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Anti-speeding campaign hasn’t lowered holiday road toll - motoring writer

The provisional holiday road toll is seven, says Assistant Commissioner Dave Cliff.

Last year there were six road deaths over the period.

"While I'm pleased we are nowhere near the 2011/2012 figure of 19 deaths, we still have too many grieving families whose holiday has been shattered by road trauma," Mr Cliff says.

The holiday period ran from 4pm, December 24 to 6am, Friday January 3.

"I take some comfort from the fact that since we launched our Safer Summer campaign we have achieved the lowest number of December deaths since 1965 with 23 fatalities," Mr Cliff says.

"Nevertheless the fact remains that we wouldn't tolerate such fatality numbers for any other reason."

The provisional road toll for 2013 of 254 is the lowest in the last 60 years, Associate Transport Minister Michael Woodhousesays. This compares with 308 in 2012, 284 in 2011, and 375 in 2010.

“The 2013 road toll was 34 per cent lower than four years ago and it’s particularly pleasing that 15-24 year olds have seen a significant drop with a 37 per cent lower road toll than in 2009,” Mr Woodhouse says.

“While the number of cars on the roads has increased significantly, our annual road toll has now more than halved from 20 years ago, when 600 New Zealanders a year were killed on the roads."

The tragic holiday road toll is proof that tough anti-speeding campaigns, by themselves, do little to reduce accidents, says the car review website
Editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, who is an active road safety campaigner, says, “When the holiday road toll drops, the police claim credit, When the holiday road toll rises, as it did this year, the police blame the motorists. They can’t have it both ways.”
"I know that the police are sincerely trying to lower the road toll by targeting illegal speeding, but the sad reality is that about 80% of fatalities occur at speeds below the legal limit. Of the 20% of fatal accidents that occur over the speed limit, most involve either motorcyclists, or young, working-class males on the edge of the criminal community who are often blotto or tired or both. The government’s own studies show this.”
“The police justify their anti-speed campaigns by pointing to research that shows a 5% reduction in the average speed on the open road is typically associated with a reduction of around 20% in fatal accidents.”
“The problem is, the government’s own figures show that the average speed of motorists hasn't dropped in five years, but the road toll plummeted during this time. Therefore, it’s nonsense to claim that the police anti-speed campaign saved lives by lowering average speeds. The recent drop in the road toll is simply a continuation of a downward trend that started in the late 1980s, and is largely the result of safer cars, safer roads and improved medical care.”
“Ticketing mums and dads taking the kids on holiday will not lower the road toll, because mums and dads taking the kids on holiday rarely cause accidents, unless fatigue or alcohol are involved.”
“While the police target mums and dads, the high risk groups continue to end up injured or dead. Trying to lower the road toll by targeting relatively innocent motorists is a tragic waste of police resources.”
Mr Matthew-Wilson believes technology is the key to lowering the road toll further.
“Most of the serious accidents over the holiday break occurred where the road or the vehicle didn’t protect the occupants from their own mistakes. Simple technology such as rumble strips, roadside fencing and centre medium barriers would have prevented many of the serious accidents over the holiday period. If the vehicles that rolled over had been fitted with electronic stability control, most of these rollover accidents would probably have never occurred.”

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Comments and questions

Here here- just a revenue grab in lowering the speed limit - plain and simple!

Yep, it's a no brainer. Obession about speed over stupidity. Speed is easier to fine. Stupidity takes some effort to ticket.

Fully agree.
Some of the latest fatalities in the South Island are caused by tourists driving on the wrong side of the road, or stopping to take photos without pulling off the road.
Nothing whatsoever to do with speeding.

Mr Matthew-Wilson and the NBR commentary is quite correct.
I don't expect the police hierarchy to accept this stance as at a political level the easy revenue will cover up any debate. This years 4 km experiment is widely discussed as a complete failure in all regards except revenue.
Technology is arriving fast and I guarantee in not so many years even self driving cars will become common and that will bring a whole set of new issues, especially the lack of fining and penalty opportunities. The government will still budget to receive in fines and wont embrace the new technology willingly. The cars will be safer and will rarely crash, they will therefore not need so much weighty safety gear.
Even bus lanes may be endangered as folk choose the safe small plastic personal modules to get about rather than the large usually empty belching diesel lumps the concept of which only survives on subsidy.


Speed is rarely the cause of an accident (though it does effect the amount of damage).

