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

PLUS: New red, orange police car paintwork.

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 dogandlemon.com.

“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 dogandlemon.com 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.”

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