Motoring editor hits back at police ticketing strategy

Clive Matthew-Wilson says the police strategy of trying to lower the road toll by ticketing ordinary motorists hasn't worked, because ordinary motorists were never really the problem

Are police taking the wrong approach to reducing fatal accidents on NZ roads?

Yes
89%
No
11%
Total votes: 178

Opposition to police speeding rules mount as activists question if police strategies for lowering the road toll are effective.

The death toll on New Zealand’s roads has climbed to a staggering 17 this holiday period; more than double last year's total.

Road safety campaigner and  car review website dogandlemon.com editor  Clive Matthew-Wilson says the police strategy for trying to lower the road toll by ticketing ordinary motorists hasn't worked, because ordinary motorists were never really the problem.     

He says police need to leave ordinary drivers alone and concentrate on the groups causing the most accidents.

“The police blame speed and alcohol as a strong factor in many fatalitie, but it’s not ordinary motorists who are speeding and driving drunk; it’s a tiny minority who are largely alienated from mainstream life.”

A 2009 AA summary of 300 fatal crashes states exceeding speed limits isn't a major issue. Police surveying has found that even the top 15% of open-road speeders average under 110km/h.

Mr Matthew-Wilson questions how ticketing otherwise law abiding families who have drifted a few kilometres over the speed limit will stop high-risk drivers.

“That's a bit like trying to stop bank robberies by targeting shoplifting."

Mr Matthew-Wilson is by no means alone in his campaign.

An online petition to end the zero tolerance national speed campaign has already gathered more than 10,000 signatures.

Alex Wills is the man behind the petition and says he’s tired of police wasting resources over policing speed to absurd lengths, to the detriment of ordinary drivers being caught out on technicalities.

“We are tired of hearing police representatives in the media justifying these measures with statements designed to elicit emotion over logic. We are also tired of hearing statistics quoted which are clearly mathematically unsound.” 

He says the petition calls for safety-centric road policing, locally tailored to  the hazards of the day.

Mr Matthew-Wilson says there are a number of key steps thatwould “dramatically lower the road toll.”

“We must also try to prevent high-risk drivers getting behind the wheels of cars and keep large trucks to a minimum. That’s the way to ensure a safe future for all the people using our roads.”

He says that in the 1980s, the Auckland Harbour Bridge used to see one serious road accident every week.

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

Jwalls@nbr.co.nz


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Yes it is just common sense. This ticketing campaign is just a effort to raise revenue from ordinary people

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Police: if there is a line of traffic all travelling around 90-95kph look to the front of the line if it’s a car holding up the traffic and that car will a/ not pull over when more than 10 cars are behind it, or b/ speed up when it get to a passing lane ticket that driver, heavily! Next a car is doing over a 100kph but below 108kph let is go unless it is impeding traffic or it commits another offence.

I drive 80kms to my office each day obviously another 80kms home and the most problems are a/ above and followed by an idiot passing where they should not or passing due to the problem with a/ above.

The other problem is the bad roads, more holes that a paddock with 10 pigs, but that’s another problem all together. 12 years of Labour doing SFA and now National trying to catch up, by the time they get 75% there Labour will probably be in charge with the Greens and then all hell will break loose. But don’t worry the Greens will cut the police number and we will need more money to count the blade of grass on the dairy farm

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Hear, hear!

About time this police nonsense was stopped. A real cynic may even suggest that the ticketing campaigns are more about extracting speeding 'indulgences' revenue from a gullible public, ignorant of statistics. Furthermore, the gravy train of politically connected media agencies endlessly running high-impact public 'education' programs seem to be of dubious benefit also.

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Why are they not testing for drugs as well as alcohol, as is done in Aust.
Oh!, I know, it costs more to do a drugs test than one for alcohol.
It's all about MONEY & nothing else !

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I agree with your sentiments, but how is making roads safer and targeting bad drivers going to help Bill English return to surplus?

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I recently drove over the Kopu - Hikuai road in the Coromandel in a small slow truck. Despite pulling over at every possible opportunity, the number of motorists who decided to chance it passing on the double yellow lines on this extremely windy road was nothing short of terrifying. Not a cop to be seen - I guess they were all in Auckland pinging 55kph speed demons on the clear roads.