Cannot completely agree with you Harvey. "Inappropriate" speed is still a material issue. Speed becomes inappropriate when assessed against road conditions,visibilty, and predominantly Driver Talent.
Yes, if speed alone was dangerous, motor racing would kill hundreds. But where that speed is inappropriate, then there will be problems.

International data shows that road surfaces and driving conditions are major factors....never mentioned by the revenue grabbers.
The weather was much milder this year too.
Thank you for providing an antidote to the pathetic PC Herald.

A well written article, with a solid based argument. However the millions of dollars made by raping motorists for driving 'to the condition' on main straight safe South Island highways, albeit 4km over the limit, will never convince the authorities that speed isn't the enemy..... (Not that it's anything to do with revenue collection) yea rite.

I will be convinced that road policing has nothing to do with revenue collection, the day that the officer on the side of the asks you which charity you would like your fine to go to?

Agreed, revenue gathering exercise . Mums and Dads are also harmless to approach and Police have a way better chance of the fine being paid .
Generalizing that all drivers have the same skills and experience has always been a mystery to me . Slow drivers are the worst!

an extra death, from 6 last year to 7 this year, is a high percentage increase in deaths.
The explanation is very simple; drivers were so preoccupied with watching their speedometer, that they weren't watching the road and traffic ahead of them. I can just about guarantee, that there were far more collision incidents this holiday period than last; incidents that didn't warrant Police attention, but still 'collisions'

Absolutely agree. And in that regard Cruise Control or a manual speed limiting device are safety devices, not just features. The more time spent with your eyes out of the car the safer we all are!!

If police focussed on poor driving habits and not solely on speed I would be confident that we would see inroads being made on accident rates. When was the last time you saw somebody pulled over for crossing the centre-line or failing to give way let-alone stop at a Stop sign? And why is it that police are still not carrying out random drug testing in the same way that they do for alcohol? Saliva testing has improved the efficacy of testing and whilst it remains reasonably expensive, as a taxpayer, it's a price I would be prepared to pay if it gets people who really shouldn't be there and pose an unacceptable risk off our roads.

I agree about the lack of proper drug testing as is done Australia. The only reason it is not done is cost, which further proves their policies are based on money earning & saving.

It's not speed itself that causes accidents. It is inappropriate speed in the given situation eg weather, volume of traffic etc. I contend that I concentrate on my driving much more at 120kmh than I do at 100kmh and therefore my driving at that speed is safer. Restricting the speed limit to 100kmh in good conditions is ridiculous and ticketing 4kmh over is outright revenue collection.

Once again this Christmas my progress on the motorways was hindered by slow and ignorant drivers who drive under the speed limit and don't pull over when they see a tailback accumulating behind them. These drivers are a big cause of accidents as people following become frustrated. If Police actually targeted these slow drivers I might accept they are genuinely trying to reduce accidents.

Agree totally. the 90km area on SH27 puts most to sleep. Which is even more dangerous.

It's not speed itself that causes accidents. It is inappropriate speed in the given situation eg weather, volume of traffic etc. I contend that I concentrate on my driving much more at 120kmh than I do at 100kmh and therefore my driving at that speed is safer. Restricting the speed limit to 100kmh in good conditions is ridiculous and ticketing 4kmh over is outright revenue collection.

Once again this Christmas my progress on the motorways was hindered by slow and ignorant drivers who drive under the speed limit and don't pull over when they see a tailback accumulating behind them. These drivers are a big cause of accidents as people following become frustrated. If Police actually targeted these slow drivers I might accept they are genuinely trying to reduce accidents.

Absolutely agree.

Anyone who has done statistics for more than 5 minutes wouldn't be trying to draw conclusion like this off a sample size of 6 or 7.
(1) At a faster speed, you travel further during your reaction time.
(2) At a faster speed, it takes a longer distance to brake or swerve to avoid a hazzard.
(3) If you hit something, at a faster speed there is more energy to be dissipated ( E= 1/2 MV2). So a little bit of speed is often all it takes to result in trauma beyond survivable levels for the human body.
Come up with all the revenue gathering theories you like, but these are the irrefutable facts.

Irrelvant in this context. The number of deaths caused by speeding is very very low, deaths are mainly caused by, inattention, poor driving, tiredness, alcohol ,in fact just about anything but speeding. speed can also get you out of trouble a lot faster than get you into it. just ask the Germans , one of the safest countries in the world in which to drive. de-restricted Autobahns et-al.

Regarding point 1- you're wrong.
Regarding point 2- we don't have any roads in New Zealand that have any resemblance to the Autobahns. If we did, then speeds on them could be higher.

