Among the many urban myths about speed camera vans, the one retold most often is when the van's camera captures the same car speeding past numerous times, only to discover later the registration recorded was the van's own plate.
The explanation goes that some wags had crept up to the camera van, quietly and carefully unscrewed its number plates, put them on their own car, then spent the rest of the evening speeding past with impunity, blowing their car horn and waving at the camera operator.
It's a story that sounds almost too good to be true - and sadly, it's not.
"I can't begin to tell you how many times I've heard that [story] before," camera operator Tony Taseski said.
"When you've been doing this job long enough, you eventually hear them all."
Mr Taseski has been part of the ACT's mobile traffic camera compliance team since 2004 when the first generation equipment consisted of a hand-operated radar speed gun mounted inside on a tripod which could swivel to detect speeding vehicles both through the van's windscreen and out the rear window.
These days the camera equipment, imported from The Netherlands and Germany, is fully automated and sits on fixed mounts, capturing images through the shatterproof glass of the van's rear window.
There are two basic components to the equipment: one is the infra-red flash gun and the other is the radar, with twin colour cameras mounted directly above and integrated with it.
And as the duress button on the dashboard of the van indicates, it's a thankless but important task to keep Canberra's speeding drivers in check.
After spending just a few minutes inside with an operator, it's little wonder that last year 26,666 infringement notices were issued by the territory's eight mobile camera vans.
Parked on Jerrabomberra Avenue monitoring the 40km/h school zone outside Narrabundah College, the van's location, signage and flashing hazard lights made it as obvious as a cruise ship on Lake Burley Griffin. And yet passing motorists kept speeding on by.
As the old saying goes, it's like shooting fish in a barrel.
"There's one [car] now at 48km/h, here's another one going the other way at 56km/h," Mr Taseski said, indicating the thick blue lines on the digital display where the vehicle detection occurred and the speed was recorded.
Every street in Canberra has a code, and every van has a GPS location stamp which is reproduced on the infringement notice.
The operators calibrate the equipment on set-up, and ensure its correct operation. They are always on duty inside the van, but don't trigger the camera. All the infringements are automatically recorded - in microseconds, and across up to six lanes of traffic - and logged into the onboard computer.
At the end of the operator's shift, the collected data is then sent to the adjudication team which views every single offence before it is issued.
Unlike every other state and territory in Australia, the ACT has an enlightened attitude toward its mobile speed monitoring. The white vans all have a large blue and white rooftop signs and their potential locations are all posted online. Residents can even nominate their own street as a location.
"We don't hide in the bushes or put cameras in wheelie bins," Chris Seddon, from the ACT's traffic camera compliance team said.
What the team won't divulge for operational reasons however, is the physical range of the cameras and the level of overspeed "tolerance" is built into the system before an offence is recorded.
"The best advice we offer to motorists is just to stick to the speed limits and they won't be recorded," Mr Seddon said.
Two more vans are joining the fleet this year, and are being outfitted ready for operation.
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