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  1. #1
    Senior Pro racer Cam's Avatar
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    Apr 2011

    Knee-jerk reaction to a non-problem of speed

    Miranda Devine
    Tuesday, October 09, 2012 (7:39pm)

    YOU know if 80 per cent of people are disobeying a law, it’s probably the law that needs fixing rather than the people. But in these illiberal times, we ramp up the punishment.

    So when a Macquarie University study this month found that 70 to 80 per cent of drivers break the 40km/h speed limit when entering school zones, the usual call went up for more speed cameras and tougher fines.

    This is the solution to every road safety issue from the robotic RTA now uselessly rebadged as Roads and Maritime Services.

    But tomorrow a former RTA engineer will spill the beans on the failed logic and wasted money behind the state’s War on Speed which has had negligible impact on safety, and may in fact provoke a psychological backlash among motorists.

    Lex Stewart, RTA road safety manager between 1990 and 1997, will tell the Australian Institute of Traffic and Planning conference at Luna Park that better road safety comes from “flowing with” rather than going against “innate human psychology”.

    He says the number of road deaths has barely budged over the past decade as ever more drastic penalties have been enforced on motorists.

    School speed zones are an example of a kneejerk reaction to a non problem that has diverted resources from more pressing safety issues. “All this huge money spent (on school zones) has had very small benefit because there never were any significant numbers of children killed or injured near schools in the first place,” he said.

    He counters the argument that any price is worth saving a life by saying that if money is diverted from programs that could save 50 lives, “all that we have achieved is to kill 49 people”.

    Five police highway patrol officers he interviewed for his paper complained that school zones were being “forced” on them and were difficult to enforce, diverting police attention away from more pressing issues such as bike helmets.

    Stewart advocates scrapping all 40km/h school speed zones and instead employing more school crossing supervisors trained as special constables with the power to enforce 50 or

    60km/h limits. “They can also talk to children, educating them in road safety, something that cameras cannot do.”

    He said Australian authorities were “unusually obsessed” with speeding, at the risk of underemphasising the dangers of drunk driving or driving without a seatbelt.

    Speed cameras were “purely punitive, not educational” he said. “We need to ask those obsessed with speed cameras why Germany, with no speed limit at all on its autobahns, has a fatality rate of 0.7, which is substantially better than NSW’s 0.9 and Australia’s 0.8.”

    The NSW Auditor-General’s report into speed cameras last year was a “damning indictment of RTA incompetence and arrogance”. The report found 70 per cent of submissions viewed cameras as revenue raisers, and only 28 per cent of cameras produced statistically significant improvements in road safety.”

    “It is far more effective to use roving highway patrol officers.”

    When he was in charge of road safety in 90 per cent of the state west of Lithgow, Stewart wanted every motorist to see a blue flashing light on their travels.

    He told police in his patch that if a driver is travelling at 112km/h in a 110 zone you pull him over, and “have a chat”, about the inadvisability of breaking the speed limit, the hazards of fatigue and the whereabouts of the closest rest stop is. Then you send him on his way without a ticket.

    This way the community is involved in taking responsibility for driving safely.

    While politicians and bureaucrats “piously” rail against speeding, claiming it is the No.1 road safety problem, “there is little hard data to back them up”, he said.

    By contrast, the data on drink driving is accurate, since blood samples are taken from people involved in a crash, and tell us that alcohol is involved in 21 per cent of road deaths and 19 per cent of crashes.

    Similarly, failure to wear a seatbelt (or a helmet) resulted in 12 per cent of deaths.

    But the official line that “up to 40 per cent” of crashes are caused by excessive speed is a guess, Stewart said, based on insufficient scientific evidence, flawed data and inadequate police accident reports.

    Stewart is all for bringing down speeds where appropriate, such as in residential areas where reducing the speed limit from 60 to 50km/h means less damage if a car hits a bike or pedestrian.

    But the blanket assault on speed is absurd: “Why not make all speed limits 10km/h?”

    Stewart is not just a critic. He has a lot of worthwhile solutions, including the introduction of a fairer “merit” scheme of 100 points, and speeding fines scaled more logically.

    He advocates removing 90 per cent of speed cameras and putting the money into more highway patrol officers, encouraged to have frequent interactions with drivers in an educational/warning role.

    One officer plus car costs about $200,000. If he books four people per shift then the fines reap the state $200,000. They are “close to being self-funding”. he said. “Why the reluctance to employ more?”

    He would also erect lots more speed limit “reassurance” signs so drivers know how fast they can go, increase driver education and require new cars to have black box recorders so the role of speed, fatigue and so on can be assessed.

    Stewart’s ideas, backed by his experience at the front line, are well worth heeding.

    But Roads Minister Duncan Gay, who will open the conference this morning, did not respond to Stewart’s offer to view his paper. Gay went into office a champion of motorists, opposed to punitive fines and cameras. But like every minister before him, he is now captured by his department and addicted to the revenue.
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  2. #2
    Senior superstar Davros's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2010
    Australia - Sydney
    Thanks for that Cam.
    A lot to take in but simple message is simple.
    Governments more interested in the money than the safety.
    Davros (Dave)
    2014 Indian Chief Classic - "Bertha"

  3. #3
    Administrator Site Admin

    superstar admin's Avatar

    Join Date
    Mar 2007
    Does any states use Crash data for camera location ?

    Speed cameras ineffective
    Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm

    Liberal Democratic Party Senator David Leyonhjelm has slammed road safety authorities for their obsession with speed cameras as a means of reducing road accidents.

    His criticism followed reports the ACT government has raised almost $5 million from just five speed cameras in the year to February 2015. These five speed cameras were the same top earners for the government in the preceding year, indicating they were having little effect on driver behaviour.

    “The data highlights our concerns governments are using speed cameras to fleece motorists of large amounts of money for no improvement in road safety outcomes” said Senator Leyonhjelm.

    “The recent report of the ACT Auditor-General found no evidence speed cameras reduced speeding. Motorists generally adjust their speed to the conditions and are sick of being treated as an easy source of revenue for government.

    “The Auditor-General also found the government has no idea whether its road safety camera program will contribute substantially to achieving the ACT and National Road Safety Strategy goals.

    The ACT does not use crash data in choosing speed camera sites, but has chosen sites that will maximise revenue.

    “I have real concerns about the direction of the National Road Safety Strategy with its obsession over lowering speed limits and introducing further punitive measures against drivers” said Senator Leyonhjelm.



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