Caught speeding? Sometimes the camera lies...
Drivers encounter speed cameras regularly during their daily drive. If a speed camera is faulty, you may be unfairly accused of speeding and fined. We look at your right to query fines determined by faulty speed cameras.
Faulty speed and red light cameras are rare in Australia but are not unheard of. If you receive a fine for speeding and suspect that the camera was faulty, you have the right to appeal your fine and avoid incurring unjust financial or demerit point punishment.
Faulty speed cameras
In 2010, 380 Sydney drivers were incorrectly fined on the Kingsway at Mirandai. The faulty fixed camera was in a school zone with its clock set to the wrong time, meaning that it incorrectly detected motorists were speeding when the time was outside of school zone hoursi. The Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) withdrew the fines (totalling almost $49,000) and restored the demerit points to the wrongly accused driversi.
Adding to that, the Spit Hill cameras in Sydney have a reputation for malfunctioning or being poorly positioned, resulting in motorists being unfairly fined for offences. In 2005, the RMS had to remove one of the Spit Hill cameras because drivers were being double-booked for the same offenceii. Another Spit Hill camera was proven faulty when it claimed buses were reaching speeds they were physically incapable of reachingii! Interestingly, the current Spit Hill camera was one of the top 10 revenue raising road cameras in New South Wales in 2006-7, issuing more than one million dollars in fines for the yearii.
Malfunctioning red-light cameras can also lead to motorists being unfairly accused of 'red light' offences. This was the case in Geelong, Victoria, where a red-light camera incorrectly fined motorists for two yearsiii! The amber phase at the Fyans and Moorabool intersection only lasted three and a half seconds instead of the mandatory four seconds, causing many unwarranted fines to be awardediii. The State Government refunded two million dollars in fines due to the error and consequently an audit was set up for every red-light camera in Victoriaiii. The audit found that seven additional red-light cameras were faulty, with the Heatherton and Gladstone intersection being faulty for the longest period: the camera had wrongly booked people for over seven and a half yearsiv!
Victoria: paving the way for appeals
In 2012, the Victorian Supreme Court upheld a motorist's right to access government documents that would reveal the accuracy of the camera that caught him speedingv. This precedent allows many Victorian drivers to view government data on speed cameras, providing easier access to information that might assist motorists in any claims against inaccurate speeding finesv,vi. Check with your state road authority regarding your right to view government speed camera information.
Your right to appeal
In New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland, when you believe that the speed camera that fined you was faulty, the first step to query the fine is to apply for an internal review within 28 days of receiving the infringement noticevii,viii,ix. If your application is successful, the agency that gave out the fine will review it and let you know the outcomevii,viii,ix . If your internal review is unsuccessful, you can choose to take the matter to court and have it resolved by a magistratevii,x,xi. Check with your state or territory's local road authority for information about appealing incorrect speeding fines.
Speed cameras deter speeding and are installed to help reduce the numbers of speed-related casualties and fatalitiesxii. However, if you feel you have been unfairly booked for a speeding or red-light offence, you can contact your local road authority for further review of your case.