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Just 4km speed tolerance over summer - motoring writer rubbishes police initiative

Police say there will be reduced speed threshold of 4km/h over December and January, down from a usual open road tolerance of 10% or 10km/h.

The reduced limit will be "strictly enforced."

The action marks the first time a lower threshold has been extended beyond a long weekend.

Police say In all holiday periods in 2008 (before a reduced speed threshold was implemented) there were 48 speed-related fatal or serious injury crashes. In 2012, when police operated a
reduced threshold in holiday periods, speed-related fatal and serious injury crashes dropped to just 16 - a decrease of 67%.

There will also be a trial involving 28 "highly visible" police cars, some with a new orange colour scheme, some with a new red colour scheme.

All are Holden VF Commodore SV6s.

Motorong editor rubbishes campaign
The police’s reduced speed tolerance will be of little benefit to road safety over December and January, say Clive Matthew-Wilson, editor of the car review website

“However much the government tries to massage the figures, the reality is that about 80% of fatalities occur at speeds below the legal limit. Therefore, to claim that ticketing mildly speeding drivers will substantially lower the road toll is simply nonsense," Mr Matthew-Wilson says.

The main reasons for the lower holiday road tolls in recent years have little to do with the police enforcement of speed limits, he says.

“Most international studies have shown that the lower road tolls are a combination of better cars, better roads and higher fuel costs. Due to higher fuel costs, the highest risk groups tend to fewer long journeys by car.”

“The major flaw in the reasoning behind the police campaign is that it falsely assumes that the average driver is the cause of road fatalities. This is simply not true.”

The editor says a 2009 AA study of 300 fatal crashes found:

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.

Mr Matthew-Wilson says the major safety benefit of a high police presence over holiday weekends is that it discourages high-risk drivers from using main roads. However, he says, this effect soon wears off.

“It’s common for a holiday period to have a relatively low road toll, then for there to be one or more fatal accidents within a few days of the end of that holiday. As soon as the high risk drivers return to the roads, the carnage continues.”

“Ticketing thousands of otherwise law-abiding motorists will have little effect on the tiny group of drivers who cause most fatalities. Instead, the police should be more relaxed about speed, but instead should target high risk behaviour, which includes activities such as unwise overtaking and refusing to let faster motorists overtake.”

More by NBR Staff

Comments and questions

Given most cars' speedos are graduated in 5kph increments, this effectively means zero tolerance, and the police should be honest and say so.

The issue in NZ has always been people who simply should not be driving at all. Those who fail to keep left and those who deliberately (the self righteous) hold up others, or make it hard to pass at any speed. Until the Police get serious about getting such poor drivers off the road, lazy revenue gathering via a radar gun will simply be a joke and make us even less sympathetic to the 'cause', whatever that may be.

Lost all respect for the police force when they merged with the traffic cops

And the revenue gatherers strike again ... we all knew the "temporary" zero tolerance holiday limits were planned to be extended slowly until they are the norm. Just too much jackboot for them to resist it.

Cynical roll out of an undebated policy is like making law by proxy.

Actually, the fact they give any tolerance at all is "making law by proxy". Would you like them to apply the full force of the law?

Its absurd to think that people are not going to stray over the limit from time to time, and for a variety of reasons. I'm on the motorway's everyday like a lot of folk and see police cars exceeding the speed limit constantly. To err is human. This sort of jack- booted policy does nothing to endear the police to the public

Exactly right Paul; - they routinely exceed the limit, so hypocritical in the extreme. With such little tolerance, you'd need to be constantly monitoring your speedo; - how safe is that ?

The Police I understand are also allowed to use mobile phones when driving so obviously wearing a Blue uniform changes your brain to allow full concentration on driving whilst using a phone but as soon as you change back into civies the brain reverts to the standard civilian mode yeah right.

For about the last five years I've used a Gps to accurately determine my speed in a variety of vehicles I've owned. Tyre wear affects speedo accuracy more than Joe Average realizes. The main reason I installed a gps was so that I could maintain the max legal speed while towing our caravan, this helps reduce road rage. Gps technology helps put you on the same level playing field as the Law. I guess it's up to the "Coppers" to convert day to day operations into sensible "shades of grey".

Mr Matthew-Wilson is quite correct but I would go further in blaming so much of this countries carnage on not just the drunk, but severely drugged. Plod by grandstanding their new pimped rides shows the politics of policing, now a bunch of money hungry show ponies and devoid of any real ideas on how to truly reign in the recidivist bogun & country boys stoned out of their brains. Just north of Auckland is one of the best and newest roads in the country. There is no reason the limit there cannot be raised to 120km/hr or higher. Safe for all if they could only get the speeding trucks to keep left.

This is a straight revenue grab and they know it. Coupled of course with the idiots that enforce the rules. Having dealt with the Police a lot over the years the biggest worry I have is how stupid some of them are. This is just another example of that stupidity

Stupidity I agree and just another example of Beaurocraps - know nothing understand less.

Nice distraction on all the police rapes, murders, false convictions & looking after own

Already being referred to as new pimp mobiles

The base colours of those so-called high visibility cars are very low visibility when needed most - at night. Red is particularly appalling, and just a glance at the photo above shows how the white car stands out.

