Speeding fines

The State Government is no doubt feeling the squeeze from a sizable cut in GST revenue allocated to SA by the independent Commonwealth Grants Commission.
After proudly touting a strong pre-election message that speed cameras should not be all about raising revenue, it has been forced to dramatically abandon that promise, admitting that huge speeding fine increases are intended to do exactly that.
The GST cuts leave the Government forced to find half a billion dollars.
Given the size of the deficit, it’s reasonable that the shortfall will need to be raised from across a range of budget cuts and savings … and it’s inevitable that the squeeze will be felt by many South Australians.
The Government is attempting to recover a portion of that shortfall through “voluntary taxes” – also known as fines handed out for breaking the law. But the mark of any civil society is that a punishment fits the crime.
A 60% hike in fines may be appropriate for a motorist who deliberately speeds for their own thrill, putting their own and other people’s lives at risk.
But it could be argued that it’s not appropriate for the law-abiding citizen who – for any number of legitimate reasons – may miss an unexpected change in speed limit, suddenly finding themselves traveling 30km/h over that limit – right past a camera.
The variable speed signs on the freeway are a perfect example of this.
While it’s the responsibility of drivers to be aware of speed limits, there are times when a sign can be reasonably missed – such as when the unsafe behavior of another driver demands a motorist’s full attention, potentially distracting them from an unexpected change in speed limit.
For low-income motorists who genuinely try to do the right thing, a $1600 fine for a simple mistake could be crippling.
While everything should be done to prevent reckless and dangerous driving, a case could be made for exempting the variable signs from the dramatic fine hikes.
It could be argued such increases should only be applied to motorists caught by police officers who have witnessed the reckless behavior or to fixed cameras where the speed limit has not been reduced below the norm. With the squeeze on State income, the Government is in a difficult position.
But it’s vital to ensure that law-abiding, responsible citizens are not crippled by extreme punishments that are intended for reckless criminals.