South African motorists are regularly caught out by speed cameras on major roads, whether they are fixed, visible cameras, or the camouflaged, hidden speed traps being deployed around the country.
Many drivers may feel slighted by the lack of disclosure regarding speed cameras and the tactic of concealing traps behind larger objects or disguising them as other installations.
However, the deployment of speed cameras is subject to government approval, and there is not much ammunition for motorists from a legal perspective.
To determine when a speed camera is deployed illegally, MyBroadband spoke to Justice Project South Africa (JPSA) chairperson Howard Dembovsky.
Dembovsky said that speed camera deployments were subject to approval, and if this is not obtained, the deployment would be illegal.
“All speed camera operations must be pre-approved by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) for the jurisdiction in which they are deployed,” Dembovsky said. “If no approval has been granted, then the deployment in question would be illegal.”
He added that speed cameras must comply with the governing legislation, although their adherence to this is not checked very often.
“All speed measuring exercises must comply with the Technical Committee for Standards and Procedures (TCSP) Prosecuting Guidelines for Speed Measuring Equipment and Traffic Light Violation Monitoring Equipment.”
“Whether they do or don’t is rarely monitored, but noncompliance is tantamount to illegality,” Dembovsky said.
When it comes to unmanned speed camera deployments which are not permanent installations, these must be guarded by Metro Police or traffic officials when under operation.
“Although it is rare, sometimes the DPP will impose limitations such as the proportion of time spent engaging in camera and physical speed prosecution exercises,” he said.
Effect on driving
While speed cameras are meant to encourage adherence to speed limits, there is little evidence that the deployment of hidden and mobile cameras affects driver behaviour.
“Some say that hiding speed cameras has the effect of reducing speed because motorists don’t know where they are,” Dembovsky said. “Again, there is no empirical evidence in the South African context to support that this bold claim exists.”
“From a purely anecdotal perspective, however, it has been my observation when driving that I am one of the few motorists obeying the speed limit. In some places, other motorists become visibly annoyed by those of us who are obeying the speed limit.”
He added that few summonses were issued in cases where drivers exceeded the speed limit by more than 40km/h.
“In my view, excessive over speeding has got to be more dangerous than driving at 11 to 15km/h over the speed limit, however it is in this band that most fines are issued,” Dembovsky said. “Arguably, those who engage in reckless speeds should be stopped and charged immediately.”