New speed cameras target foreign offenders

A new generation of radar traps has gone into operation.Road authorities said today (Fri) that they have begun setting up high-tech speed cameras on some of Austria’s busiest motorways.Motorway authority Asfinag explained that the new devices were already operating at the A21 Außenring motorway in Vienna, the A10 Tauern motorway in Salzburg and the S1 main road in Vienna and Lower Austria.The federal interior ministry – which is in charge of the police – hopes the new type of radar traps will help it in punishing more speeders. Foreigners in particular have been ignoring speed limits in Austria by using a legal loophole to avoid paying up over the years.Thousands did so by claiming it could not be said for certain they were at the wheel themselves just because their vehicles were caught at too high speed by radar cameras taking pictures of the backsides of cars. Many more drivers from outside Austria simply ignored postal orders to pay fines for speeding in the country.Austrian authorities hardly ever took any offenders to court due to high bureaucratic efforts and costs. They are now optimistic that the new kind of speed cameras will increase the number of paid fines since their images are precise enough to reveal who is behind the steering wheel of a speeding car.Asfinag is expected to set up more of these new cameras as temperatures are set to climb again after the current cold snap. Subzero temperatures put many of the expensive new models installed across the country out of order as road salt damaged the devices’ sensitive lenses.Around 4.16 million drivers were fined for speeding last year, up by 0.6 per cent from 2009.More than 37,500 motorists were fined of reported to prosecutors for drink-driving at the same time (2009: 41,100).The federal interior ministry also said recently that around 128,000 drivers were fined for making phone calls behind the wheel without using hands-free equipment in 2010.The ministry added that 548 people were killed on Austrian roads last year. It pointed out that this was the lowest figure ever recorded since the registration of fatalities started in 1950.