Bungled red-light camera fines should be refunded: report

Thousands of motorists who were incorrectly snapped by red-light cameras should have their fines refunded and demerit points reinstated following a traffic lights bungle that had existed at some Victorian intersections for eight years, a report has found.

The road safety camera commissioner, Gordon Lewis, released a report today recommending that fines issued to motorists who were photographed at eight red-light camera sites across Victoria, where the timing of amber lights was revealed to be incorrect, should be reimbursed. The fines amount to $2 million.

Mr Lewis found that, while the red-light cameras were working as they should, the amber traffic lights were timed incorrectly. That meant motorists were not being given enough time to drive through an intersection.

The report recommended that motorists who were incorrectly fined "should have any traffic infringement notice withdrawn, any infringement penalty refunded and any demerit points reversed". "This recommendation only applies to vehicles travelling straight through the intersection and not to vehicles turning left or right at the intersection," the report said.

It also recommended that VicRoads undertake a "comprehensive audit immediately with a view to identifying any traffic light discrepancies in the past 12 months".

"This audit should apply to all intersections controlled by traffic lights irrespective of whether or not a road safety camera is installed and should be repeated on a six monthly basis," the report said.

The findings come after Melbourne motorist Gordon Bishop challenged a fine that he received at the intersection of Terminal Drive and Centre Road in Tullamarine.

Mr Bishop timed the amber light and found it was half a second shorter than required. He challenged his fine in court, and won.

VicRoads admitted in a letter to Mr Bishop in September that it failed to adjust the timing of the amber light when it changed the speed limit from 40km/h to 50km/h in November 2010.

The report found that 6794 infringements were issued to motorists who passed through the intersections in a time that complied with VicRoads’ guidelines. No one was fined at the Fosters Street and McCrae Street intersection in Dandenong, the report found.

However Mr Lewis said the fact that the traffic lights did not comply with the guidelines ‘‘does not, however, mean that those drivers have not committed an offence’’.

He said any driver entering an intersection against an amber light was in breach of the road rules, unless it was unsafe to stop.

Mr Lewis recommended that VicRoads, in conjunction with the Transport Accident Commission and Victoria Police, launch a campaign to educate motorists about the dangers of entering an intersection on an amber light.

Fined motorists will be automatically refunded within two to three weeks, Police Minister Peter Ryan said, and their demerit points would be returned.

Mr Ryan said the government would assess on a case-by-case basis anyone who had suffered economic hardship as a result of the mistake, such as losing their licence or losing their job.

Last month, VicRoads chief executive Gary Liddle said an audit of 200 red-light cameras had found that the timing of amber lights at eight sites was incorrect, meaning motorists were not being given enough time to drive through an intersection.

Mr Liddle said the errors were created when, for example, VicRoads had introduced a separate phase for a bus at an intersection.

Where the faulty red-light cameras are

1. Terminal Drive and Centre Road, Melbourne Airport

AustRoads guideline for amber light: 3.5 secs

Actual time of amber light: 3.0 secs

Date faulty: 16 Nov 10 - 24 Jan 12

2. Doncaster and Williamsons/Tram Roads, Doncaster

AustRoads guideline: 4.5 secs

Actual time: 3.0 secs

Date faulty: 5 Oct 11 - 7 Aug 12

3. Fyans and Moorabool Street, South Geelong

AustRoads: 4.0 secs

Actual time: 3.5 secs

Date faulty: 11 May 10 - 24 Aug 12

4. High Street and Mahoneys Road/Keon Parade, Thomastown

AustRoads: 4.5 secs

Actual time: 3.0 secs

Faulty period: 20 Oct 11 - 26 Sep 12

5. Warrigal and Centre roads, East Bentleigh

AustRoads: 4.0 secs

Actual time: 3.0 secs

Faulty period: 1 Aug 10 - 16 Aug 12

6. Heatherton and Gladstone roads, Dandenong North

AustRoads: 4.0 secs

Actual time: 3.0 secs

Faulty period: 29 Dec 04 - 16 Aug 12

7. Foster and McCrae streets, Dandenong

AustRoads: 4.0 secs

Actual time: 3.0 secs

Faulty period: 18 Oct 10 - 16 Aug 12

8. Stud Road and High Street, Wantirna

AustRoads: 4.5 secs

Actual time: 3.0 secs

Faulty period: 28 Dec 06 - 23 Aug 12

The story Bungled red-light camera fines should be refunded: report first appeared on The Age.

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