Spot on Lance. Not only that, the twerps overlooked how the flashing lights dance and reflect off the white paintwork (especially at night) , to make them yet even more visible.

Claiming the new colour scheme makes their vehicles more visible, is hog wash and yet another waste of taxperyers money

Only speeding ticket was doing 55 kms/hr down steep Titirangi Rd at 10am on New Year's Day. Now I watch the speedo intently more than the road on Public Holidays & now all Dec & Jan. It will cause accidents not lower them. Revenue gathering; of course.

The only thing I care about when travelling on our roads is getting to my destination safely, as far as I am concerned they can paint their cars whatever colour they like and triple the fines while they are at it, I know I wont get a speeding ticket because I do not speed and I like to think anyone else sharing my road will pay a fortune when potentially putting my life in danger by speeding.

I trust that you keep well to left whilst you are ambling along, so that people who do travel at the limit are able to pass you with safety.
So many times on the road it is the "righteous" drivers who think that, because they are travelling at the speed limit, they don't need to be in the left lane (on multi-lane highways) or show any consideration to drivers behind them by moving left (on one lane highways), notwithstanding that they have no intention of over-taking anyone.
NZ's road toll could be significantly diminished if people followed what is generally legislated overseas. That is - keep left unless over-taking and don't "under-take" from the left. I can't understand why this is not legislation in this country also.

Oh no, one of the self righteous who create frustration that often results in actions that raise the road toll. Please stay home this holiday season.

Given we keep killing and maiming our friends and neighbours, it is probably a good thing that new ideas are being tried.
The thing with new ideas is the difficulty to prove they work before they are tried.
all the naysaying is sad - lets see if this aproach works, if it does then do more, if it does not then try something else.
Ghost Chips anyone...

And the typical kiwi driver mentality shows itself again....

Revenue gathering blah blah blah. Yes, I think there is an element of revenue gathering, and I would rather they start caning people doing more than 20km/hr past school buses that have stopped to pick up/drop down, and people driving inconsiderately (including those that drive below the limit but do not pull over to let other traffic pass). But hey, whether it's revenue gathering or not, it is what it is. Get over it. It's a limit. Go over it and you are breaking the law. Simple. If you know the rules of the game but then complain or cry foul because you are too stupid to slow down and drive a little below the limit why should I have any sympathy for you at all? If you're not sure how accurate your speedo is then don't push your luck by aiming for the limit. Going 5km an hour slower over a 3 hour journey equates to travelling 15km less in that 2 hours. That might sound a lot but its roughly 9 minutes extra travelling time if we are talking 100km/hr zones, and if we are talking about shorter trips then it's a lot less. If a few minutes is worth that much to you, then I'm sure you'll be happy to pay the fine. Deal with it!

no one has mentioned that promoting this reduced tolerance has another effect that can become a larger danger-that of the already tardy drivers who drive at say 95 km per h who will now drive at 90 or less and and who will increasingly frustrate others. These are the same drivers who speed up when entering passing lanes and then slow down as the road narrows again.

Under the guise that they are protecting my life, step by step I am robbed of the will to live.....

It's interesting that Australian traffic stats are constantly used as a benchmark for NZ, but the Aussie speed limits are frequently higher and far more sensible and realistic, and more respected as a result. We need traffic engineers and politicians who are capable of thinking and acting intelligently, not as intelligent idiots.

By law I think speedometers must not under-read, so in practice because they are slightly inaccurate, car manufacturers calibrate speedos to over-read slightly on average. So, drivers will tend to go slower than the limit if they obey their speedometer. Speedometer errors also tend to be different at different speeds, e.g. it might over-read by 8%, which is 4km/hr at 50 km/h but 8km/h at 100 km/h. So, in a 100km/h zone you would have to be doing in excess of 114km/h for the coppers to pull you over. But then again your speedometer might err in the other direction, in which case you would need to obey it.

Typically speedos under-read. Next time you are at the VTNZ ask to put your car on the taxi-meter test and see what the speed is relative to the tester.

A sensible report by Matthew-Wilson & the NBR team. A more honest appraisal of stats would show that this policy is deficient in many ways. It is interpreted as a money grab, targets the wrong people, transfers the drivers focus from the road to an obsession with the speedo & suggests that driving with the speed limit is always safe, which is a falsehood. Further it alienates the Police from the law abiding citizens. Everybody who drives will break the speed limit at times. Tolerance is needed & focusing the Police on addressing poor & dangerous driving is more likely to garner public support than such a simplistic policy that addresses what can be easily measured rather than addressing the real issues. Police being Hi Viz is fine & welcomed but being stopped &/or fined for driving at 105kph is not.

I agree with JB the only sensible solution is to follow Aust limits with their 60 & 110 kms/hr v our 50, 54 or 100,104. Then we would legally always have our pseudo limits now of 50+10 etc. If Auckland Council can spend $23m changing green street signs to blue, the police can change 50 to 60, 80 to 90 plus 100 to 110. Then perhaps also get rid of the 90 speed limit on way to Coromandel. Why is commonsense so uncommon in councils & police depts?

Because revenue generation trumps common sense.