A Victorian community is outraged by a speed camera that 'blindsided' them, resulting in an estimated 40,000 fines after the speed limit was changed with little public knowledge.
Earlier this year, Melbourne mother Maria Davoren her first-ever speeding fine. A few weeks later, she received another one.
"It just felt quite extraordinary for me, because I've never had a speeding fine," she told Yahoo News Australia.
"My kids call me 'Driving Miss Daisy' because I always drive to the speed limits."
She admits to being angry at herself and she sought to find out what she did wrong.
She got the fines while driving along the intersection of Davey Street and the Nepean Highway in Frankston, about an hour's drive from Melbourne's CBD.
She then realised the speed along that section of the highway had been reduced to 40km/h, after previously being set at 60km/h for years.
With her husband driving, Ms Davoren got in the car and went back to that stretch of highway to see where she got the fine.
"I had to strain to see these tiny discreet 40km/h signs," she said.
Speed limit dropped and signs relocated
Yahoo News Australia understands the speed limit on that stretch of highway dropped to 40km/h in October last year, to make way for safe outdoor dining to enable businesses to recover from Covid.
Static signs were erected when the new speed limit was introduced, however, a month later in November, some of the signs were relocated and the signs were enlarged.
From October 2021 to mid-April 2022, the camera at the intersection of Davey Street and the Nepean Highway was deactivated.
It wasn't until Ms Davoren spoke with friends and family that she realised other people were also getting fines at the same intersection.
"I was just like, hang on a sec, there's something going on here," she said.
Trawling through social media, she noticed there were even more people getting fined for speeding at the same intersection. According to Ms Davoren, the fines would have amounted to "tens of thousands".
Locals estimate 40,000 fines have been issued
Ms Davoren then established the Nepean Highway Frankston Speed Camera Fines Facebook group, which people have used to document their fines.
The group now has over 3000 members and Ms Davoren said on July 4, the fines logged in the group alone exceed $500,000. Ms Davoren has also started a petition.
A report was put together by Ian Robins, an engineer and member of the group, and was shared with Yahoo News Australia on Friday.
It outlines the concerns residents in the Frankston area have with the speed camera.
It alleges the new speed limit has contributed to 40,000 infringements and claims the installation "is not consistent with the Speed Zoning Guidelines or best practice".
"A major problem is the flawed signing which has significantly contributed to the very low-level awareness of the changed limit among motorists," the report says.
Ms Davoren said she believes if safety is the reason behind the change in the speed limit, then public awareness of the change is key.
Council recognises speed camera has been 'problematic'
In a statement to Yahoo News Australia, Frankston City Council CEO Phil Cantillon said that the camera of concern is controlled by the state's Department of Transport.
He also said the council welcomed the lowering of the speed though more signage was needed.
"We also recognise how the recent lowering of the speed camera settings at the intersection of Nepean Highway and Davey St has been problematic for our community," he said.
"Council has been working cooperatively with the DOT to highlight its concerns and advocate for temporary electronic message boards/signs to be installed pending the permanent signage being switched on, as well writing as to the Office of the Road Safety Camera Commission for its further consideration of the matter."
Locals demand independent investigation
Ms Davoren and the nearly 1400 people who have signed the petition are calling for all speeding fines that have been issued since the camera was reset to be waived – even those that have been paid – and for demerit points to be withdrawn.
They also want a Senior Road Safety Auditor to review the installation and an independent investigation into the process and implementation of the speed limit change to be undertaken.
The petition also called for the speed camera to be turned off until a Senior Road Safety Auditor and Independent Investigator assess the situation.
Yahoo News Australia understand the Department of Transport deployed two mobile electronic signs on July 6 to alert motorists to the 40km/h speed limit.
This is in addition to the static signs that show the speed limit.
"Love how they have now conveniently placed a flashing sign (on the trailer) driving inbound advising its a 40km zone," one person wrote on the Facebook group on July 7.
"Yet on the camera side outbound, there are still no warnings or flashing signs of any kind."
In the coming weeks, the DoT will install six electronic signs along the section of Nepean Highway to ensure the speed of 40km/h is consistent.
"At the heart of the issue is an inherent lack of fairness," Ms Davoren said.
"If this is about safety, the camera should not have been reset until all the measures (communication and appropriate signage including those 6 electronic flashing signs) were put in place."
Law-abiding citizen copping fines, not reckless drivers
Ms Davoren has heard it all since she started the Facebook group. She says the people getting fines are by no means "hoons", but rather, law-abiding citizens who simply did not realise the speed limit had changed.
She acknowledged with fines, people are impacted both financially and emotionally.
She said after two years of Covid, petrol prices through the roof, and the rising cost of living in addition to the fines from this intersection, there's a lot of anxiety within her community.
With every passing day, Ms Davoren gets madder and madder, saying she feels as though a community that is doing it tough is being "punished".
On the Facebook group, one woman said she received her first speeding fine in 62 years due to the camera on Nepean Highways.
She copped a $363 fine and three demerit points.
"That's a week's pension!" she said.
Another woman told Ms Davoren she was scared she won't be able to take her children to school due to the fines she received at the same intersection. She's a nurse and also needs to commute to work.
Ms Davoren says given everything which has happened in Victoria due to Covid and people not driving as much, it is likely people genuinely had no idea the speed was reduced.
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