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Driver notices speed camera fail but does that mean you can contest fine?

"If you break the speed limit, you're gonna get fined.”

Warning signs are required to be placed ahead of mobile speed cameras, but can you successfully contest a fine if they aren’t?

Driver Scott Richardson captured a video on the Golden Highway in Dunedoo, New South Wales, showing warning signs lying on the ground - leaving drivers unaware of the impending speed check - and raising questions about the fairness of fines for drivers who may have unintentionally exceeded the speed limit.

The warning signs were reintroduced last year after years of controversy and now all mobile speed camera vehicles in NSW are required to carry portable warning signs in addition to a retractable rooftop sign.

A warning sign lies on the ground with a speed check car in the distance - speeding fines
The sign was lying on the ground but that doesn't necessarily mean a fine can be challenged. (Source: supplied) (picture alliance via Getty Image)

So, as many Australians struggle with their finances and the stubbornly high cost of living, are they able to claw back some money from a fine if the signs are not appropriately set up?

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Sam Macedonia, principal at Macedonia Legal, warned there was no opportunity to contest a fine simply because you’d not seen a sign.

“Speed limits are speed limits and we all have to obey them, whether we get a friendly warning or not,” he told 2GB. “Think of all the people who get caught on an expressway where there's a highway patrol car in the bushes and you fly past and you get caught on the radar. There's no warnings there but you’re still guilty of speeding.

"If you break the speed limit, you're gonna get fined.”

Macedonia argued that the presence or absence of warning signs was a courtesy extended to drivers, but the obligation to adhere to speed limits remained unchanged.

Richardson's account claimed the mobile speed camera operator appeared oblivious to the fallen signs, sparking further debate on the effectiveness of the current system. But NSW Transport has confirmed no fines were issued that day.

Warning signs have been enforced by the NSW government but are not legislatively mandated, and simply serve as a gesture of goodwill, alerting drivers to the presence of a speed camera, Macedonia said.

The debate surrounding the visibility of these signs gained prominence after the former Liberal NSW government removed their requirement in 2020. When fixed signs were scrapped, low-range speeding fines jumped from about $4 million a year to about $45 million in just one financial year. Current Labor Premer Chris Minns said he’d rather “people slow down in the first place than receive a fine in the mail two weeks after they committed the offence”.

They were partially reintroduced - with a sign required on top of vehicles - in 2021 but with no warning ahead of time. A final decision to reintroduce them completely came in 2023, with the intention of promoting better driver behaviour.

Minns said the current approach underscored ongoing efforts to strike a balance between enforcing speed limits and ensuring drivers were adequately informed.

Does there need to be signage on a mobile speed camera?

Mobile speed cameras are operated by Transport for NSW and require four signs for each session - one between 180m and 250m, the second between 30 and 60m a retractable rooftop sign and between 30m and 60m behind the mobile speed camera vehicle.

“The mobile speed camera program is one of the most visible and transparent in Australia and the world," a Transport for NSW spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

"The NSW government is committed to ensuring mobile speed camera signage is visible to motorists to provide a warning, and allow motorists to adjust their behaviour.”

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