Hundreds caught by new speed camera

SNAP HAPPY: Hundreds of tickets have been issued in the first weeks of Wellington's hi-tech camera being in use.
SNAP HAPPY: Hundreds of tickets have been issued in the first weeks of Wellington's hi-tech camera being in use.

Wellington motorists have been pinged with hundreds of speeding tickets in the first weeks of the Ngauranga Gorge hi-tech camera being in use.

The digital camera, which can monitor uphill and downhill traffic across all lanes, went live on July 14. By July 31, 641 infringement notices had been issued on the 80kmh section of State Highway 1, police figures show.

Police would not say how many tickets were issued in each direction, but national road policing manager Superintendent Carey Griffiths said anecdotal results suggested most were for downhill speeding.

"What we've heard is people are braking for the cameras. It's fair to say that most Wellingtonians are aware that there are downhill limits in the area, and it is disappointing that people are speeding regardless."

He declined to say how fast the worst offenders were going, saying police did not want to set speed targets for racers.

The majority of drivers snapped were just over the limit, but Griffiths said that could make a difference in a crash.

"A lot of people who get pulled up by speed cameras are not driving attentively. They are doing anything but thinking about their driving - they are on their cellphones, chatting to their passengers, dreaming about their day. Inattentiveness is a killer on our roads, especially when combined with speed."

Ngauranga Gorge was one of the first sites nationwide to get the smart camera. The first stage of the $10 million project will see cameras at 12 new and existing sites - some replacing wet film-based fixed cameras - later building to 56 new cameras at sites around the country. The sites were chosen to target the worst speeding crash blackspots, which were determined by independent researchers.

The technology uses dual digital radars to snap drivers across multiple lanes. One radar identifies which lane a speeding motorist is in, and the other fires off three snaps in quick succession to clock their middle speed. The radars double-check the speed reading before snapping an image without a flash.

Police will check WOF expiry dates only if vehicles are caught speeding. Warnings will be issued for those less than a month overdue, but further action could be expected for those beyond that, Griffiths said.

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There were 25 crashes in the Ngauranga Gorge's downhill lanes during an eight-year period from 1990-97, including two deaths and four serious injury crashes.

There have been no more deaths from speed-related crashes since.

Police insist the smarter cameras are not cash cows for the force: the money collected from speeding tickets goes to the government.

"Issuing infringement notices costs police," Griffiths said. "The perception that we are revenue gathering is completely wrong."

Another set of the new-generation cameras are due for instalment on Wainuiomata Rd next month. By October, more cameras will be set up on Hutt Rd and Wainuiomata Rd, Lower Hutt; on Whitford Brown Ave, Porirua; and on the Thorndon section of SH1 in Wellington.


Wellington's first camera targeted at red-light runners will be installed at the intersection of the Karo Drive bypass and Victoria St. Between 2008 and 2012, one death, 11 serious and 90 minor injury crashes were recorded around the region from people running red lights. In April this year, coroner Ian Smith labelled the bypass one of two "danger spots" in the inner city in his findings into the death of a motorcyclist at the intersection. Joshua Lawton, 20, sustained fatal head and chest injuries after he rode his motorcycle through a red light and crashed into a car on that section of the bypass in April 2011. In 2013, speeds were reduced and red-light runners were monitored after 60 crashes in five years along the bypass. That included 32 side-impact crashes in just over five years at the Victoria St lights. 

The Dominion Post