8 Dec 2022

Fines revenue fails to match steep rise in numbers caught by mobile speed cameras

9:07 am on 8 December 2022
Traffic including trucks on Auckland motorway

Speeding motorists detected by mobile speed cameras have had to pay $12 million so far this year. Photo: RNZ / Marika Khabazi

Police using mobile speed cameras have caught twice as many people speeding this year than last year.

New road policing offence figures show the 376,000 drivers caught have incurred more than $12 million in fines.

The big bump upwards comes after years of police massively undershooting targets for using the cameras.

While offences doubled from just 187,000 for the first nine months of last year, the amount in fines levied did not rise at the same rapid rate - increasing by just 20 percent.

RNZ has asked police why the average fine amount was lower. It is also lower than in both 2018 and 2019, when about 250,000 offences were caught in the first nine months of each year.

Police pledged last year to use mobile speed cameras much more, but in the year to July 2022 still fell well short of the target of at least 80,000 hours of use - hitting just 58,000 hours nationwide.

"Camera breakdowns significantly reduced the ability to deploy cameras for the required hours," Waka Kotahi's annual report said. It funds road policing by $394m a year.

Nevertheless, some months they caught a lot more people this year than last, for instance, 19,500 offences versus 51,000, in September 2021 and 2022.

The spreadsheets show Waitematā was especially hard hit by mobile cameras compared to last year, as was east Waikato, and the central region of Manawatū, Taranaki and Whanganui.

Fixed speed cameras caught 350,000 drivers in the nine months to September 2022, up on 300,000 last year but well down on 425,000 in this period in 2019 and 390,000 in 2018.

The fines for fixed-camera offences this year at $26m were also well down on $38m and $37m in the equivalent period of the two years pre-Covid.

Wellington's Ngauranga Gorge.

The fines for fixed camera offences are also lower than the pre-pandemic years. Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Drink-driving numbers remained largely static on previous years, at just over 18,000 for the nine months.

This is despite police last year also promising to do much more breath-testing, in response to hitting just half their target in recent years.

In 2021-22, they did just 1.6 million tests against a funded target of more than 3 million; they said Covid-19 demands were a big factor.

Police had "committed to a renewed focus in this area and an improvement in performance activity", the annual report said.

The mobile camera offences increase was helped by a camera replacement programme that began in April to swap out older models with 45 cameras "that are more reliable and better at identifying speeding vehicles".

RNZ has previously reported on internal documents saying the old cameras were so ineffective they missed catching a lot of offences.

Waka Kotahi noted that police districts had been offered additional funding and were looking at adding temporary full-time staff to meet camera targets.

Upgrade to help with breath testing

As for breath testing, the police expect a $770,000 technical upgrade to help them.

They have introduced a centralised platform for downloading breath-testing devices data at the end of a shift, when previously the data has only been available much less regularly.

The data would help them deploy breath-testing better.

"Police sought to improve the timeliness of the data collection process to allow districts to respond to changes in driving behaviour and take prompt action to save lives," police told RNZ.

No personal data was collected during this process, unless an offence had been committed - at which point data was collected in the OnDuty application.

So far this year 353 people have died on the roads, 50-60 more than at the same time in either of the last two years.

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