Speed camera proposal 'misguided' – safety expert

Friday 13 May 2011, 7:14AM
By Dog & Lemon Guide

A proposal to increase the number of speed cameras and issue demerit points in place of fines is misguided, says the car review website

Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson says: “However much the government tries to massage the figures, the reality is that most fatalities occur at speeds below the legal limit. Therefore, to make a big song and dance about drivers who break the legal speed limit is simply a distraction from far more serious issues.”

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.”

Matthew-Wilson says that the proposal to issue demerit points for speeding instead of fines would make little difference, especially to the high risk groups, who already lived outside the law.

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: “Perhaps the minister of transport could explain how speed cameras and demerit points could have prevented this accident?” 

Matthew-Wilson supports the raising of the minimum driving age, but doubts demerit points will deter bad driving by young drivers.

“Even law-abiding teenagers aren’t very good at linking cause and effect in their minds. Telling teenagers they might lose their license at some future time is like telling them they should save for their retirement. They accept the theory, but it doesn’t really change the way they behave.”

Matthew-Wilson also pointed out that many young Maori don’t have a license in the first place.

Matthew-Wilson adds: “The government’s so-called road safety strategy is mostly a public relations stunt. Most studies have shown that the main reason for the lower road toll is a combination of safer cars and improved medical intervention. Accidents that would have killed you 20 years ago are now easily survivable. That’s why the death rates are falling but the injury rates are still very high.”

Matthew-Wilson says that it’s often far more effective to change the roads than to try and change the behaviour of drivers. He gave the example of the Auckland harbour bridge, which used to suffer one serious road accident every week.

“After a barrier was installed down the middle, the serious accidents stopped immediately. There wasn’t one less hoon or drunk driver, and yet the accidents stopped, because the road was changed in a way that prevented mistakes from becoming fatalities.”

Matthew-Wilson says that many other affordable, lifesaving measures were simply ignored by the government, such as the use of daytime headlights.

“World Health Organisation statistics show that vehicles using daytime running lights have a crash rate 10-15% lower than those that do not. Yet daytime headlights are not even mentioned in the government strategy.”

Matthew-Wilson adds:  “The government needs to go back and look at the basic facts before it starts announcing its latest round of misguided road safety initiatives.”