Mobile speed cameras are set to become even more concealed from drivers in the wake of a controversial decision to remove warning signs across NSW.
The next step in hiding the cameras, which many drivers in the NSW Riverina city of Wagga have already noticed with the removal of warning signs, will involve a portion of the camera vehicles removing or reducing distinguishing markings.
The process designed to discourage drivers from speeding was set to be gradually introduced over a 12-month period, but within weeks of the announcement, Wagga has already seen the signs completely removed.
Wagga-based Nationals MLC Wes Fang, who was against the move when announced, said the rapid introduction was "disingenuous".
"It was supposed to be phased out over the year ahead, yet not two weeks after the announcement we have seen all the signs removed already," he said.
"It is disappointing to see the government do that, and it is the rural and regional drivers who are affected most."
Another hip-pocket blow
But Transport for NSW outlined that the Mobile Speed Camera Program would have a three-phase approach, with the first being the removal of signage, followed by removing vehicle markings and then a boost to the hours cameras spend operating.
Seventy per cent of vehicles will have their markings reduced, and 30 per cent will have markings removed entirely over the first quarter of 2021.
Mr Fang said the next move towards hiding cameras was just another blow to drivers' hip pockets.
"I call it for what it is, and that is revenue raising," he said.
"The government budget papers show they plan to increase the revenue from fines.
"I will give credit to Paul O'Toole though, I believe he was the driving force to ensuring money raised does back into road safety improvements, but in general there needs to be a better level of fairness because right now it is verging on entrapment of drivers."
The 'unfairness' centred around warnings still being in place for stationed speed cameras in metropolitan areas, according to Mr Fang.
"There's no hiding the cameras in Sydney, they're obvious and there's always signage, so it's the regional areas that suffer from the higher presence of mobile speed cameras and a lack of warning," he said.
Mr Fang said his disapproval of the program was not a reflection of his own driving behaviours.
"I've still got all my driving points, so this isn't about me having a lead foot, it's about targeting one group of road users over another," he said.
But Transport for NSW deputy secretary for safety, environment and regulation Tara McCarthy said the decision was aimed at making roads safer.
"We have seen how having no warning signage for mobile phone detection cameras has deterred people from using their phones illegally behind the wheel, we want the same affect with speeding," she said.
"Removing signage, reducing vehicle markings or removing it completely in some cases and increasing the hours of operation, brings the NSW program into line with other states and meets recommendations previously made by the Auditor General."
Wagga road safety advocate Bruce Harper said he was concerned that mobile speed cameras, with or without warnings, failed to have the desired impact.
Focus on slower roads
"It seems that the tactic is 'let them do it and then catch them' rather than 'be visible and prevent them from doing it'," he said.
Mr Harper added that the focus on slower suburban roads also missed the mark in terms of where the danger exists.
"Mobile cameras have often been located where speed limits are relatively slow," he said.
"These are places where a competent driver, driving at an appropriately safe speed, may occasionally exceed the limit.
"The amount fleeced from Bourke Street near the showground a few years ago was embarrassingly large, and the speed limit was subsequently increased."
Mobile speed camera vehicles will also soon increase their hours spent on the road from 7000 hours per month to 21,000 hours per month, but the change is currently subject to a tendering process and is expected to be implemented in the second half of 2021.
Speed was not the only driving offence to be targeted with a more on-the-spot approach in 2021, with Riverina Highway Patrol Acting Inspector Ben Smith saying random breath testing would become all the more random.
"We are targeting known 'hotspots' where we know drink and drug drivers are more likely to be driving, such as back roads and suburban locations, rather than the previous concentration on stationary RBT sites," he said.
"Stationary RBTs will still occur, but there will be more emphasis on mobile interactions now."