introduction of a 50 km/h limit, and increased speed-related advertising.

The authors again rolled out their trusty Poisson regression model and again “estimated” the supposed changes in crash outcomes between 2001-2004 as a result of these draconian measures. And here’s where things get really silly.

The authors claimed:

“This period showed a statistically significant estimated 10% reduction in casualty crashes…”[Bold emphasis added]

Why the “estimate” when they were using retrospective data? Did the incidence of casualty crashes actually go down, or not?

Let’s take a look at the road toll data from this time period:

http://www.monash.edu.au/pubs/monmag/issue15-2005/opinion/toll-graph.html

Indeed, at first glance it would seem that the measures did reduce the road toll:

2001: 444
2002: 397
2003: 330

Although road fatalities did rise again in 2004, to 343 deaths.

To claim these improvements were a result of the “speed-related package” is most disingenuous when it is common knowledge during this same era Australia saw a greatly increased deployment of motor vehicle safety features such as airbags, ABS and all-wheel drive.*

But not to worry, the team at MUARC were ever-ready to “adjust” for the effect of these powerful confounding factors with their trusty statistical analysis techniques, right?

Wrong.

Incredibly, they completely ignored the important confounder of improved vehicle safety!

Whatever the folks at MUARC are being paid, it is clearly too much.

After their woefully deficient analysis, which relied on a whole host of unverifiable “assumptions” (as listed in Section 3.8 of the paper), they concluded, apparently with straight faces:

 “Given that 136 fatal crashes were observed during this 6 month period, the number of fatal crashes that would have been expected if the speed-related package had not been implemented was estimated to be 186 (145, 259); this equates to a saving of just over 8 (1, 21) fatal crashes per month.”

There are a couple of things that are patently ridiculous about this statement. Note those numbers in the brackets; they show a very wide confidence interval, from 1 death to 21 deaths. As any competent researcher can tell you, wide confidence intervals are a red flag for unreliable data. If we are to take these estimates seriously, they indicate, not a guaranteed reduction of 8 deaths per month, but the possibility of anything from 1 to 21 deaths.

As subsequent history has shown, those numbers were indeed most unreliable. No such annual reduction in the vicinity of 96 road deaths occurred, and given the failure to account for improved road vehicle safety, there exists no reliable evidence whatsoever that the smaller annual (and transient) reductions that did occur were due to the “speed-related package“.

And as subsequent data has sadly revealed, road deaths are now increasing again.

And the only evidence our so-called guardians of public safety can cite in an attempt to hide this disgraceful reality is a bunch of nonsensical speculative studies by government-sponsored researchers using dubious statistical “estimates” and “reconstruction” techniques.

They can cite these fantasy-based studies ad nauseum, but the undeniable reality is that as revenue from Victorian speed cameras is increasing, so too is the Victorian road toll.

Speed cameras, Brendan, do not save lives.

The folks responsible for the camerassavelives.vic.gov.au website could have, if they chose, told us about real life examples where speed cameras were turned off or speed limits removed, resulting in no change or even reductions in the road toll.

But for some strange reason they didn’t.

They could have told the Victorian public about places like Swindon in the UK, which kept its mobile cameras but scrapped its fixed speed cameras in July 2009 to save on council costs and test other road safety measures. The result? There was little change to the number of accidents after the cameras were scrapped, and no fatalities in the six months following their removal:

https://uk.news.yahoo.com/swindon-has-uk%e2%80%99s-safest-roads-after-scrapping-speed-cameras.html

They could have told us about the experience of the state of Montana in the USA, where removal of daytime speed limits during the 1990s resulted in reduced road fatalities. In 2000, when speed limits were reinstated, the road toll dramatically increased:

https://www.motorists.org/press/montana-no-speed-limit-safety-paradox/

They could have also told us about an interesting experiment far closer to home, in the Northern Territory. As I’m sure you and the folks responsible for the camerassavelives.vic.gov.au website are well aware, NT once had open limits on its outback roads. When speed limits were enacted in 2006, the road toll increased. As a result of a recent successful open limit trial, the NT government is now removing speed limits from an ever-increasing portion of its highway network:

http://www.drive.com.au/motor-news/nt-open-speed-limits-extended-20160707-gq184y.html

I could go on and on, but suffice to say the Victorian, indeed Australia-wide, speed-centric approach to road safety is not working. If anything, it is unnecessarily killing people because governments are so addicted to the easy money derived from this approach, they show little interest in researching and implementing road toll reduction measures that actually work. Instead of educating Australian drivers to be less aggressive and impatient and adopt a more co-operative and far less adversarial approach to road use, and educating them to drive at a speed commensurate with their abilities and the surrounding traffic and environmental conditions, Australia favours a punitive system that severely punishes people for failing (often unknowingly) to adhere to arbitrary speed limits that have not been shown to save lives and in fact may be doing just the opposite.