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Same issue as with so many attempts to solve problems by reactive passing of feel-good laws or running social engineering campaigns - the 95% who are not the heart of the problem get caught up and the 5% problem people just carry on anyway. Witness the ear chipping of all the poodles and house dogs owned by responsible dog owners, meanwhile the irresponsible owners of aggressive breeds happily carry on strutting their unchipped alter-ego mutts around their neighbourhoods.

The lemon in the reported article is the writers call for 'keeping large trucks to the minimum' - if the volume freight to shipped shipped is driven by demand what does he want - greater numbers of medium size trucks? The truly stunning productivity, energy efficiency and lower air pollution gains of today's generation of large trucks notwithstanding, is there a statistic showing a difference between the safety record of large trucks versus small trucks we need to know about?

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Yeah, the Police tactics cost the Police credibility.

We were told speed cameras were going to be used to target crash black spots. However, instead they sit on straight motorway sections where cars naturally speed up (e.g. slight downhills after a corner), and they're often located strategically behind a tree etc. to reduce advance visibility. These sections have never been blackspots!

Anytime they start pinging people for 4kmh over the limit, and the toll is reduced, the Police trumpet the effectiveness of this tactic in reducing the road toll...yet when it fails, it apparently cannot be connected to their tactics.

Apparently the Police can have it both ways, just because.

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You are right. Our local town, has a speed camera which has the highest revenue , over $1.7 million a year, of any fixed speed camera in NZ and issues 30 tickets each day on average. It's located in an area of high visibility, is a wide straight road with a wide berm between the road and footpath. And, yes, it's partly obscured by a tree. Raises good money but does nothing for road safety.

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Police management appear to be either incompetent or revenue/statistics driven by the abject failure of their road policies and worse their intolerance will lead to similar intolerance of the public towards them. For instance I understand a Police officer on duty may use a mobile phone but presumably without the uniform not so a uniform is the exemption requirement yeah right. Police management should allow discretion for officers to judge if the speed in the conditions and circumstances actually poses a danger - 150k on stretches of open road in the McKenzie basin is probably safe on a dry day with good visibility but 50K on a wet suburban road at dusk not safe. Police should remember you cannot effectively Police without consent and acceptance and Police are servants of the Taxpayer not masters.

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Agree with DnS, especially the last paragraph, New Zealand's highway system outside of Auckland is at best no better than most "B" roads in developed nations! Stop wasting money annoying the mortists with petty ticketing and start addressing the root cause by investing in improving a poor highway system.

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I would be interested in seeing studies to show wehther zero tolerance actually helps.

Driving Auckland to Wellington over the christmas break, my biggest fear was speeding, so i spent most of the time watching my speedo to make sure i was under 100. If I am materially below 100 I am holding up everyone behind me, if I am above I get a ticket. Surely concentrating on the speedo the whole time makes me a far more dangerous driver than if i am allowed to comfortably sit around 100. I can then focus on the road rather than the speedo.

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The suggestion that zero tolerance will impact in any way on driver fatalities is proven to be false, so why the Police continue to propagate this theory us mystifying. Driver safety is the issue not revenue collection and misinformation. All policitical parties have been guilty of indifference over the matter. When will some of the sound campaigns by the likes of Clive Mathew-Wilson be listened to?

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The speed limit on open roads is 100 kph. If you're over that limit, you're breaking the law. End of story.

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So, tell me: how does one overtake a motorist in front of you, doing 90kph?

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So I am over the law driving over 100kph? Answer this, This morning travelling on highway 3 behind 2 milk tankers at 90kph. When we reached the passing lane to pass I had to exceed the 100kph, so in your eyes I broke the law. As I had to pass both tankers in 500 meters (as they were travelling so close that to pull in between would have caused the following tanker to apply his brakes quite heavily) my speed was at 109kph when I passed the front tanker and only just made the narrowing of the road.
Therefore your statement is ill-informed and bunkum. DO you live in the city?

