Sydney’s most profitable speed camera has caught out so many motorists in recent months that the Government has paused penalty notices for the spot, with almost $1.5 million in fines recorded in a single month.
The dual red light and speed cameras at the corner of Oxford and Crown streets in Darlinghurst have become the most hated cameras in Sydney after a simple speed limit change sent penalties soaring.
On June 5, 2020, the NSW Government changed the speed limit on Oxford St between College St, Surry Hills and Taylor Square, Darlinghurst, from 50km/h to 40km/h.
This was done to provide a safer environment for local residents to walk, cycle and commute as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Transport NSW.
Signage advising of the change was installed the night before and speed cameras in the area operated in “warning mode” for a month, meaning drivers were given a grace period before they received fines and instead received a warning letter if they were caught speeding or running a red light.
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After the grace period ended, it became apparent that motorists were being pinged by the eastbound camera at an alarming rate.
So far for the 2020-2021 financial year these speed cameras have issued 36,727 penalty notices, with resulting in more than $6 million in revenue. The red light camera has caught 577 people, with more than $300,000 in revenue.
September was the most profitable month for the camera, raking in almost $1.5 million from 9110 penalties, with more than 300 drivers being caught out each day.
These figures are exponentially higher than those recorded in the 2019-2020 financial year. Before the speed limit change, that same camera recorded 3518 speeding penalties, totalling $613,524 in fines.
The increase in penalties has been so great that the NSW Government decided to turn the eastbound cameras back to warning mode, with officials also adding a variable message sign to warn drivers to slow down and adding speed zone signage on the road.
Locals have been less than impressed with the speed limit change, with many claiming signage showing the change was difficult to see.
“So I wasn’t imagining things – this one HAS changed. I almost got caught out a couple of times, because the sign was almost impossible to see and the change from 50 to 40 was completely hidden from us,” one social media user said.
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“Reduced, without warning, during the period when no one was driving due to COVID-19 lockdowns. I’ve been driving that road for over a decade. A couple of courtesy signs/reminders would have been completely reasonable,” another said.
One added: “I got one fine from it and I really didn’t see there’s a 40 sign … I was driving in the most right lane.”
Other social media users say they regularly see the camera catching speeding drivers.
“I was dining in a cafe at the corner of this intersection last week. At 10am Monday morning. I saw the camera flash five times during my 40 minute stay there. It is bloody ridiculous of that section on road with 40 speed limit,” one person wrote.
Another claimed the camera “goes off every minute on a Friday night”.
Director of the Centre for Road Safety for Transport NSW, Bernard Carlon, said there was an increase in speeding-related road deaths throughout the pandemic.
“Speeding typically contributes to around 41 per cent of fatalities on NSW roads.”
He said: “139 people (47 per cent of the road toll) lost their lives on NSW roads in 2020 because someone was driving too fast.”
Mr Carlon said Transport NSW regularly conducts reviews of speed cameras across the state, with the most recent showing there has been a reduction in fatal crashes and casualty crashes at fixed speed camera locations following their installation.
“This includes a 32 per cent reduction in casualty crashes, 80 per cent reduction in fatalities and 37 per cent reduction in injuries at fixed speed camera locations,” he said.
“Studies have shown that going just 5km/h over the speed limit in a 60 km/h zone doubles your risk of being involved in a crash where at least one person is killed or injured.
“Speed limits are in place for a reason – and people should never exceed them.”