The City of Cape Town has released a statement confirming that, under its current policy, speed enforcement cameras (both static and manual) should be “visibly displayed”.

JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, said that he noted the fresh “public interest” in the city’s traffic and speed camera policy, which was tabled for approval at a mayoral committee meeting on 19 June 2018.

The policy, says Smith, is a “review of the existing traffic violation camera policy, which was approved by Council in June 2007”.

Smith said that while some media reports had framed “certain aspects” of the policy review document as "new", in reality these provisions “have been in place for the last eleven years”.

He confirmed that it had “always been policy that” camera warning signs be placed not more than one kilometre from a fixed speed camera; that fixed speed camera housings must be coloured yellow or covered with retro reflective sheeting; and that fixed or mobile cameras must be visible to vehicles approaching or departing from the point of enforcement.

“The only reason for the policy review was to determine whether the provisions are still relevant after eleven years and whether any changes are required. Public input was sought on the matter and the comments received are reflected in the documentation that is currently going through the various council processes,” read the statement from the city.

“There are two points of view on one of the key issues for the portfolio committee to consider, namely, whether the policy should allow enforcement staff to conceal traffic cameras or whether the policy should require them to be visible.

“The opposing points of view on the debate argue that it is better for the cameras to be visible as a deterrent to speeding, on the one hand; and, on the other, that it is better for cameras to be concealed as drivers should always be driving as if they think that there is a speed enforcement camera around and not just slowing down when they note a camera.

“The ultimate goal is to save lives and reduce fatalities on our roads as the number of fatal accidents on South African roads is extremely high. The portfolio committee considered these issues as well as the public comment received and confirmed the position held by the current policy that the speed enforcement cameras, both static and manual, should be visibly displayed,” the statement said.

Smith added that the safety and security and social services portfolio committee as well as the mayoral committee had approved the policy review. Next, the document would serve before full council for final approval.

“It must be noted that, contrary to popular belief, the city does not conduct speed enforcement to fill our coffers. The existing speed camera policy as well as the revised draft are very clear on where fixed and mobile cameras ought to be used,” the statement continued.

“The City of Cape Town’s traffic service is also the only traffic department that has such a policy in place. Over the years, the city has seen a somewhat lower income from speed enforcement than other cities as our focus has been on ensuring that speed and other traffic enforcement is done where accident rates are highest in order to save lives. This has led to reductions or stabilisation of the road death statistics in Cape Town relative to other metros.

“This issue has become a point of great debate, but the focus really should be on the behaviour of road users and what they are doing to contribute to road safety efforts. All road users have to share these same roads and we all carry the burden of ensuring that our roads become safer.

“When you warn an oncoming motorist of speed enforcement ahead, you are enabling reckless driving behaviour, which is one of the major causes of death on our road. The next accident caused by that driver could involve your family or you. The public interest of every driver in Cape Town is not in opposition to the enforcement efforts of the traffic department – our efforts exist to serve these drivers and their passengers and keep them alive on our roads,” the statement concluded.