Change to speeding laws to be ‘rushed’ through SA Parliament after lasers withdrawn
South Australia’s parliament will have just three days to consider a bill to better prosecute speeding infringements, as the Government moves to get laser speed detection devices back in use before the end of the year.
SA Police temporarily withdrew hand-held Lidar devices from service last week following several successful challenges by drivers issued with speeding fines based on the devices’ readings.
In all four cases — three of which took place during July — the Supreme Court determined that a “five-step test” performed by police failed to prove the guns were accurate during use.
Their accuracy was first brought into question during 2016 when, in a landmark ruling, Adelaide man Adam Butcher had his 2012 charge of driving 102kph in a 50kph zone thrown out.
The Supreme Court had ruled the device’s daily calibration did not meet Australian standards.
Speedy time frame questioned
SA Best MLC Frank Pangallo accused the Government of wanting to rush changes to the Road Traffic Act through both houses of Parliament this week.
There are just three sitting days remaining this year for both houses, although Parliament does have the option to sit for three days next week.
Mr Pangallo said he had serious reservations about the bill in its current form because it was designed to discourage further challenges from drivers who questioned the accuracy of Lidar devices.
He said there was no commitment that speed guns would be properly analysed or checked for accuracy under the National Association of Testing Authorities’ standards, and that the draft bill instead referred to the ‘Australian standard’.
“It is unclear what Australian standard they are talking about, and you will need to trust that the test had been done by the police because there is no obligation to regularly test and calibrate the equipment,” he said.
“Should a driver challenge the infringement notice, they would then be required to engage an expert at considerable costs running into several thousand dollars to determine whether or not the device had been properly operated.”
Speeding fines issued as a result of detection by static speed cameras, red light cameras and hand-held radar devices have not been affected.
Margin of error
Barrister Karen Stanley, who represented three of the drivers who successfully challenged their fines, said the proposed bill did not address the concerns raised by the Supreme Court.
“It just changes the law, not the problem,” she said.
She said Mr Butcher’s case showed that the devices were not exact and annual calibrations confirmed a margin of error.
Even an inaccuracy of just three kilometres per hour could potentially have huge conseqences for drivers.
“That flicks you into a different category, more demerits points, greater fines — an offence that results in an immediate loss of licence that has huge consequences,” she said.
“This case has really put a spotlight on this margin of error.”
The ABC has contacted the Police Minister Corey Wingard for comment.
Opposition police spokesman Lee Odenwalder said he first saw the new bill on Friday afternoon.
He said he would take it to shadow cabinet on Monday afternoon and then caucus on Tuesday before finalising his position.
Mr Odenwalder said Mr Wingard had indicated he would make changes to the proposed bill, but pointed out that Labor’s position had always been to prioritise road safety.