Traffic cameras find tots hard to spot

By Mathew Dearnaley

Rhonwyn Newson was shocked to be fined for driving in a T2 lane with her two children, Maddison and Olivia.
Rhonwyn Newson was shocked to be fined for driving in a T2 lane with her two children, Maddison and Olivia.

A mother who was driving in a high-occupancy vehicle lane with her two young children was shocked to get a $150 infringement notice.

Auckland Transport blamed tinted car windows for the error and yesterday agreed to cancel the notice after reviewing video footage taken of Rhonwyn Newson's car in a T2 transit lane on Constellation Drive, North Shore.

Mrs Newson said she was shocked to receive the notice on Tuesday as her car was carrying more than the minimum of two occupants she thought she needed to be eligible.

Happily strapped into their child seats behind her were sisters Maddison, 3, and Olivia, 1.

"I was pretty put out by the $150 - that's quite a bit," she said.

"I get annoyed with people cutting in when there is only one person in a car, but if you are eligible [to use the lane], I believe you should go for it."

She was relieved when told by the Herald that Auckland Transport had agreed to revoke the notice after going back over footage of her car, taken on October 11.

Spokesman Mark Hannan said that although two high-resolution cameras were used to video each vehicle passing enforcement officers in high-occupancy lanes, difficulties were caused by tinted windows.

"It can also be hard to spot a baby in a reverse-facing capsule because these are sometimes lower than the level of the window."

Mr Hannan said Auckland Transport had good-quality editing suites allowing enforcement officers to slow camera footage, increase brightness, zoom and take stills to view the interiors of vehicles.

Notices were cancelled if, when examining the footage, an infringement review team could not be sure of the number of vehicle occupants.

He said Mrs Newson's notice would be cancelled.

Mrs Newson was reassured by Mr Hannan's advice that "children are of course valid occupants for T2 or T3 lanes, regardless of their age".

Mr Hannan said it would take some time to respond to a Herald request to break down figures for alleged breaches of bus and transit lanes, to estimate how many motorists were let off.

Auckland Transport issued more than 43,000 infringement notices in its first two years, from late 2010, but has yet to process an official information legislation request from the newspaper for an update.

The rules

Bus lanes

Can be used by buses, cyclists, motorcyclists and emergency services, or by other vehicles only if turning left within the next 50m.

T3 lanes

Can be used by all vehicles with three or more occupants, regardless of their age.

T2 lanes

Can be used by all vehicles with two or more occupants, regardless of their age.

- NZ Herald

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