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Tunnels top traps for speed cameras

Blip the throttle in a tunnel rhythm

Speed cameras in tunnels account for three of the top six sites in Queensland and NSW for speed camera offences.

Total speeding fine revenue across Australia easily tops $1.1 billion annually and Victoria leads the revenue grab.

But Transurban tunnels seem to be among the biggest revenue collectors.

In Queensland, there were more than 36,000 speeding fines in the Legacy Way Tunnel, Brisbane. That’s 100 a day and it makes the tunnel the biggest speed camera money maker in the state.

It was followed by speed cameras on the Gold Coast Highway at Broadbeach, the Pacific Motorway at Loganholme, Main St at Kangaroo Point and then two more tunnels: Clem7 and Airport Link in Brisbane.

The top money-making camera locations in NSW are led by the Eastern Distributor in Darlinghurst, then the Cross City Tunnel (westbound at East Sydney), Botany Rd at Rosebery, Cleveland St at Moore Park, then the Lane Cove Tunnel both westbound and eastbound.

Why are tunnels such speed traps?

There could be a number of reasons for tunnels being among the top sites for speed camera offences.

Among motorcyclists it could be the amplifier affect. We simply love the big sound of our exhausts in a tunnel and may get a bit over-exuberant!

That’s our fault and we need to learn to pull the clutch in when we rev, rather than speeding.

However, there may be other more insidious reasons:

  • Most tunnel speed cameras are located near the entrance which slopes downward, so vehicles tend to pick up speed even if using cruise control;
  • Speeds are usually reduced in tunnels, so traffic is still slowing as it enters;
  • Despite lighting, tunnels are dark and motorists’ eyes take some time to adjust to the lighting conditions, so they might misjudge their speed or not notice their speedo;
  • Most tunnels have several fixed cameras, rather than just one;
  • We suspect they may also have a lower tolerance before being triggered; and
  • Tunnels are narrow with no safe shoulder, so motorists concentrate more on not sideswiping traffic rather than keeping an eye on their speedo.

Is it fair?

No, it’s not fair that tunnels are collecting so many speed offences.

And it’s not safe either. Just ask the Ipswich rider who had nowhere to go when a mattress fell of a ute in a Brisbane tunnel.

Rider hits unsecured mattress in tunnel
Rider hist mattress in tunnel

While motorists are trying to navigate the darkened and narrow tunnels but also keeping their eyes on their speedos, it is a dangerous scenario, especially for vulnerable and ”invisible” motorcyclists.

In fact, Suzuki Motorcycles believes riders are so vulnerable in a tunnel where they can disappear into the darkness, they are working on a beacon light that shines on the roof to make traffic aware of the rider’s presence.

  1. The other thing about tunnels is that they are generally the least optimal location for speed radar to be located due to the high likelihood of false readings.
    Microwaves will bounce off just about anything so positioning one in a reflective tube is conducive to multiple types of false signals being received by the radar units.
    Radar uses the Doppler effect to measure speeds and there are three possibly four ways of reflections causing false readings.
    One , identifying the wrong vehicle due to the signal reflecting off a vehicle not in the camera view area and possibly out of the supposed effective range of the radar due to the walls of the tunnel guiding the beam.
    Two, angle error, the beam is pointed at traffic at an operating angle of 30 to 45 degrees depending on the programming of the device. The readings taken at an angle will be slower than the true speed so a correction is done, but if the signal is reflected so that it enters the unit head on instead of the programmed angle the correction factor will be added to your real speed.
    Three multiplication of signals giving a false Doppler effect. This can be caused by fence posts roof racks the multiple wheels on a truck or multiple vehicles tailgating each other.
    The radar calculates speed by measuring the frequency shift between the outgoing signal and the detected signal, the measure the difference it counts the wave peaks if multiple reflections are received the unit can see them as one signal with a higher frequency than that being reflected of a single vehicle thus giving a false speed reading. Insidently this error could be negated by aiming the radar at the back of vehicles as the leave as receiving multiple signals from a departing vehicle would give a slower speed not a faster one. Funny how that works out isn’t it?
    Four , saturation error, this is when the device is being effectively jammed by too many signals they are supposed to just give an error and not a reading when this happens but it is likely that the device will trigger and display the previous reading or a random number and if that number is above the limit good luck taking it to court.

    1. Speed cameras in tunnels don’t use radar (or laser) for that very reason you mention. Instead they have pressure sensing tubes in the ground across all 2/3 lanes, 3 tubes which measure the time it takes for the tyres to cross all 3 tubes, and they are lane specific so no mistaken identification.

      1. James, how does that system differentiate between a truck with 18 wheels, cars – of varying length, with or without trailers -and motorcycles with a very short wheelbase. I would infer that every motorbike would get a ticket under this concept.

  2. I note the increasing uptake of GPS Speedometers also. In a tunnel this will not receive a signal and so renders the rider a possible target of cameras.

    1. Great point , and may well be a very good defense in a court of law . As I think the lighting effect making it very difficult to read safely . A good lawyer would probably get you off if just over .

    2. I absolutely agree , and may well be good grounds for a defence , if you were booked . This as well as the variation in visuals caused by the tunnel lighting may also be a good defence .

  3. My main issue while riding through tunnels is the ever changing light effect show across the dash of your bike , due to the yellowish very frequent lighting . At times almost impossible to read . The lighting causes the bright glare , then moving shadow effect continuously across your instruments . This is not usually an issue in a car as the instrument binnacle is in its own shadow . A modern bike with a dash and a single sheet of clear plastic over both guages turns into a nightmare to read . The outcome is that you have to take way longer to read the speedo than usual as your eyes differentiate the lighting effect . Therefore putting you at a much greater risk of an accident . Or dont bother and get booked . Recently on a trip from Brisbane to Sydney on my bike , I estimated that I speed checked 3000 times each way ,thats 3 times a kilometer , due to ever present threats and actual speed cameras in many forms including time over distance cameras , and mobile and even aerial speed checking . This is all in the name of safety . At what point do we tell our local govs that they are doing more harm than good . Interestingly the main people pushing me were Asians driving BMWs and on dark Semi drivers .

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