Incidentally the milk tankers quite often travel in tandem and close, I have even encountered 3 together which makes passing impossible unless you have close to a kilometre passing lane

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sounds to me like you shouldn't have been trying to pass them then

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Most passing lanes are not long enough by about 30-50% to pass under those conditions if you maintain a two second distance between the vehicle in front (before passing) and not pull back into the left lane until you are two seconds ahead.

The road rules are made by people who either do not drive, or who consider themselves so important that speed rules they have created do not apply to them. This may also explain why many police cars speed on the open road in non-emergency situations if given half a chance i.e. not too many cars to witness their speeding.

The zero tolerance rule suggests that no-one in the police force actually has a science degree. If you go slow by 1km, you hold up traffic and if you exceed by 1km you get a ticket, Asking for ± 1km variance in speed when the variance in speedo readouts are -2.5% to +6.0% is crazy. In my last car, the speedo was accurate to 0Km/hr. At 100km speedo reading (100km) I would pass almost everything on the road. When the speed tolerance was 10km, I could sit on 105km and travel 600km and never be passed (save for maybe a Porsche breaking the sound barrier) and never get a ticket from a speed camera or stationary patrol car.

In my current car, 100km on the speedo is only 94 km, and I have to drive at 108 on the clock to fit in with the traffic flow. Over my last 12 jap imports most read on the high side by 3-6%.

My comment about the science degrees is because you cannot ask for a maximum of 1% variation in outcome when the variation in reported speeds across all cars is as much as 6 or 7%.

We would have better roads if the government didn't keep funnelling car registration, road tax and petrol tax into the consolidated fund. We could cruise safely at 120km, and new or high risk drivers would need to spend a couple of dozen incident and risk free hours in a simulator proving they are worthy of driving on the road.

Some idiots on the road drive like they are trying to imitate Fast and Furious or score points in Grand Theft Auto; points you can only get by causing accidents and damage.

Speed restrictions only work for those drivers that are responsible enough to obey them. Those that are not responsible won't obey them anyway. They are the ones that need to spend dozens or hundreds of hours in a simulator until they realise they have to learn to drive responsibly in order to get their license. And if they are irresponsible enough to drive without a license then the passengers and or car owner should be held accountable as well, as they were complicit in allow the drive to drive illegally. Driving without a license puts other people's lives at risk, so the penalty should be significant, and not monetary based.

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And if they are irresponsible enough to drive without a license then the passengers and or car owner should be held accountable as well, as they were complicit in allow the drive to drive illegally.
UNQUOTE
like Helen Clark?

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Exactly.

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The correct calculations for passing a 90km/hr vehicle in a vehicle at 100km/hr are:
Abiding by the 2 second distance rule, assuming both cars are 5m in length, and allowing a one second clearance at the start of the passing lane and end of the passing lane, the total distance required is 1.8km.

If the car being passed is at 95km/hr the distance required is 3.5km.

To pass safely in a 1km passing lane, the maximum speed of the car being passed can be no more than 82km/hr.

To pass in a 600m passing lane, the maximum speed of the car being passed can be no more than 70km/hr.

All these calculations are based on one car only being able to pass.

So either the rule makers accept that tail gating is OK, that pulling in front of a without adhering to the 2 second rule is OK.

Or that the passing lanes are just for show and that the police and authorities don't actually care about the road toll. If they did, they would make it a rule that passing at 120 or 130 km/hr while in the passing lane is OK. Or they would extend the passing lanes to the correct length. Why build passing lanes at all if they are too short to pass safely according to road rules?

Or that exceeding the speed limit in passing lanes is OK.

As it turns out, many police do think it is OK. Some have told me that it is best to keep the passing time to a minimum by speeding up and getting the passing over and done with. This is how many of them personally drive. While they cannot officially condone passing at a speed greater than the speed limit, unofficially off the record they agree that it is safer as long as it is done in a responsible manner.

Lets make our roads safer by allowing a higher speed in either multi-lane highways or passing lanes. Why not make legitimate what both the public and most police know is safer?

If every policeman and lawmaker that has ever sped while overtaking were made to surrender their licences, 99.99% of them would be getting around on bicycles.

So why have a law that the responsible public, police and lawmakers know is stupid and don't adhere to anyway?

