Police speed enforcement proposal “misguided”

MEDIA RELEASE - 09/02/2012

A police proposal to permanently target drivers who are 4 kilometres over the open road speed limit is misguided, says a leading road safety campaigner.

Clive Matthew-Wilson, who edits the car review website dogandlemon.com, says:

"However much the government tries to massage the figures, the reality is that most fatalities occur at speeds below the legal limit."

A 2009 AA study of 300 fatal crashes found:

"Exceeding speed limits aren't a major issue. Police surveying has found that even the top 15% of open-road speeders average under 110km/h."

The AA report concluded that:

"It is apparent that [many speed-based road fatalities] were caused by people who don't care about any kind of rules. These are men who speed, drink, don't wear safety belts, have no valid license or WoF - who are basically renegades. They usually end up wrapped around a tree, but they can also overtake across a yellow line and take out other motorists as well."

Matthew-Wilson gave the example of Bevan Shane Marino, a South Auckland gang associate who caused a multiple fatality while drunk and on cannabis. His own 3-year old son, who was not wearing a seatbelt, was thrown through the windscreen of the car. Marino was driving erratically and at high speed. His bald left rear tyre punctured and he lost control, killing two German tourists and two of his passengers.

Matthew-Wilson asks:

"How would ticketing the average driver who's 4k over the speed limit have prevented this accident?"

Matthew-Wilson accuses the police of massaging the statistics to suit their argument.

"When the road toll goes down over a holiday weekend, the police claim credit. When it rises by nearly 50%, as it did last Christmas, they blame the drivers. They can’t have it both ways."

Matthew-Wilson says the recent reduction in the annual road toll was largely the result of safer cars, safer roads and improved medical care.

"On paper, it makes perfect sense to spend millions on road safety ads and police anti-speeding campaigns targeting the average driver. In reality, there’s not much scientific evidence that these campaigns actually work."

"For 100 years, the police and road safety authorities targeted bad driving as the cause of road accidents. The road toll continued to rise until the 1970s, when safer cars and safer roads began to be built. From that point onwards, the road toll began to fall. and has continued to fall. The nut behind the wheel hasn’t changed. However, the driving environment has dramatically changed, so that mistakes don’t always result in fatalities."

"Road safety resources are limited. Unproven road safety strategies rob resources from proven ones. It’s that simple."

"For example, the government knows that if all vehicles used daytime running lights*, the road toll would drop significantly, at very little cost to the consumer or the government. Yet, just last year, the transport minister rejected this vital measure."

"The government also knows that unsafe roads contribute to nearly a third of the road toll**, but won’t fix many of the highest risk roads."

  • * According to European studies on the effectiveness of daytime running lights in improving road safety, the potential savings are:
• 25% of daytime multi-vehicle fatal accidents (11% of all non-pedestrian fatal accidents)
• 28% of daytime fatal pedestrian accidents (12% of all fatal pedestrian accidents)
• 20% of daytime multi-vehicle injury accidents
• 12% of daytime multi-vehicle property accidents.

    A review of daytime running lights

    Daytime running lights are available online for as little as $20 and can be installed on most cars in less than an hour. Due to improvements in LED technology, modern daytime running lights in most cases use less electricity than a conventional car stereo.

  • ** The AA estimates that measures such as such as installing wire rope centre barriers and rumble strips could prevent up to 90 road deaths per year. That’s nearly a third of the current road toll.