Trevor Collett | Nov 12, 2015

The New South Wales State Government has come under fire for its red light and speed camera programs, after figures revealed the cameras are raking in more revenue than ever before.

Despite operating costs rising significantly over the last five years, revenue from the cameras has tripled and is on track to better $200 million for 2015.

But the Government need only run its cameras for 42 days to recoup the annual cost of servicing the programs - now over $22 million.

Broken down, revenue from red light and speed cameras in NSW exceeds $532,000 every day.

NSW Roads Minister Duncan Gay called for drivers to “get on, join us, and try and save some lives”, claiming that an attempt to link additional revenue from cameras to a rise in the road toll was an act of “dishonesty”.

State Premier Mike Baird said 80 percent of fines from combined red light and speed cameras at intersections were for red light offences, rather than speeding offences.

But drivers and motoring groups are questioning why revenue is at an all-time high, yet the state’s road toll for 2015 is currently 38 fatalities higher than at the same time last year.

At this time in 2014, 271 people had lost their lives on NSW roads while the figure currently stands at 309 - up 14 percent.

The toll is also up by over 10 percent on the average for the last three years.

Upon taking office in 2011, the NSW Coalition Government promised that cameras found to be raising revenue with no effect on road safety would be removed.

Thirty-four cameras have so far been removed, but at least one that was earmarked for removal remained in place for over four years before it was dismantled.

Other cameras, also earmarked for removal, are still in place although some have been switched to “warning mode”.

Despite the removal of some ineffective cameras, the NSW Government replaced nearly half of those cameras in the last two months alone with the establishment of 20 new combined red light and speed cameras.

Cameras are also being removed from sections of highway currently in the process of being bypassed, as the cameras will see little traffic once bypasses are established despite no changes to the existing roads that they once policed.

With a rise in revenue comes a rise in the number of drivers losing their licences through the accumulation of demerit points - currently at a five-year high in NSW.

Drivers were given a ‘bonus’ demerit point back in 2010, lifting the limit for full licence holders from 12 to 13.

But for some, this was little more than an extra chance to be fined before their licences were suspended, having racked up one-too-many offences as the population of fixed and mobile traffic cameras continues to rise.

The number of licence-holders who reached the 13-point limit dropped in 2011 to 48,441, following the issuing of the additional demerit point in 2010.

But the effect of the extra demerit point has now evaporated, with 50,041 drivers reaching the limit and seeing their licences suspended in 2014 - exceeding the number from 2010 when the demerit point limit was only 12.

NRMA spokesman Peter Khoury said the demerit point system needed to strike a fair balance between determent and overzealous punishment, and that many drivers were being unfairly punished during ‘double demerit’ holiday periods.

“With double demerits, two mistakes at Christmas and you lose your licence,” Mr Khoury said, speaking with Nine News.

“At the end of the day, we don’t want people losing their jobs and we definitely don’t want people losing their lives.”

Mr Khoury also said that the role of speed cameras was “limited”, as the cameras were unable to police any form of anti-social driving behaviour; such as drug-driving or dangerous driving.

NSW isn’t the only state to see an increase in the road toll for the year-to-date in 2015.

Six of the eight Australian states and territories are currently sitting on a higher road toll than at the same time last year, while the ACT has already matched last year’s road toll with seven weeks remaining and exceeded the total toll for both 2013 and 2011.

Arguably Australia’s most fanatical speed camera state - Victoria - is currently sitting on a road toll up six deaths (up 2.8 percent) over the same time last year.

Road deaths are up from 36 to 41 in the Northern Territory (up 14 percent), up from 83 to 92 in South Australia (up 11 percent) and up from 26 to 28 in Tasmania (up eight percent for the YTD, September 30).

In Queensland, the toll is up from 194 to 207 (up 6.7 percent), but the 2015 YTD toll is down 5.8 percent on the five-year average.

The only state to buck the trend is Western Australia, which has seen the YTD road toll fall from 154 to 135 (down 12 percent) - trending with the 2013 YTD toll of 138.

The YTD road toll has also dropped from 274 to 245 (down 10.6 percent) in New Zealand.

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