Increase the speed limit to 120km/hr on multi lane highways and in passing lanes (not the standard lane), and introduce driving simulation testing for new or at risk drivers.

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An excellent analysis! Thank you.

The last place police should be ticketing folk for speeding is at the end of a purpose-designed passing lane. Doing so will not create a good end result when it comes to rural driving.

One of the biggest problems with passing lanes currently is the stupid sod who has been driving along at 85km/h up till that point (holding up a line of traffic), but speeds up to almost 110km/h in the passing lane. These seem to be very common, but the reason behind their existence is mysterious. It's such a moronic behaviour.

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What about getting rid of the idiotic rule that large vehicles are restricted to 90km/h? As NZ has many miles of road where one CANNOT safely (or legally, e.g. double yellow lines) pass another vehicle, to force one lot of traffic to travel at 90 when the majority of the traffic can legally travel at 100km/h is just asking for trouble.

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Very true. Separate speed limits only work when you have multiple lanes.

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OK, then lets make it mandatory to maintain that speed on the open road. If you cant maintain 100kph on the open road to ensure efficient and obviously safe traffic flow for all other traffic users, then get off the road.

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It's a good idea, however I suspect that some slow drivers actually believe that they are driving at 100 km/hr. The problem is the wide variations in speedo readings. But that is all secondary. The limit is too slow, and we have limited passing areas.

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So is jay-walking. And as with ticketing jay-walkers, the benefits of the so-called zero-tolerance policy don't come close to justifying the costs.

The point is that the zero-tolerance policy, like the recently tightened drink-driving limit, is based on zero evidence. Unsurprisingly therefore, it doesn't work.

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The road toll problem is the drivers. Lack of skills, education, ownership of responsibilities and lack of regular re-testing results in idiots without the most basic car/bike handling skills driving on our roads. Agree entirely that it is not the "minor" speeding cases that deserve the focus. Classic case a few years back - Greys Road around Pauatahanui Inlet in Wellington - several young hoons drove off the road and into the water. What do they do? Reduce the speed limit to a ridiculous 60kmh. If you cant drive around there at 80 then you shouldnt be driving. And those who do go off the road should have their licence taken away and made to go back to square one, resit etc. The more we straighten roads and allow for the idiots then the less skills people need to drive and the more accidents they have. Its a self perpetuating outcome. Make licence re-testing compulsory every 5 years with strict rules about what you must do to pass. Imagine the screams for the civil libertarians then about having to take responsibility for learning how to be a proper driver!

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Was on SH16 the other day following an SUV towing a caravan. After 15 minutes or so the caravan had accumulated a line of traffic behind it of 15-20 or so cars. The result as you can imagine was people attempting to pass the SUV and caravan as well as the first couple of cars following it in areas where it was barely safe to pass just one car.

The whole experience was rather dispiriting because of:

1) the failure of the SUV to pull over at one of the several areas where it was safe to do so

2) watching the risks people were willing to take to have the opportunity to drive 5-10km/h faster than they would've otherwise been able to without having to follow the caravan

The bizarre attitude of my fellow kiwi drivers ("I'm to inconsiderate to pull over" or "I need to get to my destination 5 minutes faster so will go into WRC mode to get past you") was like witnessing a case-study in stupidity.

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Police state in a letter, fines are paid directly to Government not Police. True or false I do not know, but if true Government is no doubt driving the collection of revenue under the ruse of Safety.

Catching me a k or so down the road from my home doing 54k rather than 50k has no effect on the cause of the road toll. No one has ever died in a road accident anywhere near my home.

The vehicle issues are , incompetent or drugged or boozed drivers, unlicensed, un safe vehicles and inadequate rules around behaviour of slow vehicles particularly long and loaded trucks. Slow drivers indicate incompetence, not an issue if they pull over allowing competent users past, only the thinkers pull over.

Slow trucks indicate gross over loading for the truck specification or a incorrectly classed driver or a tired driver or a truck with mechanical faults, they are a danger to all, including themselves

The Police could also concentrate on the road side booze bus type check points during peak periods in locations where loss of life has occurred.

Profitable? I suspect not, life changing for those who are no longer with us, I suspect so. Will the Police culture allow this? I suspect not.