Reply to Actual expert, ... I spent most of my working career regularly travelling at speeds of 400 -500 kph, it never killed me; BUT ineptitude and lack of aptitude at that speed may have. Our roads are laden with such drivers, who are dangerous at 20 kph.
Any one who has a basic grasp of driving conditions on our roads knows that they are not level, vehicles will freewheel above the speed limit very quickly at the least downhill gradient, long before an attentive driver can prevent it. This is the fallacy in the Police 4 kph policy; as a policy it is nothing other than 'opportunistic Revenue gathering'.

So you want a different speed law or enforcement level for the inept?
80% of Kiwis think they're above average drivers. Clearly they're not all right.
Maybe while they're at it laws and enforcement could be different for people who should be able to beat their wives- because they were asking for it.
Regarding your second comment- so you're saying you're an attentive driver, but can't keep track of the speed you're doing and adjust accordingly.

Yes, and that cuts both ways so neither can you draw any firm conclusions from a small sample size of only 6 and 7 deaths.

And while it may well be that the faster you go the bigger the mess, that in and of itself says nothing about whether the chance of an accident increases when travelling at speeds of 110-120km/h rather than at 100km/h, only that the probability of serious injury becomes greater should one happen. What we should be focusing on is reducing the number of accidents that we have at whatever speed we have them. And that means better cars, better roads and most importantly, better drivers.

I never started this discussion off a sample size of 6 or 7.
If you look at the reductions in both open road speeds and trauma rates over a long period, you'll see a strong correlation ,
You're wrong regarding your second point. The objective should be to reduce deaths and injuries, not the number of crashes.
Fewer crashes at higher speeds equals higher levels of trauma, beyond what the human body can withstand.
You acknowledge the faster you go the bigger the mess, yet seem to refute the actual consequences

If there's no crash there's no consequence. That should be obvious to everybody, including an actual expert. And you haven't addressed one of my points. By how much does travelling at 10-20km/h over the speed limit increase the risk of an accident actually happening? Oh, and correlation does not imply causation, as I'm sure you know.

The corollary of your comment suggests we should reduce all speeds to a safe speed that the passenger and (most inept) driver will not sustain any trauma in the now extremly unlikely event of an accident.
What should that theoretical speed be? 80 kmph? 60 would be better. Oh no, lowert than that. They reduced the Paekakariki Hill road to 60 kmph 12 months ago and still experienced 4 serious crashes. Nope 60's too fast. Perhaps 40 kmph on all roads might do the trick!
Yup, that's my vote, 40 kmph!
No accidents, no deaths, no crashes, supposedly.

Here are seven things we could do to help with the road toll (from a layman's perspective). We probably won't because they all cost money rather than generate revenue.

1: New Zealand's fleet of cars is quite old by international standards. Modern cars are a lot safer so upgrading the fleed (making it harder to keep older cars) is an easy win for road safety.

2: New Zealand's roads are often appallingly dangerous with little room to manoeuvre should anything go wrong. We should replace all soft shoulders instead of hard, to give drivers an escape route that doesn't end up in the car sliding out of control.

3: Median strips made of cheesewire (designed to finish off motorcyclists, it would seem) should all be replaced.

4: All open-air culverts on country roads should be closed in (again, they give drivers little or no room to respond to any incident),

5: Our motorways are often built with too few lanes. We have many in Auckland that have two lanes only. Three should be the minimum - one to merge/exit, one to overtake and the centre lane to cruise in. You can't do that safely on a two-lane motorway and so stress levels build.

6: Our surface roads seem designed to encourage drivers into the right-hand lane at intersections. Not sure why, but it means we have drivers who overtake on the left to get a bit further ahead when the light goes green - something that is replicated on the motorways where all too often the car in the right-hand lane is happy to trundle along oblivious to the cars behind which end up overtaking on the inside.

7:The driver's test doesn't include driving on motorways or at 100kph. The basic skills needed to drive safely at such speeds should be part of the test.

The TEST also doesn't seem to include any Night driving skills examination. The time when most of our horrific accidents seem to occur.

