Speed camera operators face abuse

MATT BOWEN
Last updated 08:56 19/09/2013
Sergeant Bruce Lumsden and speed camera
BRUCE MERCER/Fairfax NZ

STANDING IN: Sergeant Bruce Lumsden, who co-ordinates the speed camera operators as well as the serious crash unit, sees road safety and road carnage.

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Many people hate speed camera operators so much the men and women who operate the machines are afraid to have their names made public.

The eight individuals who keep speeds down around schools and danger zones on Waikato roads have been called every name imaginable.

Yet when a motorist gets clocked at more than 170 kilometres per hour, a 49-year-old camera operator thinks about those teddy bear headstones he used to make for babies killed in car wrecks.

Another Hamilton man, 64, sees the faces of his grandchildren.

As soon as that hunk of metal flies passed with a human at the wheel, and those images come, they're on the radio to the nearest highway patrol car.

"I've got grandkids and I get a real buzz out of catching people doing high speeds," the elder man says.

"You see it all the time in the papers, that kids are the ones who suffer when there's been a high speed crash - I don't want that to happen to my grandkids."

Then there's the abuse and the names: "road nazi" and "revenue gatherer" among the softer ones.

There are actions so nasty they wouldn't allow the details to be printed for fear of copycat crimes.

On one shift, the older man was stationed outside Paeroa and a stranger in a digger drove right up to the rear window with the bucket extended - he had no idea what would happen and was ready to dive outside.

Instead, the provocateur took out the keys and walked off.

"He said a lot to me," the man said.

"It was quite good French but I won't repeat it. He was absolutely ropeable. Livid. And even worse when the police talked to him and said this is what's going to happen if you don't move it. The language was unreal."

There's the abuse and there's the recent speeds - 183kmh on Te Ohaki Rd west of Huntly; 175kmh through Tamahere into Hamilton; 175kmh next to the Cambridge Golf Course.

Speed is always a major factor in serious injury crashes.

The average cost for the care of a seriously injured road crash victim is $625,000. The average cost of a fatal road crash is $4.32 million. The life itself, $3.67m.

The numbers go on - average cost of a major road trauma victim's treatment per day: $3000-$6000.

The average cost of a 14-day stay in intensive care - minus surgery, nursing care and rehabilitation - is $50,000.

Despite Waikato's road toll dropping from 52 deaths in 2011 to 45 deaths last year, it is still the country's highest.

This year is tracking lower at 16, but police and the camera operators touch wood so fast after saying so that it's as if the god of fatal crashes is watching them.

The 49-year-old camera operator sees more in those statistics.

In a former life making headstones he remembers the families who had lost loved ones. And there's the head-on crash as a 16-year-old with his brother at the wheel.

"When I woke up from having my head hit the dash, the vehicle we'd collided with had two little kids under two-years-old in it, both of their faces covered in blood.

"Both were standing in the front seat unrestrained. That's the one picture I always see. I remember it to this day."

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- Waikato Times

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