I would rather be in partnership with Police rather than wondering what on earth are they doing?

Arty

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Big trucks are a scary presence on the road, why cant there be more reliance on rail? And yes, forcing us to watch our speedometers rather than the road is dangerous too. Head-up displays are old tech now, but still not generally available. I do like the digital signs telling motorists what speed they are doing and telling them to slow down if they're going too fast - no need to take your eyes off the road. Drowsiness and lack of dual carriageways also big causes of accidents but so much easier for the coppers to sit still and collect cash at the spots where drivers exceed the speed limits by mistake.

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Don't blame big trucks (you want more medium size trucks?), blame B Grade inter-provincial and local roads.

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The speed a vehicle travels on a road, is and never was the issue when it comes to safety on the roads. If it was then we would not see freeways like the Autobahn in Germany with no speed limit and certainly we would expect to see carnage on such a freeway. But we don't, has anyone stopped to question why this is so?
The issue is and always was driver behaviour. Unfortunately and largely because behaviour is not policed in New Zealand, we have a driving populace who have little concern for rules, road and weather conditions and most especially other road users. And to those who can't get their heads away from speed, speed is one of the rules that isn't obeyed as it should be. BUT, speed per-se is not the cause of an accident, it is behaviour that is the cause. Higher speeds only mean that once an accident is inevitable, the consequences are worse. So wouldn't it be better for us to try to prevent the accident in the first place rather than concentrate on trying to lessen the consequences? It is high time our valuable Police resources were concentrated on correcting driver behaviour. But yes, Mr Police Commissioner, I do know that doing this is going to reduce your valuable revenue stream and increase your costs, but isn't it time you got your priorities properly aligned with reality.

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Police claim the zero tolerance is for road safety ....why then did we have the highest road fatality in 4 years over this holiday period ?
Facts speak louder than Police PR speak.

Police claim that ticketing for 1 km over is for road safety and to suggest they are revenue gathering is an insult to them. They also say there are no quotas for tickets per cop.
What if under OIA request or by someone leaking a memo from within police we find out to the contrary ? What will the police top brass say then ?
Remember;, leaks and hacks are common these days. I am sure we will find out sooner rather than later.... as the ordinary irate motorists get absolutely fed up with this revenue gathering exercise...

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The best way to deal with this is for every ticketed driver to defend the matter in court. This will pull all the cops off the road to sit in the courts.

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I read a study a few years back if drivers did that it would clog the judicial system for a minimum of 4-years. Hows that for a citizens fight back.

I guess the reaction from the government would then be to pass legislation that you were automatically guilty and your fine must be paid by the due date, then you had the right to retrospectively challenge the ruling in court.

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We should build in respect and flexability into our road rules. The roads and highways could have limited speed maximums ie. 60 70,80,/ 110, 120, 130?, where if you go over these you are penalized severely, under these speeds, dangerous driving laws could apply otherwise you can drive flexibly if conditions allow. On most intersections remove the signs and courtesy rules apply, first there, first go etc. as in the States (seen up to double lanes work successfully this way) etc.

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If the Police's holiday speeding campaign was a scientific experiment, based purely on the results it would be regarded as a resounding failure and the approach abandoned.

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It's a bit rough being called an "activist" because you disagree with over the top road rules. I think they should get rid of the rules and have really tough penalties if you cause an accident. During the three day power cuts when there were no traffic lights working, people were naturally considerate and there were no accidents reported. People surprisingly so far still have brains.

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The idiots responsible for this nonsense should be demoted and/or fired. They have no business being in charge of policy and taxpayer -funded resources.

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The government is running out of options to generate a surplus, and targeting the path of least resistance.

Reduced GST from milk and oil is not going to help either, and I'm betting this government will never achieve a surplus; because their policies are fundamentally flawed.

Their next option is state house sales; in other words more asset sales.

Time they provided more incentives for small businesses, rather than pamper to the large multi nationals who largely outsource their workforce to low cost countries, make staff redundant and pay limited or no taxes.

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You need to appreciate that the police enforcing the speed limit are of very modest intellect. Very modest. In fact, knocking on the door of Impenetrable Stupidity.

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