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Is covert speed detection a deterrent?

Police Covert speed camera
Somewhere in that bush is a cop with a speed camera!

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 on a Sunday on February 2019.

UPDATE: He was back again on Sunday 3 November 2019 as the video below shows. This particular officer was responsible for 32 infringements being issued to motorists with 10 speeds ranging between 126km/h to 194km/h. 

It was part of a two-day operation in the Gold Coast hinterland by officers from Road Policing Task Force to target speeding. 

On Tamborine–Oxenford Road (60km/h), 27 infringement notices were issued to motorists with seven speeds ranging between 103km/h and 111km/h. 

One male driver was detected travelling at 110km/h and provided a positive breath sample of 0.152%. He was further charged with driving under the influence. 

There were no breakdown stats for motorcycles.

In the February 2019 incident, the rider asks: “Don’t they realise their presence on the roads will do more than hiding in bushes? 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?

Covert activity

Police Covert speed camera
Somewhere in there is a cop!

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”.

Police using covert TruCAM laser speed camera
Queensland Police using covert TruCAM laser speed camera

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.

Queensland Police Service unmarked Suzuki Hayabusa patrol bike - Ducati Panigale V4 busa covert
Queensland Police Service use an unmarked Busa as a patrol bike

Dissenting views

The Australian Motorcycle Council does not support speed detection where enforcement is received by the offender weeks later in the post.

“It can have little or no impact on road safety since the detected offence continues without restriction at the time, allowing risky behaviour unabated in most cases,” the AMC says.  

“Marked police presence and immediate enforcement has been proven time and again to be the most effective road safety enforcement, but often has less financial return for the State or Territory Government.

With the rise in road tolls around the country this year it brings to mind the definition of stupidity: doing the same thing over and over yet expecting a different result.  

“It is way past time for road safety authorities to go back to basics and encourage advanced training and the proper teaching of roadcraft to all road users.” 

It’s not just motorcyclists 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.radar police speed camera demerit hidden lidar

MUARC report

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.”

  1. There are numerous problems with the premise that speed enforcement saves lives.
    The first and greatest problem is that thanks to the revenue generated by enforcement the definition of speeding has effectively changed for going too fast for the circumstances (which is the primary cause of speed related deaths ) to exceeding the speed limit.
    Exceeding the speed limit doesn’t cause any deaths or accidents at all unless the speed is also too fast for the circumstances.
    Thanks to this enforced misconception the number of people killed due to driving too fast is actually being artificially increased due to people not slowing down when the speed limit is too fast for the circumstances. Driving too fast but not over the limit accounts for between 96% and 98% of all fatalities attributed too excessive speed.
    The experts with cotton wool for brains who want the country to slow to a crawl have no concept of how deadly their ignorance is, the concept that higher speed limits and appropriate enforcement of all road rules not just the bulk revenue generating ones could actually reduce the road toll by a far greater amount than slowing to a crawl and applying the random road tax is so far beyond their cotton wool packed dry roasted peanut of a brain they have a meltdown and quote BS statistics to try and prove how stupid they are.

    1. No. Accidents are 100% attributed to driver error, either due to lack of skill and abilities, inattentiveness or unsafe driving etc.

      1. My Grandfather taught me this one sentence I have found to be true.
        “One fault is central in all vehicle related accidents, A nut at the wheel”

  2. Perhaps we’re getting angry about the wrong issue. Whilst covert or sneaky speed detection may fall into the morally bankrupt category, are we only getting angry about it because the intense focus on speed reduction being the panacea for all our motoring woes is so misguided and blatantly false, that we’re attacking the consequences of this, rather than the real issues that need addressing?

  3. It seems that police spend far too much time fighting the speeding thing making any other policing issues non priority. In British Columbia sometimes waiting for police is so long folks are onto other things by the time they appear. But, getting that speeding revenue is pretty important

  4. They don’t want to slow people down. Just raise revenue.
    One police car on the road can make hundreds of riders/drivers more aware of their speed.
    I can’t believe any self respecting police officer would choose hide and be that sneaky.
    Don’t get me started on the blatantly low speed limits on the country’s best roads.

