A decision taken by ACT government ministers to save money is set to cost Canberrans millions at a time many are suffering financial strain because of COVID-19.
It has been revealed traffic fine revenue is expected to rise by more than $32 million in the capital this financial year.
The increase is set to be driven by speeding fines relating to a new 40km/h zone in the city centre, where infringements have "exceeded all expectations" and provoked significant community backlash.
ACT road officials recommended letters be sent to every licensed driver in Canberra to warn them about the reduced speed limit ahead of fines being rolled out, but ministers rejected this idea.
It would have cost some $370,000 to send the warnings out across the ACT, but Minister for Better Regulation Tara Cheyne considered this too expensive.
She and Transport Minister Chris Steel also acknowledged it would be difficult to get the letters delivered in time given the lateness of the recommendation.
The expected increase in fine revenue is going to be significantly more costly for those pinged in the new 40km/h zone.
Of course, the proposed letters would not have prevented all, or even most, of the offences detected in the area in question.
And it must also be noted drivers are individually responsible for sticking to the speed limit. The best way to avoid a speeding fine is, after all, not to speed.
But it is poor form for the ACT government to rake in the cash from Canberrans who could have been given a better heads-up about the reduction of the speed limit.
The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a hefty toll on many in this city, with the current lockdown creating huge financial strain.
Massive numbers of businesses are closed or operating with reduced staffing levels, meaning a lot of people are earning less money than usual or even nothing at all.
No one enjoys getting a speeding fine at any time, but they are particularly painful in a pandemic for this reason.
It is also well known that it takes time for human beings to create or change their habits, and drivers who travel through the relevant area of the city centre every day would have no doubt been accustomed to the old speed limit.
The government's expectation that "driver behavioural change" will bring traffic fine revenue back down again in future fiscal years is surely an acknowledgement of this.
Giving people a better chance to adjust before hitting them in the hip pocket would have been the decent thing to do.
Maybe the three drivers each fined 12 times during July, the first month fines were issued in accordance with the new speed limit, would not have been so badly affected.
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