Most motorists hate covert speed detection by police, yet they seem to be finding more and more sneaky ways to cover themselves while operation radar units and speed cameras.
Gold Coast rider Gary Lynn confronted the cop photographed in the bushes above on the Nerang-Murwillumbah Rd last Sunday.
“Don’t they realise their presence on the roads will do more than hiding in bushes?” he asks.
“It’s blatant revenue-raising at its finest.”
Both sentiments are shared by many motorcyclists and drivers in multiple opinion polls.
Even the Queensland Police Union says unmarked and covert speed cameras should be banned as they do nothing more than raise government revenue.
We ask: “How would the officer in the bushes feel if he clocked a speeding rider on his hand-held TruCAM laser digital camera and the rider crashed and died further down he road?”
And how would the rider’s widow feel when she received the offence notice in the post a few days later knowing a police officer could have pulled over her speeding husband and saved his life?
Gary posted his photographs on his GC Hinterland and Northern NSW Road Conditions (motorcyclists) Facebook page to make others aware of covert police activity in the region.
It was followed by another post showing what a rider thought was a car parked in a private property with the boot up and a speed camera located inside. It could not be verified as a covert police camera.
Is covert detection legal?
Well, yes and no. It depends on the state and how the speed detection equipment is deployed.
We asked police in every state for their policies on covert speed detection and most replied.
Victoria Police say mobile speed cameras are “not deployed in a concealed way”, but didn’t answer questions about handheld devices and cops hiding in bushes.
South Australia Police say they make “no apologies about using covert, camouflaged cameras to detect dangerous road behaviour”.
WA Police basically told us it was none of our business: “We use various tools to assist in our traffic enforcement capabilities. We will not be providing details of specific tools or methodologies.”
NSW Police say they “use a range of enforcement strategies to assist in reducing road trauma”. But, like the WA cops, they say it’s none of our business.
“For operational reasons it would be inappropriate to discuss the guidelines surrounding these strategies. If riders and drivers observe the speed limits then they have nothing to be concerned about,” they say.
Queensland Police are a little vague, telling us the Queensland Camera Detected Offence Program “utilises an evidence based mixture of covert and marked camera operations”.
Yet the Queensland police website clearly states: “It is not the policy of the Queensland Police Service to deliberately conceal speed cameras.”
They also says made this comment about police using hand-held devices:
Police officers operating mobile speed cameras from vehicles and police officers with hand-held speed cameras, can position themselves at these sites at any time of day or night, on any day of the year. Police officers can operate mobile speed cameras from marked and unmarked vehicles either in uniform or in plain clothes at approved sites.
Speed enforcement is anywhere, anytime on Queensland roads. Speed Camera operations complement on-road patrols performed by covert and marked police vehicles that includes covert motorcycles.
It’s not just motorists who don’t like covert speed detection devices.
Queensland Police Union president Ian Leavers says these “sneaky” devices do not reduce the road toll nor stop motorists from speeding.
“Getting a ticket in the mail up to a month after speeding when you can barely remember even where you were back then, has no effect and is quite rightly cynically viewed as revenue raising,” he said.
RACQ technical and safety policy spokesman Steve Spalding says they also prefer a visible police presence.
“Our members have repeatedly told us that over the years, they much prefer to see a police officer use a marked vehicle, not just for speeding, but for all of the other problem behaviours that we see on the road,” he says.
However, motorists, police unions and motoring groups are fighting a losing battle against covert speed detection.
Politicians and police typically cite a Monash University academic and an Auditor General’s report that back covert speed cameras as more effective at reducing general speeding than high-visibility cameras.
Monash University Accident Research Centre professor Max Cameron says high-visibility speed cameras are only good for reducing speed at a black spot.
Mobile speed cameras were originally introduced to reduce speed at black spots. NSW still has very prominently signed fixed and mobile speed cameras, Western Australia is now trialling more visible speed cameras and England is going all-out to make the cameras much more visible.
However, Queensland has removed the signs warning of mobile speed cameras and a report by Queensland’s auditor-general found they are not always deployed at the right time, in the right location, or in the “right mode” (not covert enough).
The report says only 16.3% of mobile deployment hours is covert because police want to avoid perceptions of revenue-raising.
It recommends that a high percentage of covert deployment would prompt a general deterrence to speeding.
Professor Cameron agrees: ”… if you’re trying to affect speeding all the time then the best idea is to make sure the cameras aren’t predictable or apparent and to operate them covertly,” the professor says. “The idea of being conspicuous is really in the wrong direction.”