It is obvious you are a layman.
Point 3 - wire rope barriers are one of the greatest road engineering improvements possible of saving lives. The wire absorbs the energy of a crash and dissipate it over a large area and therefore reducing the impact on occupants. It is the best method for stopping the vehicle and avoiding it bouncing back into the lane or into the oncoming one. The cheese wire myth put up by motorcyclists is just that. A myth. They actually bounce off wire too too. It you think concrete or metal barriers are safer- feel free to try hitting them.
Motorcycles will never be safe, especially at the high speeds most of them ride at.
Yes - we have an old vehicle fleet. How do you propose making it newer? Legislating them off the road after say 10 years would be a popular move wouldn't it?
There is merit in some of your road engineering suggestions. However NZ has 88,000 km's of road and at a few million dollars per km to do the type of work you're suggesting, it will take decades and costs trillions, so good luck with that.
Tougher speed enforcements is a much quicker and cheaper way to achieve further reductions in road trauma.

@ Actual expert – just another correction:

You should try reading some actual studies and reports sometime before commenting. For example, research papers have shown that wire cable barriers do increase the chance of injury to motorcycle riders due to the snagging effect which causes massive deceleration and resulting body trauma. With concrete barriers this snagging effect doesn't exist and the rider tends to bounce off the barrier in roughly the same direction of travel without the high level of deceleration (unless they ride directly into the barrier). There is some deceleration, though the level is greatly reduced in comparison to wire cable barriers.

I do still agree with the use of wire cable barriers, though, as there is a net decrease in overall accident injuries once the reduction in car-based injuries is taken into account. Any barriers will do this, however the relative low cost of wire cable barriers means that they will have an increased rate of deployment which is better for road safety overall.

Also, the arrogance and poor grammar of starting a response with “it is obvious you are a layman” invalidates your argument to a large extent. Paul made 7 good points (#3 was obviously from the perspective of a motorcyclist) which is more than you've done thus far in this debate.

Feel free to give your name and area of expertise which justifies calling yourself an "Actual expert".

The official line seems to be. "You are going to have accident, but if you are not going too fast, it will not be too bad". Why not concentrate on improving motorists' driving skills, and forbid overtaking on the left on motorways; and, insist that EVERYONE keeps in the left-hand lane except when overtaking. I have cruised at 140-150 in Germany and Northern Territories, and seen no accidents.

A huge portion in the reduction of road deaths have been primarily through a) the installation of motorway medium barriers b) safety features in motor vehicles c) lower alcohol limits for driving d) advances in medical care

I was in the fire department during the 1970′s when fatalities were at their peak and where slaughter on Auckland’s Motorways / Mercer area, was almost a daily occurrence. For example, on one wet Friday night circa 1977, I extricated x 3 deceased from x 3 different accidents in around 3 hours on North Western motorway/Harbour bridge/Southern motorway, at a time when there were no medium barriers. For a time, I had a special interest in the extraction techniques of persons trapped in motor vehicles. The consensus in those days was that if everyone drove a Mercedes Benz, road deaths would be reduced dramatically. The speed card played by the Police is a red herring for a number of reasons and of course (as the Police claim), if one is driving faster and crashes, the chances of injury are greater (duh). All of us know that when we step onto an airplane and that should it crash, our chances of survival are very limited. It is the price and risk we take for living in today’s highly mobile world. If we don’t want deaths on our roads (or in our skies), then lets go back to the horse and cart, and ban aircraft too.

The Police do a great job but this obsession with speed does them no favours. It is simple a cash cow for the government and for the Police to claim otherwise, is pure hogwash.

We must all accept that a life lost, is a life lost and whatever we can do to reduce the road toll is great but hang on consider this. In the 1980's we had considerably less traffic and even less people on the roads, we also travelled less distances, yet we killed in one year 800 pax. In real terms when you consider the number of motorists and the distances we annually travel, then the road toll is so low it's of little consequence. But The revenue collectors then rave on about other country stastics in order to justify raping millions out of motorists, they compare is to countries like the USA and Australia. The countries we are compared to have dual carriage ways, making it impossible to have a head on, (the real killer). As they say there are lies, real lies and there are statistics. FACT as long as we have cars on the road we will have deaths, pure and simple.

I cant say this was a very well researched article and hasn't really pointed to any good data sources published by the Ministry of transport.
A quick Google shows 2 pretty good documents.
1. NZ Vehicle Fleet Statistics.

a. NZ Vehicle fleet average age is 12 years.
b. About 50% of all travel in the light fleet, is done by vehicles manufactured after the year 2000.
c. The more modern a vehicle it the higher average km's it will do. Eg a vehicle manufactured in 2012 does about 20,000km/year. Vs older sub 2000 vehicles which do on average 7000km/year.
d. The per capita travel distance in the light fleet has also decreased from 2006 which was 9000km per person, in 2012 it is about 7500km per person.