Have MUARC, the State of Victoria, Victoria Police and the numerous other bureaucratic entities purporting to be so concerned with road safety given any serious thought to the unintended consequences arising from the draconian enforcement of arbitrary speed limits? Artificially low speed limits increase travel times, and therefore the risk of driver fatigue. Rather than allow people to drive at speeds suitable to the prevailing conditions, draconian anti-speeding regimes force people to increasingly divert their attention from the road – where it belongs – to their speedometers, in an attempt to monitor their speed and avoid infringement notices. Artificially low speed limits may also cause less patient members of the motoring community to engage in risky overtaking behaviours in an attempt to pass motorists adhering to these limits.

The only thing the current anti-speeding charade has been shown to do with any efficacy is to provide a massive stream of easy money to lazy governments who are lacking any real vision and strategy to counter this country’s worsening economic situation.

If Australian governments and police forces were truly serious about lowering the road toll, then they would be tripping over themselves to expand programs like the highly successful, award-winning key2drive program aimed at young drivers. This program has greatly reduced the accident rate of young drivers who participated in it, but instead of being expanded and more vigorously promoted, there are fears the program may not continue to attract the annual $5 million Government funding it needs to continue:

http://www.aaa.asn.au/news-and-publications/news/article/?id=funding-uncertainty-puts-keys2drive-and-young-victorians-at-risk

How truly disgusting: $5 million represents a mere fraction of Australia-wide speeding fine revenue!

As Owen Godfrey, former South Australian Star Force officer, noted:

“What we all forget is that most if not all of these fines have been designed to catch the motoring public out because of the trite and petty nature of the “offences”. Speed cameras have a long time ago ceased to be about road safety. Many Police are complicit in a conspiratorial sense in abrogating their proper responsibility to the public and have thrown in their lot with money-grubbing Governments who want to scam more and more money from the hapless public. It is no wonder that many people have developed a cynical attitude to Police when they care more about appeasing their Government masters than doing the proper job of detecting actual dangerous drivers. Why do they do this? Well it is simple really. The Police are funded by their state Governments and will have their budgets cut if they don’t play the revenue raising game. Pathetic senior Police officers know that they will receive promotions (read more money) if they tow the line and become boot licking sycophants to their political masters. The politicians are trying (in vain) to try to brainwash members of the public by using increasingly huge amounts of taxpayers money with their media propaganda. But their rubbish propaganda program is not working! In S.A. 75% of the public are smart enough to proclaim that speed cameras are just for revenue raising – correct.”

http://www.drive.com.au/motor-news/the-truth-about-speed-cameras-20140903-10awi1.html

Brendan, when standover men and outlaw motorcycle gangs confront and demand money from someone who has not entered any voluntary contract with them for goods or services rendered, i.e. when they have no lawful, Constitutional right to do so, it is called “extortion”. When the entities masquerading as “government” and “police” employ the exact same tactic, it is called an “Infringement Notice.” Sorry Brendan, but a scam is a scam, no matter what highly sanitized language is used to disguise its true nature.

Bottom line: The Victorian anti-speeding system does not work. It is not reducing the road toll, and you and your high-ranking cohorts at the so-called Department of Justice and Victoria Police know it. By propagating this system and ignoring measures that really do save lives, the Department of Justice and Victoria Police have blood on their hands.

Per,

Anthony Colpo.

N.B. This document is to be used Without Prejudice towards the author. All rights reserved.

*Editor’s Addendum, Dec 28, 2016: In addition to improved vehicle safety, MUARC, the “State of Victoria”, and the Department of Justice also neglect to mention that prior to the introduction of the “speed-related package”, the road toll in Victoria had already been steadily declining for at least 25 years. And as the “Vic” column in the table below clearly shows, the largest reductions in the Victorian road toll occurred prior to the introduction of speed cameras in 1989. As for the “speed-related package” instituted in 2001, it can clearly be seen in the table below that 2001 was a “blip” year, in which the road toll spiked upwards before reverting to the mean and continuing the previous downward trend that began long, long before the “speed-related package” came into existence. Failure by MUARC and the government to present previous years’ data artificially magnifies the 2002 road toll reduction and the alleged effectiveness of the “speed-related package”.


Source: Road Deaths Australia, 2008 Statistical Summary

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