Tuesday, February 15, 2005


While many have decried the spread of speed cameras and highway patrols as revenue gathering, it seems to be working. The police are issuing fewer tickets - not because they're not looking hard enough for speeding drivers (they clearly are), but because fewer people are speeding. And the effect can be seen in the annual road-toll - down 65 between 2003 and 2004.

That drop alone should give some pause for thought. If 65 more people a year were being murdered, there would be an outcry from the opposition and demands for a greater focus of police resources on solving the problem. Yet that is effectively what has happened with the road toll, and ACT's Ken Shirley calls it "a disgrace".

It isn't a disgrace. Simply in terms of reducing deaths, injuries and property damage, the emphasis on reducing speeding is worthwhile. And given that they're the people doing much of the killing, having speeding motorists pay for it only seems fair.


For those drivers who are to blame for their own demise, isn't that "suicide" rather than "murder".

Posted by Rich : 2/15/2005 11:55:00 AM

That’s incredibly simplistic:
1. So speeding motorists (general) should be ‘taxed’ by way of tickets for damaged caused by crashes of other motorists (specific)? Perhaps we should be taxing drivers of black vehicles b/c they’re statistically more likely to be involved in accidents?
2. Where’s the direct causal link between issuing speeding tickets and reduction in the road toll (excluding different roading conditions, weather conditions, traffic volumes, and statistical variance)? The relationship is weak, and undermined by the quality of the accident statistics.
3. Has anyone analysed the cost to national productivity and quality of life of the many vehicles now travelling *slower* than the speed limit, presumably b/c their drivers are becoming too frightened of getting ‘pinged’ speeding or over-cognisant of the dangers surrounding them on the road to exercise skill and confidence in control of their vehicle? Seems it’s been far easier to frighten people with punitive fines and bloody advertising than it is to teach them to drive competently, and this has a quality-of-life impact for everyone which is rarely touted as counterbalancing the ‘success’ of reducing the road toll.

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2005 12:15:00 PM

Just sort out the normal policing first like controling organized gangs and such.
Once you have that under control you can use spare time for tickets. But that is not how the system works - it works by ring fenced funding.
I personally would prefer to see unmanned equipment as opposed to road blocks - saves on manpower.

Posted by Genius : 2/15/2005 12:30:00 PM

Andrewh: I think a reduction of 65 deaths a year speaks for itself.

Also, you seem to be under the misapprehension that speeding tickets are some sort of mandatory insurance levy to help pay for the damage caused by speeding drivers, rather than an incentive for people to stop engaging in behaviour which endangers others.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/15/2005 01:23:00 PM

Genius: Car accidents kill and injure more than gangs. if you're interested in protecting life and property, then road safety is a sensible investment.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 2/15/2005 01:24:00 PM

My issue is that it has become almost ‘right-think’ that speed-=accidents=bad. And I have several problems with this:
a) some of the stats around speed/accident causality that are used to justify campaigns and spending are as flaky as those around drink/driving (note: I support the 100mg limit and the road campaigns to support it). There’s a guy somewhere around Kapiti who runs his own accident stats database (can’t remember his name, sorry) and who has compellingly dissected previous pseudo-scientific recommendations in the past, such as the 50mg alcohol recommendation. The death rate has gone down/up inexplicably in the past, and yes 65 deaths is so significant the campaigns have clearly had an impact, but its not rational to attribute the good news directly to the campaign without establishing what is causal (have the high petrol prices discouraged vehicle usage in the past year?)
b) you don’t produce good/decent/sensible human beings by regulation, at least not without undesirable side-effects. You can constrain/punish individuals on the fringes (legislating/enforcing works well in setting outer boundaries on behaviour), but start punishing a large portion of society and the backlash is real (eg police credibility is way down now and officers under attack in Christchurch get no public support), quite apart from the resources tied up doing so.
c) we have a transport system based around user-controlled vehicles that are prone to pilot error. Throw in few median barriers, young drivers, lots of twisty roads due to geography and financial constraints. It *is* a tragedy that people continue to die on specific, problematic stretches of road where negligible safety improvements have been made, and in easily-preventable situations, such as through impatience built up because of a lack of passing lanes on major highways. But it’s not a tragedy that people continue to die on the roads in general – the possibility of death is the price of life. We *should* be taking prudent and reasonable actions to reduce unnecessary deaths, but we need take care not to begin attempting to remove reasonable risk from life due to a human fear of death. It’s futile, expensive and rapidly begins to encroach on individuals rights to lead their own lives.
d) basically I don’t believe at heart that the roads are so unsafe that the measures are justified, or that a lemming-like population that would presumably have few accidents is worth it. Plus I’m probably a bit p*ssed that the road-builders keep straightening out all the best corners and taking the fun out of riding a motorbike..

Posted by Anonymous : 2/15/2005 05:21:00 PM

> then road safety is a sensible investment.

Im less concerned about the investment of money than the investment of officers time. it seems to me you dont need to have people trained as police officers to check peoples breath for alcohol or to man a speed camera.

Posted by Genius : 2/15/2005 08:59:00 PM