  5. A major principle of ensuring safety is to stop someone getting into the unsafe situation or get them out as soon as possible. Telling someone a few weeks later is a miserable fail.

  6. My issue is this – the speed sign says 60 kph yet if i do 62 kph i’m speeding! why not a 60 kph zone that is just that, travel speed between 60 kph and 69 kph, 80 kph zone between 80 kph and 89 kph, etc, we can then focus on the road, not our speedo, we still have the advisory speeds for corners etc.
    How about focus on training drivers about travelling distance behind moving vehicles first, that will stop a lot more crashes.

    1. Vehicles speedometers are not that accurate, by law they need to be calibrated to show a speed higher then the actual speed, so while it shows 60kmh your actual speed is about 55kmh.

  7. I have a unmarked car (lowered old falcon with mags) sitting across the road from me, most times leaves at 5.45pm , also have a Kia Stinger floating around the area . Have spotted them in Beaudesert as well. Middle road in Logan city has many unmarked cars floating around the suburb . Every parked car/van , I think they are Radar traps on that road . I still speed , just not on certain roads .

  8. So when one accidently runs off the road and cleans up said speed camera and plod holding it who’s to blame then!

  9. I will never forget a time in the 70’s when a group of us were riding in rain on the Hume Hwy near Bookham ( great name for this article) and were pulled over by the local Highway patrol. The Constable advised us to slow below the speed limit and look out ahead as there was water across the road and the surface was breaking up. THAT is real speed management and community care by the police.

  10. The Plod are driving Kia Stingers , oldish falcon sedan lowered , mags , along with 4 other vehicles floating around from Logan to scenic rim . Drivers window is very dark tint . A police bike caught me slightly over the limit (speed) on a long up hill to the last passing lane and pointed his finger at me . I slowed down after i got over the hill .

  11. I always make sure at least half my number plate is obscured by spraying a bit or chain oil and dirt on it.
    I know it attracts a $341 fine and no demerit points (cheaper than a speeding fine) but I’ve never been fined for this.
    It really is a safety issue as it allows you to give your riding 100% concentration without the distraction of constantly scanning for cameras.
    I once had a police car pull me over for 120kph and he commented he could fine me for obscured number plate as well, but pulled out his hankie and gave it a clean for me. my lucky day :o)

  12. I know this is controversial but it’s really very simple .
    Don’t speed then you won’t get fined and then the revenue goes down.
    What is so difficult about that???????

    1. As we all know it’s the thrill, adrenalin and sheer exhilaration that’s what motorcycling is all about, isn’t it??
      mmm or is it??
      After 63 years of riding (sometimes at ridiculous speeds) I have recently made a amazing discovery :o) speed is relative to the bike you’re riding, after lotsa pressure from da “pillion in a million” (da missus) I bought a cruiser VN900 and with the crappy brakes, handling, modest power (50hp) and no wind protection I actually quite enjoy pottering along at the speed limit.
      Which made me think it was the same in the sixties my 1959 Triumph Bonneville (also 50hp) which was one of the faster bikes of the time and THE bike to have was flat out at 160kph but due to the excessive vibration a frame that seemed to be hinged in the middle and brakes that faded to nothing, we were quite happy to cruise at 100kph the speed limit.
      So maybe modern bikes are just too good given the nanny state rules and modern radar????

  13. A friend was caught by this trap, she`s a really sensible rider but this trap is located on one of the few stretches of this road where there`s a long straight and a broken white centre line so you can overtake legally but it`s not actually on any known accident sites. It`s where bikes that have been stuck behind slower moving vehicles can safely overtake but a safe overtake is a quick overtake and that can mean going over the speed limit, especially when the slower moving vehicles like trucks, horse floats etc often speed up on the straights. The lesson you can take away from this is overtake illegally on right hand corners by crossing the solid line and you`ll most likely get away with it, they don`t put covert speed traps on bends, overtake where it`s safe and you`ll get a ticket.

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