By on September 8, 2010

In less than three years, officials in New South Wales, Australia have been forced to refund 18,944 faulty or illegally issued speed camera citations. Between July 2007 and May 2010, the state government has returned A$3,788,885 worth of citations issued by automated ticketing machines that were not operating properly, according to freedom of information documents obtained by the NSW Liberal Party, which used the figures to attack the party in power.

“With the Keneally Labor Government increasing the number of speed cameras in use, it needs to assure motorists they aren’t being fined incorrectly,” Opposition Leader Barry O’Farrell said in a statement. “It’s simply unacceptable to have law abiding motorists fined incorrectly. This high level of repayment will cast doubt in motorists’ minds about the fairness of speed camera fines and that doubt must be cleared up as soon as possible.”

Faulty camera sensors were responsible for the second largest refund as a camera on Pittwater Road in North Narrabeen produced false readings and resulted in 996 innocent motorists being forced to pay $173,251 in fines. Other problems involved cameras used in ways that violated state policy and laws. The speed camera on Kingsway at Miranda applied lowered school zone speed limits at times when the limits did not apply, forcing $32,881 in refunds. The documents show a total of 148 incidents each with as many as 5279 wrongly issued tickets to as little as one.

In NSW, camera citations that range in value from $90 to $1865 each. For fiscal 2011-12, the state expects to bring in $570 million thanks to a new mobile speed van program.

The accuracy of Australian speed cameras first became an issue in July 2003 when a camera in Victoria accused a 1975 Datsun 120Y of driving at 98 MPH, setting off a chain reaction of events that ultimately cost the state government $26 million in refunds. Even after the thirty-year-old Datsun was tested and found to be capable of reaching speeds no greater than 73 MPH, police dug in their heels and insisted the photo enforcement system was accurate and that the fine would stand. Intense publicity from the case forced independent testing which showed faulty in-ground sensors and electromagnetic interference had been responsible for generating bogus speed readings. A total of 165,000 camera tickets were canceled.

Accuracy problems are common with speed cameras and red light cameras. View TheNewspaper’s worldwide coverage of this topic.

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