On the speed side. There are some interesting facts.

a. In New Zealand, for the years 2010 to 2012, driver speed was a factor in 29 percent of fatal crashes, 19 percent of serious injury crashes and 14 percent of minor injury crashes.
b. Loss of control and head-on crashes are the most common types of fatal crash involving speeding. Over four-fifths of the fatal crashes in which speed was a factor fall into these categories.
c. In the year 2000 15% of drivers measured drove faster than 111km.
In the year 2012 15% of drivers measured drove faster than 103km.
d. For every 100 drivers or riders who died in road crashes in which speeding was a contributing factor, 54 of their passengers and another 15 road users died with them.

My take on this is that our vehicle fleet composition has improved from previous years. More modern vehicles are quickly doing more kms. The fastest drivers are slowing down. Each speeding drivers that kills him or herself will kill 0.54 passengers and 0.15 persons outside their vehicle.

Speeding is not the primary cause of all fatal accidents but a very clear and identifiable segment that can be monitored & managed. Alcohol & Drugs is another very clear segment and I know there are very strong campaigns and enforcement of this segment.

I have no quarms with the lower speed limit but I do drive a modern car and have adaptive cruise control (set max speed and it will automatically brake and accelerate my vehicle based on the front vehicles speed). Not to mention active safety features like automatic braking, blind spot monitoring, turning headlights etc.

For the "revenue gathering" statement. This is just a red hearing, it has nothing to do with the question. Does enforcing a lower speed limit reduce our road toll?

The no speed limit on autobahns in Germany has an interesting statistic. There are half the road deaths compared to the fully controlled roads such as Denmark.

Part of the reason is the removal of frustration and stupid reaction to that frustration.Concentration by drivers is also increased.

The new restrictions in NZ may well increase deaths by being too restrictive,increasing frustration and forcing Mum and Dad to watch the speedometer instead of the road.

Just remember with your point (a) that driver speed also includes accidents beneath the speed limit. So you're saying between 71-100% of fatal crashes were beneath the speed limit. Also that's where speed was a factor, not the factor for a crash.

So sounds like there's better places to put effort

I think we all acknowledge the anti speed campaign by the Police is as much a revenue gathering exercise as anything else. However one should also acknowledge the government have starved the Police of funds, and this is one way of balancing their books.

If I remember, it was dishonourable John Banks that was behind the amalgamation of the Traffic Department & Police. Like most of his decisions, this was based around saving money. It did do that (temporarily), but did nothing to enhance the integrity and goodwill of the Police in general. Now we have relatively expensive traffic enforcement, with speeding fines in place to pay for their wages.

The governments focus should be on obtaining a drivers license. Speaking from personal experience, 95% of my accidents happened before I was 25 years old. Thankfully, at no cost to lives, other than increased insurance premiums and a few more dents.

If we can reduce the number of accidents, thats where the real savings would be. Lower insurance premiums, less public resource tied up with attending accidents and no bills to fix damages; that never happened. Using my own costs as an example, this would run into Hundreds of millions of dollars in savings for the economy. Money saved could then be spent on positive investment. Perhaps thats where the Government/Police PR focus should be.

An accident is an unforeseen event; there are hundred's of variables that can happen in any one instant, Traffic police stationed at every 1km on every road in NZ, cannot stop an accident occurring.
For the millions of road trips made by vehicles everyday, the fatality rate is low.
Issuing speeding tickets is an easy revenue grab but does little for road safety. There is never any monitoring of drivers failing to keep left or dangerous overtaking. What about slow drivers who are completely unaware of what's around them.
Trucks! what about large truck and trailer units regularly doing up to 20kmph above the speed limit of 90kmph and getting away with it by radioing their fellow drivers?

None of you have mentioned.....patrolling cops out on the road (not in meetings/ court/ filling out documentation etc)
Having recently travelled to and from Auckland to Gisborne, I can say I never saw a single patrol car on duty.
NZ is one of the few countries where they never bother to man intersections in pile-upped traffic, but sit on the side observing and collecting statistics....which enable them to take a day-off real work, calculating what they observed.
Has anyone seen the Umpa-Lumpa Orange cars....other than on TV.

Good on you for speaking out on this issue Clive. At last there is a voice giving balance to the debate on speed. The continuous tightening of screws by multi government agencies on the average motorist is becoming oppressive as we seem to be heading inexorably to more and more control on everyday and normal behavior.

For example, driving 105km/hr on a four lane highway with a design speed of 140km/hr on a bright sunny day is not a crime. It should not be punished and is simply ridiculous to anyone who has spent time driving outside of NZ.