The truth about traffic cameras

RACV RoyalAuto Magazine

Many RACV members seek an explanation of red light and speed cameras after they have received a fine.

While many people get fined every day by speed cameras, they only amount to 0.5% of passing vehicles, 99.5% of drivers are within the limit.

Usually it is red-light cameras (minimum fine $379 and three demerit points) that spark inquiries. Red light infringements are considered so serious that there is no option for a warning.

The facts about the red-light camera system are simple:

The sensors that detect an offence are “inductive loops” right after the stop line. They are not in the intersection.
The sensors switch on half-a-second after the light turns to red.
The cameras take two photos, one second apart, to check whether the vehicle continued driving after crossing the sensor.
If your vehicle is already over the sensor when the light turns red, then you will not be fined if you drive on. This means that drivers within the intersection making a right turn can do so knowing they will not be fined. Only vehicles that cross the line a half second or more after the red light will be detected.


Many red-light cameras also detect speeding offences, and there are permanent speed cameras on some freeways. Each has two independent speed measurement devices that use different technology. Only vehicles that are detected speeding by both devices get penalty notices.

Point-to-point fixed speed cameras measure the vehicle’s speed at the location of the camera, and the average speed between the subsequent cameras. They can be found on Peninsula Link and the Hume Freeway.

Even if you slow down for the camera, if you drive above the speed limit between camera locations, you can be caught.

Mobile speed cameras can only be used in Victoria Police-approved locations. They detect the speed of motorists in both directions. Camera operators can select any place within the approved locations that meets the guidelines. They go through a process of setting up and testing the camera, as well as checking the speed signs either side of the camera location. When their session is finished the data is transmitted for processing.


Sheriff of Victoria and Director of Infringement Services, Brendan Facey, recently showed RACV how red-light and speed camera images were processed.

Two people independently check that the camera operator followed the processes and met the guidelines, including that the speed limit is correct.

Every mobile camera is checked to ensure it is in the correct place before its images are assessed, and every image of an offence is double checked to ensure it meets the criteria.

If there is doubt, a third check is undertaken. This reduces the chance that anyone receives an infringement notice in error.

Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) cameras are also used in Victoria. Vehicles equipped with the ANPR cameras park beside roads and drive through car parks, scanning the number plates of vehicles.

If the registered owner has outstanding fines or warrants, the Sheriff or police are alerted.


If you get an infringement and believe you have grounds to seek a review, follow the directions on the infringement notice.

It is generally not possible for a red-light camera offence to be converted to a warning unless there is a proven emergency situation.


Victoria Police set the speed enforcement policy and process requests for reviews of fines.

The Department of Justice and Regulation operates the fixed and mobile cameras.

VicRoads ensures traffic lights are correctly set and operating and that speed zone signs are correctly positioned.

The Road Safety Camera Commissioner ensures the integrity of the system. The commissioner cannot investigate individual cases.


A yellow light means you should stop if safe to do so, before entering the intersection.

Speeding to “beat the red” is dangerous and will likely result in speeding and red light fines.

If you can’t safely stop at the stop line, the road rules allow you to stop before entering the intersection.

Written by Dave Jones, Manager, Roads and Traffic at RACV
April 04, 2016