By now, most South African motorists have been exposed to the terrifying flashing lights of camouflaged cameras on highways and busy streets. The sudden flash comes with a surprise in the mail, which leaves you lost for words (and money). You’ve probably questioned the practice of hidden cameras every time you’ve had to pay an expensive fine. Is it ethical– or even legal to hide cameras in bushes and to camouflage them like troops in the army? Shouldn’t they come with a big sign and flashing amber lights or something? Let’s open the shutters and find out!
The current law surrounding hidden cameras, is still a little muddled. The Mother City however gives us hope for justice.
According to the City of Cape Town’s traffic and speed camera report, speed cameras will now have to be made clearly visible and used in areas to improve road safety. Not as a cash cow. Furthermore, the new regulations states that:
“We will now be doing operations where it is visible to people. The recording of motorists in traffic vehicles or hidden away is stopped. On the issue of fines, we need to look at the justice system, because the fines we issue don’t help the situation,” said JP Smith.
Smith, who is a mayoral committee member for safety, security and social services in Cape Town also said that Cape Town does not currently hide the speed cameras in any way, and that he himself was on board with changing the policy with regards to not hiding them.
Don’t get your hopes up! The grass isn’t greener in the rest of the country (although it might get more water). Justice Project SA’s, Howard Dembovsky says: “We often receive queries regarding unmanned, radar-based mobile speed camera deployments since this behaviour was, prior to December 2012, unlawful.”
The 2006 TCSP guidelines prescribed that any non-permanent speed measuring equipment had to be operated by a qualified traffic officer. After the JPSA took issue with the placement of hidden speed cameras, the RTMC speedily amended the TCSP guidelines.
As a result, the amended 2012 version legalised these operations – provided that the speed cameras be guarded by a traffic officer. In the process, the interval between the calibrations of speed measuring equipment was also illegally extended to every twelve months.
This stands in direct contravention of A.4.1.2 of SANS 1795 which prescribes that “The initial calibration of every measuring instrument and subsequent calibrations at intervals not exceeding six months, shall follow on model registration.”
The above might not come as a surprise to you. It makes us question if the cameras are really about safety on the roads or more about the financial gain from it? Whatever the reason might be, make sure to watch out for the speed limits. Being a good driver isn’t only good for your wallet but contributes to the safety of everyone around you. Being 10-minutes late won’t kill you, but speeding might just put you 6 feet under.
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Speed cameras are allowed under certain conditions. If you live in the Mother City, cameras must be visible and in line with the new regulations. There needs to be a sign which indicates the speed limit. The camera shouldn’t sit in a tree like a Chameleon waiting for its prey. That’s not a nice surprise for the poor victim.
In short, if you stick to the speed limits, you’ll be safe regardless of the flashing predators along the way. Oh, and by the way, HIDDEN cameras may be against the law under certain conditions